The Cleaner “a one man Scooby-Doo” says Greg Davies, then describes it as inaccurate
The Cleaner is back for a second series, here Greg Davies talks about the show’s development.
I think we push Wicky further and further out of his comfort zone. Indeed, he’s often in peril and for a man who just wants a quiet pint we never allow him the luxury of stagnation.
What do you think it was about The Cleaner and Wicky that viewers fell in love with?
Well, it’s not for me to presume they did but what I like about the character is that in many ways he is quite innocent, almost childlike. He has settled into a very straightforward personal life but does a job that is constantly challenging that. He is forced to consider things about life that, left to his own devices, he’s probably ‘brushed under the carpet’. Rarely does Wicky leave a crime scene without having learned something.
What is your favourite thing about playing Wicky?
I love that each week is a new adventure for him. He is challenged by eccentric characters with colourful lives. It’s really nice to work intensely with a small cast week on week and it may seem petty but I like that, regardless of the guest actors illustrious careers, I’m always the tallest person on camera.
Has he changed at all since series 1? If so, how did you develop his character?
One of the things we were keen to do in our adaptation is to see how Wicky’s journey in life affects him and to gradually learn more about him. The nature of his job forces him to confront things about himself and I think in this series we get even more insight into what makes him tick and how capable of change he may or may not be.
What is great about The Cleaner is viewers can dip in an out of each of episode, they don’t need to watch in an order – does that give you a sense of freedom when writing?
Absolutely, I love the anthology nature of the show. It’s reassuringly old fashioned in many ways, like Play for Today from the 70’s. What binds the series is the same man responding to a wide range of extreme situations and conflicted characters. I mean, it’s a bit like a one man Scooby-Doo and you can quote me on that even though it’s not particularly, or remotely, accurate.
There is something for everyone in this series isn’t there? What makes it have such a broad appeal?
I think most of us crave a level of stability. Wicky is not allowed to play life as safely as he would like. I think people might enjoy seeing him dropped into situations that most of us would go out of our way to avoid. The array of talent that we’ve been lucky enough to attract means that each week is a very different treat from the last.
Once again you have an amazing line up of guest stars, can you tell us a bit about them and how it was working together?
Getting to work with actors that I have admired from afar is such a privilege with this show. They were all brilliant in the roles and that we have convinced or tricked them in to sharing a screen with a fat comedian is a great joy.
When you were writing their episodes did you have them in mind?
I try not to do so as to avoid disappointment but I’m sure the other writers would agree that all too often you secretly pencil in your dream cast during the writing process.
What was your highlight from writing and filming this series?
I’m sure that it reflects very badly on me on so many levels that chucking a bucket of water in Zoë Wanamaker’s face is right up there. She really didn’t seem to mind though. I really like the gentle background potential for romance with the scene of crime police officer so brilliantly played by Zita Sattar.
Are there any funny anecdotes from filming you can share?
Did I tell you about chucking water in Zoë Wanamaker’s face? I did? Okay, well then in no particular order I enjoyed: Making Asim Chaudhry wear a greasy wig and chase me with a gun, having a fight with John Macmillan’s clown, having Simon Callow quote poetry at me, being pinned to the floor by a giant man whilst a chain smoking Dame (Harriet Walter) watched on, talking to Alex Lawther via a fox, my friend Roisin (Conaty) attempting to murder me whilst having my faith challenged by Mark Lewis Jones. On a more negative note, I was and remain horrified that we couldn’t use a stunt man’s hands in one close up because they were deemed “too young and wrinkle free” for my character. I have beautiful, youthful soft hands and no amount of bullying from a production team will convince me otherwise.
Have you taken any cleaning tips from Wicky since series one?
If in doubt, chuck a towel on it.
Finally, what do you hope viewers will take away from of this series?
I hope they will get lost in every mini adventure, the wonderful performances of our guests and enjoy Wicky’s discomfort whilst rooting for him a bit.