Ben Miller is busier than a squirrel gathering nuts for Winter. Not only is he currently starring in Professor T, the talented comedy actor is also making a special guest appearance in Doc Martin season 10!
Ben Miller gleefully reprises the role of Stewart James for one last time for the final series. The Portwenn park ranger first appeared in the ITV comedy in 2004, as a recluse who believed he lived with a six-foot-tall squirrel called Anthony. He played the character again in 2005, when the Doc needed Stewart’s wilderness expertise after a stag do in the woods went wrong.
Now Stewart is back and he’s roped locals PC Joe Penhale (John Marquez) and Al Large (Joe Absolom) into trialing his new weekend survival course, but is he once again away with the squirrels?
What To Watch caught up with Ben to find out more…
Ben Miller exclusive!
It’s nearly 17 years since you last played Stewart. What appealed to you about reprising the role for another episode?
Ben Miller: "I’ve played Stewart twice before [in 2004 and 2005] and absolutely love him. We’ve seen him at various stages of his career, including when he was a ranger living out on Bodmin Moor and hallucinating a giant squirrel! Every time he comes back into the show you think he’s okay, but then he’ll suddenly start to lose it."
Can you reveal what he gets up to this time?
BM: "In this episode he’s got a new boss who wants him to take punters into the wilderness to do a survival course. He gets policeman Joe Penhale, played by Johnny Marquez, and Al Large, played by Joe Absolom, to trial the course, and the wheels come off in a big way! The surivial course is quite hardcore. He mis-sells it to Al as a version of glamping with gourmet cooking and luxury tents, but it definitely isn’t that. They're out in the woods foraging for food and sleeping in shelters they've made themselves."
Did that mean night shoots?
BM: "Yes, we were in the woods for several nights right in the middle of Summer. It was quite an intense thing to film, miles and miles from anywhere. I’ve never done a survival course, nor do I intend to! The closest I've ever come was glamping at Carfest where you’re in a tent with a nice bed and duvet!"
What are the joys of being a guest star on Doc Martin?
BM: "You have all the fun and none of the responsibilities! Plus there are a lot of dogs on Doc Martin, and I love having dogs on set! Acting can be a little bit nerve-racking, so when you turn up and suddenly there’s a dog licking your knees, that’s just great. It relaxes everybody!"
How does filming Doc Martin in Cornwall compare to shooting BBC1’s Death in Paradise in the Caribbean and ITV’s Cambridge-set Professor T?
BM: "Even filming in a heatwave at night in a forest, while being shredded by mosquitoes and deer ticks was more comfortable than being in the Caribbean in summer in a wool suit! That said, I still miss the character Richard Poole from Death in Paradise and I think I always will.
"And I’ve no complaints whatsoever about Professor T, that’s an incredibly comfortable show to film. He’s an ivory tower man and it turns out that the reason people don’t like to leave ivory towers is because they’re very comfortable! I’m thrilled it’s back, the Professor is a warren of possibility. This year he goes into therapy with a therapist played by Juliet Stevenson."
You’re a very busy man, Ben. What else have you got in the pipeline?
"I know! It’s great, like all the buses.
"I’ve just finished filming This Christmas for Sky Movies, which is going to be out, well, this Christmas! I’ve got two books coming out. I write magical family stories for seven to 11-year-olds. 'The Night We Got Stuck in a Story', is about main characters Harrison and Lana discovering a hollow tree at the bottom of their grandparents’ garden that takes them into the bedtime stories their Nana reads. 'Secrets of a Christmas Elf' is the diary of Father Christmas’ daughter, Holly Christmas."
Finally, will Stewart’s squirrel friend make one last Doc Martin reappearance?
BM: "Yes, the squirrels are back big time! They take a slightly different form, but the motif continues and goes into new territory.
"One thing we all love about Doc Martin is the eccentric characters. It’s the ultimate fish-out-of-water comedy. I'm going to really miss it, but it’s a good idea to go out on a high."
Watch Ben Miller's guest appearance in Doc Martin on Wednesday, September 21 2022 on ITV at 9pm.
With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab)www.whattowatch.com (opens in new tab) covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.
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