James Nesbitt (The Hobbit, Occupation, Cold Feet) and the strong ensemble cast from the acclaimed first series are joined by Neil Pearson (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Between The Lines, Drop the Dead Donkey), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Doctor Who, EastEnders) and Lisa Millet (Love Life, Five Daughters) for six new episodes of ITV1’s medical drama Monroe
Created by the BAFTA award-winning Peter Bowker (Eric and Ernie, Occupation, Wuthering Heights,) the second series sees the return of Sarah Parish (The Pillars of the Earth, Mistresses, Cutting it) as formidable heart surgeon Jenny Bremner, and Tom Riley (Bouquet of Barbed Wire,) as Monroe’s best friend, anaesthetist Lawrence Shepherd.The new series finds Monroe (James Nesbitt) and the medical staff at St Matthew’s hospital 18 months on from series one. Still the wise cracking,irreverent and brilliant neurosurgeon he always was, Monroe is about to face a number of changes he could really do without, with new challengescoming from ex-wife Anna (Susan Lynch – Great Expectations) and son Nick (Perry Millward – Just Henry).Meanwhile Bremner (Sarah Parish) and Shepherd (Tom Riley) are still a couple and dealing with an unplanned development, which threatens thefuture of their relationship and their professional lives.Monroe’s medical trainees, Daniel Springer (Luke Allen-Gale – The Promise) and Kitty Wilson (Michelle Asante – Law & Order: UK) vie to see who willgain a promotion to become registrar.Bremner’s registrar, Sarah Witney (Christina Chong – Whitechapel) has to hope a rash move doesn’t jeopardise her future career whilst Andrew Mullery (Andrew Gower – Being Human) adjusts to working under Gillespie, and Thomas Morrison (Blackpool) continues to pull everyone’s strings ashospital porter-cum-bookie, Lee Bradley.The six x 60-minute drama delivers stories laced with humour, which are more emotional than ever, capturing the pressures and intrigue of high-endsurgery in a modern urban hospital. James Nesbitt admits there was little preparation time before filming began, James felt at ease with the direction writer and series creator, Peter Bowker, has given the second series.
“I think Pete is incredibly intelligent and his work is amazingly engaging to an audience. He really understands how people talk and think and he creates real characters that people find believable. Pete’s got a unique touch. We’ve history having worked together on The Miller’s Tale in 2003 and Occupation in 2009, and he has this amazing ability to put me in very different characters but somehow find a voice that will suit me, which is great. He’s the writer that I like working with most. “I was in New Zealand when the call came through to say that the second series was going to happen. Being away I didn’t really have an opportunity before filming started to sit and chat with Pete about what was going to happen to Monroe in the new series which hasn’t really happened before, but I trust Pete so much that I was very happy for him to just get on with it.”
So thorough with his own research for the first series, portraying a neurosurgeon now comes naturally to James. “The cases are always very different but I am so familiar with theatre now and I understand the shorthand – how to read scans, how to understand what they are telling me in a short space of time and I know what to do to make it look authentic so I feel comfortable with all that now. The more authentic I feel, the more authentic I will be.”
Discussing his routine for the big filming days where Monroe is seen operating on his patients James says: “I’m very good at learning my lines late. I read the scenes in advance of filming but then I leave it alone. I then come back to it and run my lines the night before we shoot to make sure it’s fresh and so I often rarely have to really delve for them. That, for me, really helps with the naturalism of a role. “The night before we film the big theatre scenes I tend to do much more work because the operation has to happen so quickly and so smoothly and I have to know exactly what I am doing and saying. I then go onto our theatre set and there is a sense of focus. “In terms of the team, the minute we start we are in our roles. Very rarely do I stay in character all day but in theatre if I’m just stood there looking through a microscope I will talk to the characters as their characters. It’s a very focused day and everyone in those scenes is constantly making sure it looks authentic. “Just off camera, we have real life surgeons and nurses observing. They’re on set all day with us when we’re filming the operation scenes. They’ll come in and show me what to do and how to position myself. The director will wait until I have the technique right and then we’ll turn over straight away when it’s fresh. The surgeons and nurses we have on set will watch the whole time and say if something’s not quite right. For me as an actor it’s an exciting.”
In the last series viewers saw the breakdown of Monroe’s marriage to Anna (Susan Lynch) whilst his son, Nick (Perry Milward), left the family home to begin life at university. Time has gone by and 18 months on Monroe is now a single man and about to face a number of changes at St Matthew’s hospital.
“I think Monroe is in quite a good place when you meet him this series. His wife, Anna, has left him but he’s back in good working mode. Then all of a sudden Gillespie arrives, played by Neil Pearson who has been amazing to work with, and Monroe is less than impressed because he thinks that Alistair are completely unnecessary. He hates the notion that he may have someone to answer to and the purist responsibility that seems to be coming with this, which is more about money and the organisation as opposed to just dealing with patients and saving lives. “With the arrival of Lizzie, Monroe feels like she is taking part of his role, which he’s very good at. It’s a dynamic that he isn’t happy with but he deals with it in quite a strong way – no one will ultimately get him down to a great degree. “The hospital is definitely his main priority but that’s his domain. I don’t even think he is taking time to think about relationships. He is in his element. Of course he is missing Anna but actually he doesn’t have to worry about that because he is just so focused whilst at the hospital.”
”Monroe’s emotions also come into play at work when Gillespie tells him the hospital can only afford to promote one of his trainees to registrar.
“That’s a nightmare. Monroe creates the impression that he is very domineering and arrogant with his trainees but I think that ultimately he has huge respect for both of them. He knows the amount of work they have done and they have constantly been his lackeys for years. The notion that one of them might have to go he finds incredibly hard and thinks it’s very wrong. “Both Springer and Wilson are good at what they do. There’s a line in the script where Monroe says; ‘Springer is brilliant and annoying because he knows it and Wilson is brilliant and annoying because she doesn’t.’ They’re chalk and cheese but actually both have a great hand and believe in what they are doing.”
Tom Riley returns as Laurence Shepherd.
Making a return to the second series as Monroe’s anaesthetist and best friend, Laurence Shepherd, actor Tom Riley and series creator and writer Peter Bowker agreed to explore the consequences of when the ‘good guy’ does something bad.
“Following the first series I met up with Peter to discuss Shepherd. Peter had great ideas about where he wanted to take the character and how his relationship with Bremner would play out across the second series. Although Shepherd’s a good guy he does have a lot of bottled up anger inside of him, so it was interesting to think ‘what else could we do with him?’ Typically bad guys in shows are painted as darker characters but what if someone nice like Shepherd made a mistake, what would the fall out be? I thought this was a really interesting premise for my character and I felt excited
about the challenge of bringing these ideas to life.”
As the second series moves on 18 months Shepherd is now living with Bremner and life has certainly changed for them. “Shepherd has moved in with Bremner and they now have a son, Louis. It’s all happened very quickly and it is difficult for them, but for the sake of their son, they’re trying to make their relationship work.
“The reason I care about Bremner and Shepherd’s relationship is because they’re both quite damaged individuals who have become experts at coping with that damage. Shepherd gives the outward appearance that he is able to charm and chat to people and be laid-back and good-natured when actually he finds it quite difficult to express himself properly. Bremner is completely closed off and can’t give him what he needs. They’re two people who are actually missing each other’s marks constantly.“ For me Shepherd is like a lot of guys who get to a certain stage in their lives when they realise they’re not really where they want to be. Perhaps their life hasn’t panned out how they wanted but they’re making the most of that. Consequently, Shepherd has a lot resentment and anger building inside, which he tends to repress.” Explaining further, Tom adds: “Family life just happened too quickly for Shepherd. I think he is probably good at hitting all the correct beats, being a good dad and everything, but I don’t know if it’s the most natural of things for him.”
Cautious not to reveal too many spoilers Tom hints at how the ‘good guy’ turns bad.
“In the first couple of episodes the relationship between Shepherd and Bremner is really tense. He isn’t getting anything he wants and feels completely unappreciated in every aspect of his life – at home with Bremner, and as ever playing second fiddle to Monroe at work. These emotions and feelings lead him to do something that will have serious implications in both areas.“I want viewers to be torn about whether he is a baddy for what he’s done. What follows is extraordinary. That’s what’s really interesting about playing the weary ‘good guy’ in the series. What he does potentially could completely destroy him.”
Watch the trailer for Series 2 below.
Monroe Returns to ITV on Monday 1st October at 9pm
|Series 1 is available to buy Now|