The Fixer series 2 – Interview with Andrew Buchan

ITV_The_Fixer_3As promised here’s the first of a series of interviews with the cast and crew of The fixer. The first star up to the interview spot is Andrew Buchan, who plays the goverment backed hitman John Mercer.

Thanks to the guys at ITV for sending over these interviews.

ANDREW BUCHAN IS JOHN MERCER

Lauded by critics and viewers alike, the story of hitman John Mercer played with simmering menace by Andrew Buchan received an RTS award for Best Continuing Drama. Speaking of the night the team stepped up to receive the accolade, Buchan laughs and says,

When it came to our award there was so much tension on our table; the horrible weird tension you usually watch other people going through, and then I remember the description of the winner as read out before the name of it so I was thinking to myself, ‘is that us? Are we dark and superbly thrilling?’ and then he said, ‘The Fixer’ and I just remember Jody’s reaction as he shouted ‘Get in! I fu*king told ya’ and promptly popped a champagne cork into the back of somebody’s head! It was like going out for an evening with a grenade with the pin half out. I went up and turned into a shy 12 year old. I think I stood on the stage and looked at the floor most of the time.”

This is the first time you have been part of a returning series isn’t it? Is it quite a different experience and something you enjoy being a part of?

“It was surreal that first day on location at the Aylesbury Estate. I felt like I was in a dream or something, thinking ‘are we really doing this again?’ It was a bright blue day and a slow dreamy experience to come back into it. It was like meeting an old friend.”

In order to build on the success of the first series, it was felt that some changes needed to be made. So what can viewers expect to see when the team hit our screens?

“I think you have to listen to feedback and make changes to maintain interest. In series one there were hints of action over here and suggestions of violence over there and while that is very interesting to certain viewers, others wanted more. Some people prefer that payoff. So on that front things have been completely ramped up. It’s incredibly fast-paced with some breathless hand to hand fight sequences that are extremely Bourne-esque in their execution. But while I think it’s important to constantly morph I would stress that it’s not completely transformed; there are still elements of the original that people loved. The aura of The Fixer is still very much intact.”

Andrew continues:

“We are a few months along from where we left off and while John is still ‘Mr Tension’ there is certainly more of an acceptance to do what is being asked of him. He’s not trying to fly from the cage as much, whereas previously, he was forever trying to escape. John still questions the missions and needs to rationalise them morally but there is far less of a need to depart. Sam Miller, the first director quoted R. D Lang to me saying ‘A prisoner sits in his cell and the prison door is open and he asks himself why I am here.’ That is John Mercer in the second series. The cell door is open and he can go, but why does he stay? And I think it’s because he feels connected to this weird little family.”

The team of disparate characters were thrown together in the first series, and spent much of the time testing boundaries and tentatively learning how to trust each other. Have relations settled down now?

Calum (Jody Latham) is always hyper-relaxed, in his chair smoking cannabis and entertaining Columbian girls. He still irritates Mercer beyond imagining and John’s relationship with Rose (Tamzin Outhwaite) is still simmering and of course there is this question of will they ever be able to reconnect, which again, causes certain frictions. But undoubtedly there are real bonds forming and when it really counts they are there for each other.  And as for his relationship with Lenny, well, there is still quite a lot of friction there, but there is a shift in how they relate to each other which is largely due to the arrival of Matt Symmonds.”

The arrival of Matthew Symmonds played by Elliot Cowan poses an entirely new threat to the existence of the team; a threat which is internal and political. So just who is this new face?

“Matt is MI6; young, a real political animal, fiercely ambitious, and everything Lenny despises. Symmonds wants control of the unit for his own use and will stop at nothing to get it. Most of Lenny’s tussles this time are with Matt; he is the kryptonite to Lenny’s Superman and bit by bit weakens his power. Symmonds is really dangerous as he plays by a totally different set of rules to Lenny who just can’t seem to wrap a leash around him. My dealings with him are fleeting but Mercer’s reaction to Symmonds, like Lenny, is instant and extreme.  They first meet when John is undercover in prison and Matt walks in dressed like he has just stepped off a yacht all smiles, dangerous charm and full of threats. In some ways Lenny and John’s mutual hatred of him unifies the two men as it’s the one thing they can actually agree on. Elliot plays the role with such aplomb because in the flesh, he is this lovely, gentle guy, but as Symmonds he is pure, subtle danger.

You were saying earlier, there is lots more action this series and you are involved in some huge stunt sequences, how did you find it all?

“When the briefs were given I was thinking, ‘really? You want me running over a car? And I thought, ‘wait a second this is me here, how many cars do you want me running over?’ In my head I’m thinking one or two, but on the day there were seven. Everything seemed to be magnified when I got on to set. In episode five Mercer goes undercover in a fight club and I had to fight a guy not too dissimilar in size and shape to a Toyota Previa. The fight co-ordinator was saying ‘Ok Andy, what we want to you do is a drop kick and then flip him’. ‘Really? What, like in the same way you would flip a bungalow?’ I bulked up for the role but next to this guy my muscles looked like nuts on a midge’s penis. Not good enough! He was Mr 21-inch bicep, all brawn. My initial reaction to everything was to laugh, faintly hysterically while my voice went an octave higher. But then I’d realise, ‘oh, ok we really are going to do this, I really am going to fight this moving dumper truck’. So on the day you have to get into the zone otherwise an injury might happen.”

Do you enjoy the action?

“Parts of me really do get into it but fighting is definitely not in my blood. None of my friends are vicious, angry people who like to get into fights. I was raised with a lot of love and cuddles. Like anyone, I can get very angry but there is no psychopath lurking beneath the surface I can assure you so I really have to find the other buttons to press when we did those hand- to-hand fight scenes. The gun battle in episode one with me running over cars firing at some very bad men was a lot of fun. In fact that was brilliant; for the briefest of moments I felt like James Bond.”

You say that you bulked up more this series. What were the challenges for you and just how extreme was the training you had to undergo?

“The audience needs to believe that as Mercer I can do some serious damage so I have to really work on that physically as naturally, I’m quite slender. I started training months in advance of filming and kept it up during shooting so it was pretty full on. I know people are going to hate me when I say this but I lose weight quickly so the biggest challenge for me was retaining any bulk I put on. I would do this massive week of training, sweating blood and shedding tears and the following week all that work will be gone. It was such a battle, mentally and physically. I’ve been training with someone kneeling on my back while doing press-ups which was arguably one of the worst experiences of my life thus far. In fact all of it has been choreographed by the devil himself. When the exercise rains on you, it’s a downpour of pain; it rains hard and it rains long.  I had a different personal trainer from the last series. This one was Jessica who looked less like she could crush through rock and I thought for the briefest of moments she was going to be warmer. It was deceptive though; training with her was like being punched with a velvet glove. Repeatedly.”


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