I was lucky enough to attend the official press event ahead of the upcoming ITV adaptation of The Durrells starring Keeley Hawes. The whole first episode had everyone captivated from the moment it started. In my opinion this series is set to be the next big hit for ITV and is a real treat for all the family. Josh O'Connor plays Lawrence Durrell, the eldest brother of Gerry. Josh shares his thoughts about starring on the show. The Durrells can be seen on Sunday evenings at 8pm on ITV from from April, 3rd.
Who is Lawrence Durrell?
Larry is the eldest of the children, the siblings. He is Lawrence Durrell, the famous and brilliant writer. Although it was his younger brother Gerry who wrote The Corfu Trilogy of books on which this series is based. He is working as an estate agent when we first meet the family in Bournemouth. The worst estate agent ever and he knows it. It’s Larry’s idea in the first place to come to Corfu when the family are struggling and much to his surprise his mother takes his advice. So they arrive in Corfu to begin this new life and he’s a bit of a rebel without a cause. A would - be writer at that stage who likes to go out and get drunk and isn’t much help at all to his mother or the rest of the family.
Were you familiar with the books before this came along?
I knew My Family and Other Animals but I had no idea there was a trilogy. When I was meeting for the part of Larry I obviously looked into it a bit more. It’s a brilliant trilogy. I think the second book is maybe even better than the first.
What did you make of Simon Nye’s scripts for The Durrells?
His scripts are amazing. Most television drama tends to be murder mystery or crime drama. Which is great. It’s a formula that works. But I get so excited when I see something else. It’s quirky, brilliant, hilarious and I really loved it when I first read it.
How would you describe the family’s move to Corfu?
It was a really brave thing to do. Especially in the 1930s. Now it’s relatively easy to do. You don’t have to pay a fortune to get here on a budget flight. Whereas back then it would have been a huge step. Which makes it all the funnier that Larry suggests it and Louisa takes him up on it. It’s scary now to think about it. Today Corfu is such a tourist destination that everyone speaks English here. But then the language wouldn’t have been accessible. And no telephone or electricity. How would we cope to day? How would you charge your iPad?
What is it like filming in Corfu?
I’d never been to Corfu before. It’s an amazing place and so hot. In fact when we first got here at the height of summer it was oppressive, quite humid. But later in the year it was fine. You could not film this anywhere else. The locations are unique and so beautiful. The owners of the house we use for the exterior of the Durrells’ house in Corfu use it as a summer house. But it’s been left untouched. They wanted to leave it exactly as it was. We had a week of rehearsals before we started filming which is unheard of. That’s so amazing. We worked out some of the scenes, so we could start filming in Corfu and be well prepared.
Do the Durrells get on with each other?
You need the family at war to appreciate the loving moments. Families do shout at each other but there’s so much love in this family. A lot of the time we’re at loggerheads. But at one stage, for example, Larry takes Leslie out to sort his love problems and Larry says to him, ‘You’re a decent enough chap.’ In contrast to Larry’s usual behaviour, that’s the most warm, lovely and heartfelt thing you can imagine. I’ve got two brothers and I know that I don’t say to them very often, ‘I love you,’ or anything like that. I might say, ‘You’re brilliant,’ and then we blush and will be embarrassed. So those little words are telling.
What is it like having Keeley Hawes as your screen mother?
It’s been lovely working with Keeley. I worked with her husband Matthew Macfadyen on Ripper Street and that was great. So I assumed I would get on with her. Keeley has just been brilliant and so intelligent, sweet and open. She is perfect for the role.
Were you skilled at using an old typerwriter?
I took Larry’s typewriter back to the hotel for the first week to have a go on it and got a complaint from the next door room about the noise. They were like, ‘Can you please shut up? Use a laptop.’ Larry hits the keys hard because he’s so angry with himself. I found that pretty tough. But the joy of television and film is you get people coming and stroking your fingers afterwards!! I also tried to type Larry’s own real lines on the paper just in case those people who check everything they see on TV were watching. We’ve been fairly accurate. Everyone thinks of Gerry’s books but Lawrence was a writer first. He’s an almost forgotten talent. He was amazing and well respected. Hopefully this will prompt people to seek out his books.
Is it fair to say that Larry is obsessed with sex?
Yes. Definitely. He is 100 per cent obsessed with sex. I love that. I think most writers are. The ‘x’ on his typewriter has been removed by his family so he can’t write ‘sex’ so much. But I don’t think it stops him. He just writes about it more when he eventually gets it back.
Larry has a young woman he left behind in England?
She appears in the later episodes. That’s a beautifully written relationship and hilarious. He seems like one of the hellraisers but it’s nice to think of him settling down. She stands up to him and that’s what Larry needs.
Does Larry have many scenes with the animals Gerry investigates on the island and sometimes brings home?
Some of my favourite scenes are with Gerry and the animals. Larry thinks, ‘Why on earth is he fascinated with these horrible things?’ He just finds them all annoying. There’s a great scene where Gerry brings back this albatross and Larry is confused about it all and why it’s gnashing away. It’s in his way when he’s trying to write. The animals have been amazing on this job. It’s very hard for me trying to be grumpy Larry in a scene when there are beautiful puppies on the ground and all I want to do is give them a cuddle.
Milo Parker appears to have really embraced the role of Gerry?
He’s a young man beyond his years. You see him and he looks such a little kid. And then he just talks like one of my housemates. He’s really mature, clever and intelligent.
Gerry went on to create what is now the Durrell Wildlife Trust and Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey. Have you visited?
I haven’t been over to Durrell at Jersey but I’ve heard lots about it and knew about it before this role came along. But I’d never made the link to the books. I’d love to go and I will.
Aside from Corfu, do you have a paradise you would like to escape to?
I’ve been up to Scotland and Loch Lomond. But my dream is to go to the Hebrides. For me, that is the absolute paradise.