Jo Joyner and Mark Benton reveal what's in store for the chalk and cheese detectives as Shakespeare & Hathaway returns today!
If you missed Shakespeare & Hathaway last year, you were robbed of a ray of TV sunshine. The daytime drama tells the story of tired ex-cop Frank Hathaway, who now works as a private investigator. Client-turned-business partner Lu Shakespeare is a breath of fresh air: bright, breezy and better at crime-solving than Frank will ever admit.
The series proved a huge hit, both here and around the world, and stars Mark Benton and Jo Joyner are clearly genuinely chuffed to be back for more.
Here, Mark Benson, 53 and ex-EastEnders star Jo Joyner 41 tease a potential romance for their characters and tell us all about the new series of Shakespeare & Hathaway
What can you tell us about the cases this year?
Jo Joyner: “There’s a dognapping, a good episode with doppelgangers, Lu goes to night school to learn more about being a detective and Frank gets locked in a freezer!”
Mark Benton: “The nice thing with them being private investigators is that not all the cases are murders, this isn’t Midsomer! It’s a real thrill to be back, because we both love the show so much.”
Is there any hint of romance between Shakespeare & Hathaway this year?
Jo: “We put something in last series and it got cut unfortunately!”
Mark: “You want to keep the possibility there, but if you go too far it might ruin the dynamic. We talked about it being like Just Good Friends. Who knows what will happen, we’ll keep it simmering under the surface.”
Jo: “I do think it would be quite fun, but maybe they should forever be like Ross and Rachel from Friends! We find out more about Frank’s back story in one episode, and you do get a sense by the end that there’s an unbreakable bond between the two of them, there’s a real loyalty there.”
Are you enjoying working together?
Jo: “Yes, we have a laugh and he’s so gracious. I’ve worked with a lot of male comedians and funny men, and very often they’re not happy to give up a gag, they’re not as generous as women. But Mark is really great because both of us just want the end product to be the best it can be. We have a very dark sense of humour that we share, so we have to be really careful when the microphones are on.”
Mark: “We spend so much time together, we can spend hours sitting in that Mini! We talk about food all the time…”
Jo: “I put on half a stone every time we film, our crew are feeders.”
What do you think people love about the series?
Mark: “There’s so much dark drama and heavy stuff on TV, which is wonderful but sometimes I think people do just want to sit down and enjoy something. The reaction from people is so nice, I’ve never known so many lovely messages to a show. He’s a Colombo-type cop who has been there and done it all, then she’s fresh to the business, but also really intelligent and great at solving crimes, not ditzy. I love those characters.”
Jo: “A lot of TV shows are so grim, there’s so much doom and gloom around and usually my kids can’t watch the things I’m in, but I was so happy when we got such a positive reaction to Shakespeare & Hathaway. I was really reassured that people wanted to watch something simple with a sense of a humour, a good old whodunit but without the blood and gore and with nice friendships. It made me think maybe the world isn’t quite so dark!”
The show is a hit all around the world now isn’t it?
Jo: “Yes it’s done really well abroad, I think because it’s so British – you couldn’t really cram much more in there: Tudor buildings, Minis, Early Grey tea whenever we get a chance… I think it has a strong ex-pat audience as well, as it reminds people of home. It’s a real privilege to film in these quintessentially British stately homes, especially because I’m from the area: I’ve driven past these big long driveways all my life wondering what’s at the end, and suddenly I’m filming there!”
Would you make good investigators in real life?
Mark: “No! When we’re filming I have trouble remembering who did it, I end up asking the other actors if they’re the murderer!”
Jo: “I am rubbish, I get really confused when I’m reading the scripts. I’m very nosey though, so I could definitely gather evidence.”
This year’s guest stars include James Dreyfus, Simon Shepherd and David Calder. Who else is on the wish list?
Mark: “We have really brilliant guests. I’m working with Nigel Harman at the moment, he’s lovely, or I’d love to get Robson [Green] to come on. Or Hugh Jackman.”
Jo: “I’d have Bradley Cooper. I like to take Sunetra Sarker with me on every job and Lindsey Coulson would be great (who played Carol in EastEnders), she makes me laugh.”
Where do you take the series from here?
Mark: “Well we love it and would like to keep going, the idea is definitely to do a third series. The show is big in Australia so Jo and I think we should do the live tour.”
Jo: “If Mrs Brown’s Boys can do it, so can we! I would really like to do a Christmas special because by the time we finish filming the festive lights are up in Stratford and it’s begging for a Christmas episode. We could do a classic Scrooge!”
Shakespeare & Hathaway returns to BBC1 on Monday 25th February at 2.15pm.