Taxi driver Vince McKee and his estranged wife Ros have blamed themselves ever since their son Tim cut ties with the family, and now they live separate lives. Vince’s day-to-day existence takes an unusual turn when he accepts an offer from a criminal gang organised by his ex-con mate Colin, who has resurfaced after six years in prison. In an interview for the BBC Morrissey teased what drew him to thje new drama.
You are also an executive producer on the drama. Was this a real passion project for you?
It was. I formed my own production company with Jolyon Symonds a couple of years ago, and the reason was because I really enjoy working with writers. I like being at the beginning of projects. Sometimes as an actor you come in on the middle of a project and all of the writing has been done; some of the houses have been chosen and most of the decisions have been made before you get there. Then you leave a project early and it all gets edited together with music, so I was finding I liked being involved in all of the aspects really, and I like the collaborative nature of that. So one of the first things we did after the company was made was we met writers that we wanted to work with, and on top of that list was Danny Brocklehurst who I’ve known and wanted to work with for a long time. We’d never got round to it, so we sat down and he had a few ideas, and this was the one that jumped out. We both loved it. Just after that I went off to work on The Walking Dead, so it was difficult to find a time slot to shoot it, but we got there in the end and I’m so happy with the finished result.
How was it working with Danny Brocklehurst?
The thing I love about Danny is that he lets you into the characters’ worlds. He doesn’t make any judgements about the characters, and then he throws a curve ball at them, and you watch them trying to deal with it but you’re batting for them. You might not be sympathetic towards them in the sense that you sympathise for their actions, you can see that they are doing things wrong and not making good moral choices – but you can empathise with them and think ‘I’m not sure that if I was in that situation I wouldn’t do the same thing’.
That’s the great writing.
What is The Driver about?
It’s a domestic drama. I think it’s about a man who is struggling emotionally inside his family, because his son is missing, and we don’t know where he is. His wife doesn’t want to talk about it and Vince needs to talk about it. When we first meet Vince, he’s not only in a financially troubling place – he’s in an emotionally troubling place. He’s slightly lost, his daughter is growing up, and he’s wondering what life’s all about really. He’s been given this opportunity which he knows is the wrong side of the law. With the driving sequences, I knew that his motivation to get involved with these people was to do with an adrenaline rush. It was to do with the rush that he gets in this world that he doesn’t get anywhere else. We wanted to make sure we filmed the driving sequences in a way that was very exciting, so we’re on that journey with Vince – that you felt the same rush, fear and relief that he does.
How is Vince feeling when we first meet him?
Vince has been hard working all his life and managed to support his family. I think he lives by the book and has done all the right things, but he’s slightly unrewarded emotionally from that. He’s at a place where people around him have dipped into more criminal behaviour and he hasn’t. He’s walked a straight and narrow line and paid his taxes. He slightly feels like he hasn’t been rewarded for it. He’s lost and he’s wondering where his prize is, I think. Having done everything he needs to do in life, provided for his family and worked hard, he’s wondering where his cut of the cake is slightly. He feels he’s looking at the next 20 years of his life in the same mould. He’s a man who needs change, and doesn’t know how to achieve that change.
What’s his relationship like with his family?
He’s totally in love with his wife. He’s a good husband; he really wants things to change for them, not just for him. He wants them to be a couple and make decisions together and move on, but she’s in trauma. She’s in grief about the loss of her son. There’s blame flying around, and it’s unexplained blame. They’re not talking about it. That’s the weight they’re carrying between them and the elephant in the room, and it’s hard. Something isn’t right, but they do love each other. I think the excitement of driving is what he needs as a man; what gives him his machismo and mojo back. It’s not another woman or gambling, it’s this thing of flirting with danger that makes him feel manly and feel part of life again. That is a very relatable thing for many people.
What leads Vince into driving for a criminal gang?
I don’t think he’s had much excitement in his life. He hasn’t had that in a long time, which coincides with him meeting someone from his past that he used to have that with, and of course it was about flirting on the outside of criminality. To have slightly lost that excitement in his life, and suddenly here it is, and he’s getting paid for it. He knows it’s wrong but there’s a self-destructive button inside him. He wants to keep that buzz going and we see that it could be too late by the time he wants to stop. He can’t stop anymore.
Can you tell us about filming the driving scenes?
Nowadays we have many health and safety issues, so it’s all very well organised to make it look exciting! We had to do a lot of box-ticking before we even set off. Crispin who was our stunt coordinator was brilliant, and we knew the technique we wanted to use which is a technique that hasn’t been used on TV before – it’s just been used on film. Andy Smart who was our stunt driver had done it before on big movies, but never on television. It was a way on making sure myself and the camera could be in the car at the same time whilst the stunt was happening. It’s very important that you’re with Vince when walls and cars are coming towards him. He’s avoiding danger. You can see him turning the wheel and hitting the pedals, and you’re with him driving. You’re with him in that adrenaline rush, which was brilliant to film. Even though it’s criminal, even though he knows it’s wrong, it’s the fact that he’s discovered something he’s good at – it’s a real dangerous buzz for Vince.
How was it working with Ian Hart again?
I’ve known Ian since I was a kid, and we’ve been best friends for many many years. It was wonderful. The great thing about it was I’ve been trying to work with Ian for ages, but he’s always been busy in America doing great TV and films over there. Then this came up, and because it was about two guys from years ago, I was able to say to him ‘look this is so us’ and he loved it. Also, it meant that where you would usually sit down with the actor and talk about your lives together and draw up a story of what happened between these two men from when they were kids – with Ian I didn’t have to do that because it’s all already there. There’s a great shorthand between us. It was a delight really I have to say.
What would you like audiences to take away The Driver?
It’s an exciting thriller, that’s the bottom line. It’s a thriller about what’s going to happen to this man and his family, and I think that ride is what you want people to take away. The exciting ride about everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but one that is totally relatable. I think it’s about the moral choices people make in their lives today.
The Driver starts Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC ONE.