The Doctor is in: Martin Clunes
"I’m doing really well with big horses"
The real Martin Clunes is far more charming and lucky in love than Gary Strang or Doc Martin
“I get a lot of criticism in my own home for taking an interest in people's medical conditions,” says Clunes, who for the past eleven years has been wooing fans worldwide in his role as Dr Martin Bamford, “particularly their medications. I always want to know what they’ve been prescribed. My daughter in particular always goes ‘you’re not a doctor! Shut up.’” The sweet and affable comedy has been a surprisingly huge hit worldwide, with many foreign adaptations and a devout American fan base who refer to themselves as ‘The Clunatics.’
Set in the fictional Cornish village of Portwenn, Clunes plays a brilliant surgeon who after developing haemophobia (fear of blood), is forced to quit his job and take one as a general practitioner in the sleepy, seaside town. The show's charm comes from the juxtaposition of cheery, local folk and the grumpy, socially inept doctor whom they are constantly trying to win over.
“It’s always much more fun to do something that’s awkward or complicated. Otherwise it’s quite undramatic,” says Clunes on the doctor’s ongoing romance with the lovely, local schoolmistress Louisa (Caroline Catz). The pair have tempted and teased their audience for seven seasons now with their complicated, on/off romance. A dramatic vice that Clunes insists has been vital to the continuation of the show, saying: “People always say to me ‘come on, get back together’, and if we had done it years ago we’d have to do something else for the telly.”
In his private life, Clunes is partial to a quiet life in the country on his farm in Devon. Living with his wife Philippa, who is a producer on Doc Martin, and their teenage daughter Emily, the family have a fully working farm and several ‘heavy horses’. He is the president of the British Horse Society and says that life on the farm is ‘totally engaging’ and defines who they are. On the subject of his family Clunes is open and warm, the picture of a man who is truly content, although he does joke that his daughter steers clear of his work, saying: “She studiously avoids anything we do. She doesn’t watch Doc Martin. When Sigourney Weaver came (cameoing in a recent episode) we went out for supper at Rick Stein’s and Emily came with us and when I said ‘do you want to watch the episode?’ she said, ‘No, I’m alright.’[laughs]”
With the seventh season of Doc Martin finished Clunes is looking forward to a year off. And, except for perhaps an Australian version of his travel documentary Islands of Britain, his diary is joyously clear, leaving plenty of time for other pursuits that are close to his heart: “I don’t have a great deal planned. I’m doing really well with big horses; I’ve got two Clydesdales who I’ve started riding so I’m really happy not to work.”
Doc Martin Complete Series Seven is out now on DVD
Related Articles: How to Duck a Punch…an Interview with Michael Palin