Archive for September, 2015

Behind The Scenes of Doctors Hour Long Episode

Back in May 2015 I was invited on set for the filming of the special hour long episode of BBC Doctors. Now the episode has been on TV I can share some of the images of the filming I took on that day, but beware, if you haven’t seen the special episode yet there may be some spoilers included in the images below.

For those that missed the hour long episode it can be seen on BBC iPlayer until the 10th October 2015.

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmigham

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmingham

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words in a scene rehearsal

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

A shot rings out and a man is down. The

A shot rings out and a man is down, the market crowd scatter. The man in the heart costume points out where the gunman may have been firing from to Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) while DCI Driver (Elizabeth Rider) checks on the victim.

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.  We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline.  They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.  Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.”

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Saturday is TISWAS Day – This is what they want!

TISWAS Pies Again is on Big Centre TV Saturday evenings at 10pm. Image source: Big Centre TV Facebook Page

One of the shows I always feature on my Birmingham TV locations tour is TISWAS, as it was recorded at the sadly recently demolished ATV studios on Broad Street, but I often get blank looks for attendees who are slightly younger than I am. I not sure if it’s because they can’t actually believe that a whole Saturday morning show could be made for a mere £300 or they are shocked that children were often soaked with water and janked up by the ears, but they clearly have no idea what the show was about.

TISWAS was the brainchild of ATV announcer Peter Tomlinson and was originally hosted by John Asher and a local TV reporter by the name of Chris Tarrant. In the late 70s new presenters such as Sally James, John Gorman (The Scaffold) and Bob Carolgees (he with the spitting dog) joined the fray. They also found a role for a little known young Dudley comedian named Lenny Henry, who was once seen famously impersonated Trevor McDonald (as Trevor McDoughnut) while Chris Tarrant sneaked in the REAL Trevor to surprise his co-star.

TISWAS ended in 1982 but now, thanks to Big Centre TV, Saturday is once again TISWAS day as they will be repeating highlights from mostly previously missing episodes of the Saturday morning mayhem that were thought to be lost forever.  Because the show was broadcast live it was very often never recorded and many episodes were thought to be lost forever, but no one accounted for their legion of fans who recorded the show on their home video recorders.

Mainly sourced from home recordings of the show the team at The Tiswas Fan Club (TiswasOnline) and TV archivists Kaleidoscope have carefully restored and cleaned up the footage (and I don’t mean wiped the remains of custard pies off them) to show compilation episodes on Midlands channel Big Centre TV.  Viewers who are not in range of the regional Birmingham and Black Country channel will be able to catch up online at http://www.bigcentre.tv, so no one will miss out on the return of this Saturday morning institution.

One of the main sources of the historic episodes was a Matthew Butler. For those old enough to remember young Matthew was a regular on the show for a couple of years in the early 80s after he first appeared dressed as a rabbit to sing along to Bright Eyes, the theme from movie Watership Down. Matthew’s private collection of TISWAS tapes has provided hours of classic footage so that everyone can now see exactly what was going on just off Broad Street on a Saturday morning.

Last Saturday morning, at the end of the afternoon Birmingham TV and Film Locations tour, some of the attendees stumbled across a promotional photo shoot for the new series and had a picture with the The Phantom Flan Flinger, see link below.

Look who was filming near to the former Central/ATV Studios at the end of today’s TV Tour of Brum #ThisIsWhatTheyWant

A photo posted by Mark Wilson (@sparks1968) on Sep 5, 2015 at 11:12am PDT

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“Tiswas Pies Again” is an UpAndHappy! Production for Big Centre TV.
Big Centre TV broadcasts across Birmingham and the Black Country on Freeview channel 8 and Virgin Media channel 159, and online at http://www.bigcentre.tv

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BBC Drama Village celebrates tenth anniversary with a ‘Doctors’ special

BBC Doctors Trailer for the special one hour episode that airs on Thursday 10th September 2015 at 1.45pm.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Birmingham’s BBC Drama Village are this week celebrating ten years of creating top quality daytime drama with an hour-long special episode of BBC One soap, ‘Doctors’.

Not only is the Drama Village celebrating their tenth anniversary but they’re also marking the milestone of producing 3000 episodes of the daytime favourite.

The episode, which airs on Thursday 10th September at 1.45pm, was filmed earlier this year in Birmingham city centre hot spots like The National Sea Life Centre, Brindley Place and Centenary Square.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) sits out a scene in Birmingham’s Centenary Square

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.

“We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline. They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.”

Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.

Will Trotter, head of daytime Drama at The Drama Village, says he’s delighted with the Drama Village’s success over the years.

“We, at the Drama Village produce nearly 130 hours of programming every year, including Father Brown which has seen global success; WPC 56 which returned for a third series earlier this year, and our latest commission – The Coroner is set to be on screens early next year.  Not to forget our classics episodes of Dalziel & Pascoe and The Afternoon Play Series.”

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called 'Crescendo' Image Copyright: BBC

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called ‘Crescendo’

Set on the grounds of the University of Birmingham, The Drama Village employs well over 100 people.

“By being based at the University, we’re always looking at ways of working together, with filming locations, workshops, mentoring and work placements.”

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

“‘Doctors’ in particular is somewhat of a training ground for new talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Many writers, directors and performers have their first break in TV drama through this unit including Hollywood stars Eddie Redmayne [Birdsong, The Theory of Everything] and Emilia Clarke [Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys]. ”

“I’m proud to say that the Drama Village has become a gateway for young talent to hone their skills, craft and creativity. It’s great for the Midlands.”

Eddie Redmayne’s success continues as he is currently filming the film adaptation of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them where he plays Newt Scamander. Emilia Clarke recently completed filming Me Before You which is scheduled for a June 2016 release.

You can learn more about the special hour long episode in a series of interviews with some of the cast of Doctors from the filming day back in May 2015 available on the links below.

Chris Walker – Sgt Rob Hollins

Ian Kelsey – Howard Bellamy

Ian Midlane – Al Haskey

Lorna Laidlaw – Mrs Tembe

All Images Copyright: BBC

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Doctors Celebrating 3,000 Episodes – Lorna Laidlaw Interview

Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap.  With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened

The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.

A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. My final cast interview of the day was with, the ever-bubbly, Lorna Laidlaw who plays The Mill receptionist Mrs Tembe. Lorna was extremely popular so I teamed up again with Roz Laws from the Birmingham Mail and we were also joined by the team from What’s On TV to put some questions to Lorna.

Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner comedy "Blue Heaven" from 1992

A smiling Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner Channel 4 comedy “Blue Heaven” from 1994

Before we started the interview I gave Lorna a set of photos from episode two of a 1994 TV series called Blue Heaven. One photo shows Lorna, sporting a red baseball cap and a catering uniform, along with that trademark smile, playing trolley attendant Ursula at Stourbridge Station.  Her reaction to the photos was fantastic (see left), and it put a huge smile on her face as memories of filming the show nearly 21 years earlier came flooding back to her.

Roz started the group questions by asking about Mrs Tembe’s role in the special episode.

Lorna explained, “Mrs Tembe has organised a health promotion day and they are trying to get more people to donate more organs and to give blood and specifically people from ethnic minority groups and the other person who is organising it, Mrs Tembe has what I’d like to call a little, mini, romance with.”

The What’s on TV team asked Lorna if she had any particular stand out stories that Mrs Tembe had been involved in.

Lorna said, “Oh my gosh, there have been quite a few.  When I first started it was all about establishing the character to get people used to what she’s like.  Then we did a massive racism story, which was pretty harrowing, and it was fantastic as we had Mrs Tembe leave at the end of it, to go home just to recover from it. We had loads of people saying ‘Please don’t let her go, please’ so you get a picture of what they think of the character.  Then we had the romance of course, with the vicar, which was very popular and people really embraced that and they really wanted it to happen, they were ready for her to have a romance.  It was a very slow burn, the romance happened really slowly and people started to buy hats, I thought, don’t they know it’s Doctors, someone is bound to get killed off somewhere.”

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna explained what was great about the show by saying, “You can suggest things. You can go, I’d really like a romance, so you’d talk about what you want and they will write it. I said to them, I really want to do something about forgiveness, because forgiveness for a Christian is a big thing and also we choose what we forgive, so I said it needs to be big enough so she has to struggle to forgive this person and that is how the rapist story came about. [You can suggest] even little short stories, I said I’d like to do a story about Mrs Tembe having a bad back and her having to go for massages and again, that thing about people living on their own [dealing with] physical contact, so it’s really interesting that you can go there and suggest things, it’s absolutely brilliant.”

It was clear from speaking to Lorna that her accent and that of Mrs Tembe were quite different, so I asked how she had managed to perfect Mrs Tembe’s Botswana accent.

Lorna joked, “It’s when you are at the supermarket and somebody goes, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know you were a Brummie’. I’ve done a few shows in a South African accent and the Botswanan accent is just north of South Africa so you just soften all the edges on it. I did go to a voice coach, and she was the voice coach of the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, so I was in good hands and I really trusted everything she said, and she said ‘your accent is really brilliant but I’d just soften it,’ and that’s all I did, and she said ‘that’s perfect’.  I’ve met some people from Botswana and they absolutely thought I was from Botswana.”

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up on set in Centenary Square

Lorna explained the fans reaction to Mrs Tembe by describing the character as “…like Marmite, you either love her or can’t stand the sight of the woman, but she’s a brilliant character to play. Sometimes people that are in love with her say, ‘I didn’t like that storyline’ and people who didn’t like her before go ‘Oh my God, I’ve seen another side to her that I didn’t know was there.’ I find it quite interesting how you can play with people’s emotions and they are with you sometimes and against you others and that is brilliant, I think it’s the whole idea of really good drama. I think on the whole they absolutely LOVE her, they really do love her, because she’s quite complicated. She’s Christian, she’s quite forthright and the romance story has softened all the edges, but people quite enjoyed seeing that, she’s quite vulnerable, I think she’s a very interesting character to play.”

Roz asked if Mrs Tembe would still find love, Lorna replied, “Do you know what, I think her time has come again, and again I think it should be complicated and difficult. I think it would be really great to get somebody that Mrs Tembe would never think she would be with. I think she really loves people in professional roles, she’s very respectful of that, but actually somebody like a plumber, I think it would be really interesting if it was a struggle for her to try to find a connection, but who knows with the world of Doctors.”

On the subject of romance, I took the opportunity to ask Lorna who she would cast as Mrs Tembe’s love interest. Lorna had already clearly give this some careful thought, and said, “Ok, listen to this, I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes when you put it out there it happens. Me and Denzel [Washington]. I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes you never know, he might be looking at Hello magazine or something like that, and be like ‘Oh that’s interesting, I’ve not seen that lady before, she looks hot’. I think it would be awesome, me and Denzel.”

Lorna spoke briefly about the recent TV soap awards and was thrilled that all the other soaps congratulated Jessica Regan on her Best Newcomer award and said it was about time they were recognised. She added, “It’s really brilliant, because actually there are just twelve of us, just twelve people hold this show together for a year and you think of the vast cast in Emmerdale and Eastenders and Hollyoaks, we have a tiny amount of people, so it’s a big thing. When we were in triple banking at the beginning of the year, we were juggling twelve scripts, that’s a big thing. The budget is tiny, you know, two pound fifty and a packet of wine gums, that’s not going to get you anywhere love. It’s not going to get you Denzel.”

Mrs Tembe has some issues with Rick Joseph

Mrs Tembe clearly has something to say in the special hour long celebration episode.

To finish with I asked Lorna what she thought of Lenny Henry’s recent stage adaptation of Rudy’s Rare Records at The Rep and if she planned to do more theatre shows herself. Lorna said, “I thought Lenny’s show was absolutely fantastic, again really celebrating Birmingham and Handsworth, places like the canals, it was just fantastic, and I’m just waiting for it to come on telly. I went to the live screening at The Drum and it was just great, real good belly laughs. I was at The Rep last year, I did a [Bertolt] Brecht [The Mother], I did a show in The Studio [For The Past 30 Years], I write and I direct as well, so I juggle all that in between Doctors. If you are working with a young writer then you help them, because one day you know they will pay you back, so let’s get you doing what you need to do, because there is no money for new work at the moment, and it’s a real shame. Supporting new work and developing new work is absolutely crucial.”

Lorna ended by saying, “I’m very lucky, I love theatre and having that creativity in Doctors, you can suggest things, you can work on the script, so that creativity is still there, I KNOW I am very, very lucky and the thing about Denzel, I’m still pushing it.”

More photos from the day will be published later this week after the special hour long episode has been broadcast and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.

You can see What’s On TVs video interviews with Lorna on their website, where she talks about Denzel and Romance.

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