‘I’m going to be an old sack now’: Daniel Mays on copper, Brexit and his celebratory romcom

DAniel Mays injured his back. “It causes me a bit of gyp”, the exercise of duty Stern admits. “I’m just going to be an old sack now. But those are the dangers of the job, I’m afraid.” I video chat with him from his home in north London. The “job” in question is a new series about one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin (Michael Douglas), for which Mays traveled to Paris on and off to film. “Obviously it’s set in 1776 or something, and I have to wear these style shoes with heels,” he explains. “So your weight distribution is thrown forward. It’s like you’ve listened to women say, ‘I can’t wear heels all night’ because it ruins their backs.” He smiles. “My days as a transvestite are over, let’s put it that way.”

But as Mays is quick to point out, we’re not here to talk about cross-dressing. We are here to discuss Your Christmas or mine?, a new holiday comedy just released on Prime Video. The film has a simple premise: two college lovebirds – Cora Kirk and sex education‘s Asa Butterfield – both make the impulsive decision to board each other’s train home as a grand romantic gesture, unaware that their partner had the same idea. A blizzard later, they’re stuck at each other’s family home – his, an opulent but gloomy country estate; hers, a sociable but chaotic semi-detached house in Macclesfield. Mays plays the affable father of Kirk’s character, a man we first meet selling a battered turkey out the window of an ice cream truck.

“There’s something down-to-earth about them,” Mays says of the family. “And I immediately recognized that as my own family.” The son of a bank teller and an electrician father, the 44-year-old actor grew up as one of four working-class boys in Buckhurst Hill, Essex. “My mom used to hide the money in the Christmas pudding,” he says — something we see in the film — “and all the guys used to go to the pub. I think he’s the closest thing to my own father: he had such a happy, loving quality.”

There’s more to the film than meets the eye: it’s a romantic comedy, a fish-out-of-water farce, a comedy of manners and a heartfelt meditation on grief all rolled into one. “It really starts to break your heart,” admits Mays. “I’ll say it: I really cried when I saw all that stuff.” Underscoring the jokes and romantic push-and-pull is an ironic exploration of our country’s class divides. “The class system is really alive and kicking in this country,” Mays muses. “It always has been and always will be. What’s great at [comedian Tom Parry]He writes that he really doesn’t shy away from it. He doesn’t patronize any side.”

As we talk, Mays answers each question at some length, often underlining phrases with my name in a warm, avuncular way. For a man who once described himself as “corning the Spivs market,” Mays has amassed a diverse back catalog of roles. After studying at Italia Conti Academy in the City of London and winning a place at Rada, Mays starred EastEndersbefore making his name shooting in the Mike Leigh films All or nothing and Vera Drake. He has continued to work with directors from Michael Bay (a pilot role in “Blink and You’ll Miss It”) Pearl Harbour), to Sam Mendes (who plays a jaded sergeant in 1917), to Steven Spielberg (in the criminally underrated tin tin Adjustment). “Spielberg was just an absolute breath of fresh air,” Mays recalls. “He was just rippling in the moment and coming up with these brilliant ideas.”

In recent years, Mays has been best known for his role as the cop – a reputation solidified by his pivotal role in the third season of the BBC smash hit exercise of duty. One of his best performances was on the 2020 ITV drama Of, in which he plays the detective investigating the case of serial killer Dennis Nilson (David Tennant). “This research was very tough,” he recalls. “I’ve done a lot. There’s so much about him, so many documentaries … I’ve had two nightmares where I was locked in an attic with Dennis Nilsen – I kept waking my poor wife up!” (Mays married his longtime partner Louise Burton in August 2018; the couple has two children.)

Of came amid a boom in serial killer programming. But true crime can have ethical implications, as Netflix recently established with its controversial drama Dahmer: Monsters – The Story of Jeffrey Dahmer. Mays says he doesn’t watch much TV (“when you work on it you can see all the wheels turning and I’ve worked with the actors a lot and can see all their tricks”), but he brings it up dahmer if I ask him about it Of. “I thought that was pretty cruel, didn’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I was kind of excited,” he says. “Like the way we slow down on the freeway when we see a car crash, something macabre draws you in. But I didn’t think so Of was free in any case. It was a lot more psychological.”

It’s Season: Mays opposite Asa Butterfield in Your Christmas or Mine?

(Prime video)

The fact that our conversation started with chats about pinched nerves and back pain has a certain oddity: Just hours before, it was announced that Mays would be starring in a new Nathan Detroit production boys and dolls at London’s Bridge Theater next year. It’s a role previously nailed by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bob Hoskins and Nathan Lane; Mays says he hasn’t tackled a musical since he was an acting student.

Last year, Mays broke a five-year-old theater duck while starring in Harold Pinter’s The stupid waiter alongside David Thewlis – a pandemic-era livestream hybrid show that only ran for five days. “I was just so sad that we only did five shows,” he says, “because I was ready to go, I was good to have a really long run. So I jumped off the frying pan – 170 gigs. But if you can’t enjoy Nathan Detroit boys and dolls, there’s something wrong with you. You know what I mean?”

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Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical is certainly a leftist choice for Mays. (“I don’t really think there’s such a thing as an actor’s ‘career,'” he says. “You never know what’s coming around the corner.”) But it was one he might never have agreed to if it would not be for an artistic stroke of luck. “I was walking around my apartment in Paris thinking, and there’s a painting on the wall by the spiral staircase,” he explains. “I looked at the painting for the first time in months. And it was a scene from Havana. This massive oil painting said “Club Havana” – and within it boys and dolls, the characters go to Havana. I just thought, ‘Holy shit! I have to say yes. That’s a sign of the musical theater gods!’”



For me, Brexit was always like raising the drawbridge. It made no sense

Daniel Mais

In the meantime, however, May’s head is in Paris, on Apple TV Benjamin Franklin series (a project he describes as “one of the highlights of my career”). He plays Edward Bancroft, one of Franklin’s closest associates who worked as a double agent for the British. What significance does the American Revolutionary War have for a 21st century Brit? Well, Mays argues — quite a bit. “I tried to understand it: It’s like Brexit,” he says. “It has totally and absolutely polarized families, whole communities. Of course they needed their independence, they wanted to do their own thing. So it’s really fascinating.”

Filming in France, Mays experienced first-hand the restrictions that the UK’s exit from the EU has brought – whether it’s the ‘hustle and bustle’ of travel or the newly introduced visa hurdles. “The way technology and transportation systems work today… as a species, we are constantly evolving. And for me, Brexit was always like raising the drawbridge. It made no sense.”

Sucking diesel: Mays in season three of hit police show Line of Duty

(BBC)

In fact, it was Mays’ time with Rada in his youth that filled him with an appreciation for Britain’s cultural diversity. “There was a whole mix of people from America, from India, from Australia… I was an Essex kid, growing up there in London, exploring and connecting with so many different people from different countries and walks of life.” he remembers. “My brain just exploded with all of this. My whole experience expanded incredibly. So I’ve always seen myself as European in some way. I never got the whole idea of ​​”I want my country back”. For me it was complete madness.”

Mays is full of praise for the “professional and supportive” French film crew. “It often took years for these television and film productions to bear fruit. The author’s been at this for years… What you don’t want is a big-headed actor walking in at the last minute and saying, ‘Well, I’m not saying that line.’ I saw actors doing it, I don’t want to name it. It’s about the ensemble pulling together to serve the writing.

“You know, I’m not an actor with an ego,” Mays adds. “I don’t throw my weight around.” After spending some time in his (virtual) company, I think I believe him. He leans back and laughs. “But I demand that all blue M&Ms be taken out.”

Your Christmas or Mine? is available now on Prime Video

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/daniel-mays-your-christmas-or-mine-interview-b2237546.html ‘I’m going to be an old sack now’: Daniel Mays on copper, Brexit and his celebratory romcom

JOE HERNANDEZ

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