Plebs star Danny Dyer: 'I'm a geezer Gladiator'

British actor Danny Dyeris starring in new ITV2 comedy Plebs, which starts with a double bill on Monday, March 25 at 10pm. Danny tells What's On TV all about the Inbetweeners-style series set in Ancient Rome and his role as a gladiator called Cassius...

Is Cassius a bit of a 'Geezer Gladiator' then?

"Yeah of course he's a geezer, he's a gladiator isn't he? I suppose that's why I was asked to play the part. But he's got a heart hasn't he, he likes a drop of herbal tea and all that! He's also in love, and he's not like a proper big gladiator, he's a 'net man' with a trident. But he's got a bit of a heart! He's quite a sensitive soul underneath."

What was it like doing those gladiatorial fight scenes in that amazing Roman arena?

It was really hard and quite a buzz. I had two days of intense training to get it right. When the two stunt guys showed me what the fight was going to be like, I'm like 'Oh My God, I'm not sure I can do that!' - we're talking spinning spears round necks, blocking and turning! Then you had to make it look like they're fighting for real. I couldn't wait to get involved actually, and I think in the end they were surprised how well I pulled it off! "

Did you enjoy showing off your new gladiatorial skills?

"It's always fun to be doing stuff like that, because it's like a grown lad being back in the playground. I've done fight scenes before in things like Football Factory, but nothing ever like this - it was just running about head-butting people in Football Factory. This was a bit more skilled than those hooligan films. It was proper heavy that Trident too, although the end of it was rubber, so there was no chance of a real death if it went wrong."

The Coliseum gladiatorial arena looked a pretty amazing set to be fighting in...

"Well, they borrowed the set from the American HBO series Spartacus out in Bulgaria. It was fantastic there, and we had really lovely weather, too. It looks so slick, and really sexy. I'm really pleased with it. Doing the whole scenes in the Coliseum that's full up with crowds was a huge buzz. I'd never done anything like it and was quite nervous as I didn't want to muck it up."

Do you see Plebs as an Inbetweeners-style comedy with similar lads in Roman times?

"I do and they're right Plebs aren't they? Quite an apt title because the three main young guys are complete idiots, seeking their fame and fortune, trying to be cool, but they just get everything wrong. I love the Idea of lads like this in ancient Rome, but using contemporary dialogue, situations and problems. It really works well."

Were you a fan of The Inbetweeners?

"Loved the Inbetweeners! It's all about the dialogue, isn't it? You've got to get the right actors as well, to deliver it and play it straight. And I loved the actors - Tom Rosenthal, Ryan Sampson and Joel Fry - who are all brilliant, so I had to raise my game being alongside them. They'd all done the pilot before, so they were all mates and had already bonded. But they were lovely and really welcomed me in."

We see you naked in a sauna in one scene with Tom. That must have been a strange one to film?

"They saved that up until the end of my time in Bulgaria. I had to get to know Tom a bit better! I heard Tom was working out furiously, doing press ups and watching what he was eating, but I told him to just go for it, no holds barred, just strip down completely naked. I've done a lot of 'naked' before and usually they give you a sock, but there's nothing to make you feel more stupid than to be out there in front of cameras with just a sock, so I just went for it!"

How did you like your toga?

"I didn't like that outfit, it was a weird dress thing. The gladiator kit was great and I thought quite cool, but not the toga. It felt wrong and horrible. It was really itchy and irritating too. I'm not a fan of sandals either!"

Apparently, the boys had a 'Do As Danny Dyer Does' competition when you were out there, mimicking your partying, and some got quite trashed...

"All in a good way I hope! I think I made an impression. I was out there in Bulgaria for a week and a half. I took the boys for a few big nights out so we were out on the lash in Bulgaria, and when I left I think it all quietened down a bit - they were banned from going out!"

You've filmed quite a bit in Eastern Europe before, things like Severance...

"Yep Severance was in Hungary and I've done a lot of documentaries out that way too! But I'd never been to Bulgaria. It was lovely there."

Are we going to see you back on the stage any more? You gave a great performance as Sid Vicious in London's West End a few years back...

"Well, there are rumours about that they'd like to put that play on again, in a bigger theatre. I'm up for it. I love that role, but it would have to be with Shaun Evans again as Kurt Cobain. I couldn't use a different actor. I loved doing Sid. It was a tough gig, as I'd never really portrayed any real person before, and he was ideal for me to portray, but as a more articulate version of him! And it was such a small venue in London's Trafalgar Studios. It was almost like doing it in a barn in medieval days, short of putting hay on the floor. But I got a big buzz from that. So let's see what happens..."

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.