Belfast Telegraph

Actor John Hannah: 'This is warped, crazy and chaotic'

Scottish actor John Hannah welcomes A Touch Of Cloth's return

By Susan Griffin

We do all love a detective drama and the TV listings are saturated with police procedurals. John Hannah remembers clearly asking his agent not to send him any more scripts in that genre.

“I said, ‘I'm fed up. I'm over it',” recalls the Scottish actor. “Of course, the first thing they send is a cop show and you think, ‘Oh, for God's sake,' and then you read it and it's hysterical.”

He's talking about A Touch Of Cloth. Created and written by Charlie Brooker and Daniel Maier, it's a parody of police dramas, the title being a play on A Touch Of Frost.

Hannah stars as DCI Jack Cloth, a man who was coming to terms with his wife's murder in the first series back in 2012, but now, in series three, barely remembers her name.

“I think Charlie looked at a couple of specific shows originally, and then when he and Daniel got more in-depth they were looking at specific recognisable scenes, like the scene of crime and forensic rooms and making fun of those,” explains the 52-year-old actor.

Now in its third outing, he believes the show has become “its own warped, crazy, chaotic genre”.

“It's still very funny, whether things are happening in the foreground or background, but rather than simply lampooning the genre, it stretches it, like the longest bit of bubble gum you've ever seen.”

This time round, Cloth is hit with the news that his brother Terry (played by a bearded and bewigged Hannah) has been killed, and the detective has to lean on his formidable team to help catch the mystery killer.

This includes his number two DI Anne Oldman (Suranne Jones), who, nursing a Cloth-inflicted broken heart, has suddenly developed a savage drinking problem. There's also DC Asap Qureshi, the stats man; DC Des Hairihan, he of the hirsute hands; sex-obsessed forensic expert Dr Natasha Sachet and newest recruit Kerry Newblood, played by former Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan.

Hannah doesn't want to give too much away but will say that there are “some very revealing moments with her character”.

“I think people are going to be quite shocked by what her body is able to do,” he notes, laughing. “There is one eye-popping, jaw-dropping, tongue-lulling moment that her Doctor Who fans might have imagined, but everyone else will get a surprise.”

Despite only joining the cast in the third film, Gillan became “part of the family” immediately and took part in all sorts of silliness, including an impromptu dance on set.

“I don't know who started it but everyone started doing really bizarre dancing and I taped the whole thing on my phone. I should post it (online), but maybe that's a bit unfair.”

As the double-bill unfolds, clues lead Cloth and co to a small English town and an odd rehab/spa retreat where Terry was receiving treatment for anger issues against a certain sibling. The owner, Damien Vull, is fast-tracked to the top of the prime suspect list, but when the body count starts to rise, Cloth realises, in great tradition, that the culprit is closer to home.

The comedy is completely daft and Hannah admits there have been times when he hasn't got a joke until the middle of a take. “But the last thing you want to do is giggle, because then the audience won't.”

The married father-of-two doesn't shy away from the fact that he's starred in the very type of drama that A Touch Of Cloth parodies. Between 2000 and 2001, he played the titular role in a TV adaptation of the Rebus detective novels.

“I think the books are brilliant, and I think Ian Rankin's a fantastic writer,” he notes. “But the books had to be reduced to a two-hour format (for TV), so you can't help but focus on certain junctions and that becomes the short-cut for the audience, and you create cliches by doing that.”

Reflecting on his career thus far, he can't pinpoint a project he's most proud of. “Different things at different times,” he says, shrugging.

He enjoyed making 1995's Madagascar Skin, “a low-budget little film”, but he equally relished shooting the blockbuster The Mummy in 1999 with Rachel Weisz, and its sequel, The Mummy Returns, two years later.

“It's like suddenly you're part of this amazing history of big studios and American movies you've grown up seeing. Even The Mummy itself has a history, so it felt good to be part of something.”

The one project you might expect him to mention but he omits, is Richard Curtis' 1994 classic Four Weddings And A Funeral, which propelled a bumbling Hugh Grant and much of the cast, including Hannah, Kristen Scott Thomas and Anna Chancellor, to stardom.

“It suddenly gave me a profile that changed everything,” says Hannah when it's mentioned. “It was a whole new world.”

He admits he's disappointed by reports that this is the end of the line for Cloth and his team, however.

“We love doing it and Charlie's definitely got more ideas,” says Hannah, “but someone has to pay you the money to do it.”

  • A Touch Of Cloth III: Too Cloth For Comfort, Sky1, today/tomorrow, 9pm

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