Green Wing - Series 2 (2006)
Sometimes the glamour of showbiz can be truly overwhelming. Take today, for example. Holed up in a chilly studio in a less than salubrious corner of north London, Julian Rhind-Tutt, star of Channel 4's BAFTA-winning comedy Green Wing, is enjoying the finer things in life. In a cramped changing room, he is drinking lukewarm coffee from a polystyrene cup while a make-up woman turns his face an ever more livid shade of orange. He's just been forced to clean his motorbike by the photographer, who says it's not shiny enough for the photo shoot. The schedule has already been abandoned, everyone looks like they'll have to work far later than planned, the skies are slate-grey, and now he's being forced to have his hair cut, whilst simultaneously answering questions by shouting them into a tape recorder to rise above the din of the chaos around him.
It's a surprise, then, to find Rhind-Tutt not just perky, but positively brimming with bonhomie. He makes his Green Wing character, Mac, the romantic hero and all-round nice guy, seem like a misanthrope by comparison; it's probably something in his coffee. Either way, here he expounds on posh names, big ears, and laughing with his fellow cast members.
Your surname Rhind-Tutt is very unusual. Where does it come from?
Id like to tell you that I come from a long line of German aristocracy and that I'm very rich, but actually it's a very boring explanation. A man called Tommy Tutt married a lady called Jane Rhind, and suddenly I've got a very posh name. And then my parents called me Julian, and suddenly I sound like a prospective Tory MP for West London !
Is it true that you got into acting when you played Hamlet at school?
I had actually already made a triumphant debut at primary school, as the Happy King in the play called none other than The Happy King ! I went on to build on that success aged 14 in the school play, which was Friedrich Dürrenmatt's The Visit , in which I played ‘Woman 1', being at a boys' school.
That led on to other roles so I was ready to play the eponymous hero Hamlet when I was 18. In what the headmaster described as ‘A very mature performance'. Possibly the best review I've ever had.
Do you prefer dramatic stuff to comedy?
Yeah, I prefer the dramatic stuff. I just happen to have been cast in this comedy by accident. I'm just the person who gets to mix with all the funny people.
Did the popularity of Green Wing surprise you, or did you get the impression it would be a big hit when you made it?
I was surprised, but I've learned by now that you never ever know what something's going to be like when it goes out. Although there were lots of really funny people in it doing very funny things, it always seems to be a process of alchemy whether anything's successful or not. I've worked with incredibly talented, successful people who have just done incredibly talented and successful things, and they've all come together to do a project, and it's gone absolutely nowhere.
Mac's clearly a good guy, but did you ever anticipate he'd prove such a hit with the ladies?
I know there's a couple of nice dinner ladies at the school where my brother teaches who quite like me.
There's something of a preoccupation with your hair, isn't there?
Yes. I think it's just because I forgot to cut it, and it's a slightly different colour, so it's an object of affection or ridicule, depending on whether you're Steve Mangan or anybody else on the planet. I think your shaved version is very distinguished, incidentally. I wish I could carry it off. Unfortunately all you'd find under here is the FA Cup. My ears are shocking. They can get satellite TV.
In Green Wing , nobody seems to do much medical work.
No. This harks back to an idea of Victoria Pile, the producer and creator of the show, that the fact it's set in a hospital is really just random and incidental. She's insistent that it's not really a hospital show – the hospital's really just a crucible for all these people to come together and all this stuff to happen in. That's why you never see the patients and nothing medical ever happens.
And yet you had to go and observe operations taking place before filming. Wasn't that a bit superfluous?
Well, we do have these operating sequences. And I was trying to be a serious dramatic actor, thinking we ought to learn how they do the operations – before we go and ignore it all. Without wanting to sound ludicrously pretentious, you know that to play the piano badly you have to play it well first? And also, quite a number of the eccentric and strange behaviour you see in Green Wing in the operating theatre actually happened when we went to see real operations. We've been in operations where they had Stairway to Heaven playing, we've been in operations where people have answered mobile phones, we've been in operations where people were doing their skiing exercises up against the wall halfway through the operation. The most interesting thing about Green Wing , for me, is that I bump into people in the street who are doctors and surgeons, and they say that Green Wing is possibly the most realistic medical programme on TV.
It's a very unfair question to ask, but who makes you laugh the most on the cast?
That is a grossly unfair question. It's impossible to answer. It depends who I'm talking to at that moment. There isn't a single person that hasn't made me fall over with laughing. It's not that I don't want to answer it, but I can't, really.
Does everyone actually get on, or is the production secretly riddled with vileness and jealousy?
Oh, it's riddled with vileness, jealousy, competitiveness, rancour and power struggles. I do hope the irony of my tone translates into print.
When we left you, you were in an ambulance on the edge of a cliff, debating The Three Musketeers. Can we expect you to plunge over the edge and die screaming in the opening episode of the series?
Yes, you can expect that. All this photo shoot and interview business is in many ways a waste of time, as I'm not actually in the second series. It's a massive public relations stunt, with my imminent removal from the series and, I believe, Paul Nicholas coming in to take over quite soon, to bring a bit of quality to the role of the nice guy.
Is there anything you really can reveal about series 2?
I'm really good in it.