Monday's Doc Martin (ITV) features one of the most unusual guest star TV appearances ever, when Sigourney Weaver (opens in new tab) turns up in Portwenn playing a brash American tourist. Her longtime friend, Selina Cadell (opens in new tab) (who plays Mrs Tishell), explained to TV Times how it came about and where they first met...
How did you become friends with Sigourney Weaver?
“I met her in 1974 when she came over to visit an American friend who was living over here, who I also knew. We all hung out together, and she had such a ball that she stayed for three months. We were young actresses and spent a lot of time laughing and going to the theatre. We’re very close – we’ve spent Christmas together with our families and we work together a lot – we coach each other on our acting projects.”
How did her Doc Martin cameo come about?
“She knew I was in Doc Martin, but I never asked her to watch it. Suddenly it caught on in America and Sigourney watched it and adored it and when she came over to promote a film in February, by chance she went on The Jonathan Ross Show with Martin Clunes and asked him if she could be in Doc Martin. Then they were both funny about it – neither could believe the other one meant it – and so I brokered the deal.”
What can you tell us about Sigourney’s character?
“She plays a brash American tourist who walks into Mrs Tishell’s tiny chemist, imagining she’s going to get some kind of big welcome because she says she has Cornish roots, but Mrs Tishell isn’t having any of it.”
Sigourney’s a big star – was she expecting a big trailer and a personal stylist?
“I knew her before she got famous in Alien and she’s not grand. The people on Doc Martin were a little worried about the fact we just muck in and don’t have proper trailers, only a little green room at the top of a hotel. I told them not to worry, that Sigourney would not be expecting a limousine.”
Do people still talk to you about your brother, the late Simon Cadell, who enjoyed great success as Jeffrey Fairbrother in Hi-de-Hi? (Simon passed away in 1996, aged 45)?
“I feel so lucky that people still want to talk about him. So many people lose their siblings and nobody talks about him, but Simon is still alive in many people’s worlds. And of course he taught me an enormous amount – I used to ring him up in a panic all the time about work and he always gave me good advice. We were all shattered by his death.”
And you look like him…
“I look much more like Simon than my twin brother, and my son, Edwin, who’s 28, looks extraordinarily like him. Edwin has followed me into acting, as has my daughter, Letty, who’s 23 and a student at RADA. My husband [Michael Thomas] is an actor and I come from five generations of actors.”
Why do you think Mrs Tishell has really caught on with viewers?
“It’s a wonderful part. I suppose it was quite clear in my very first scene that she was quite taken with Doc Martin and we’ve developed that. Her feeling for the doc is not just a crush but a real thing for her. She can be slightly unpleasant, but also an absurd person you can’t help but love.”
How would you like her to end up in her very last scene?
“In the doctor’s lap!”
Has Doc Martin had a real impact on your life?
“For a long time people would say, ‘Don’t I know you from the gym?’ But in the last couple of years I am recognised here and in America. We take our lead from Martin, who’s the nicest man in the whole world, who says, ‘We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the fans.’ The public is very nice to me; they say, ‘How’s your neck?’ and ‘We adore Mrs Tishell,’ which is lovely.”
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.
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