Interview with David Nellist

david_nellist_2015 David Nellist
is well known among Sherlock fans for playing Mike Stamford, a mutual friend of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson who introduces both to each other in A Study In Pink.

David kindly agreed to an email interview and answered several questions about his career and Sherlock.

Find out why he was absent from John’s wedding, what he thinks of Sherlock & John’s friendship and how he’d like to see Mike Stamford develop in Season 4.

Where and when did you train to become an actor?
I trained to be an actor from 1988-91 at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. Before this I worked visiting blind people in their homes for a year after leaving school. I enjoyed that. 

When did you find out you wanted to become an actor?
I was told by a fantastic drama teacher at school that I was good and should pursue this as a career when I was 14.

Would you have a piece of advice for people who want to pursue this career?
Do not do it for fame or glamour, do it because you love it.

You have an extensive career both on stage and film, would you say you prefer one to the other?
No, they are both very different disciplines. I love watching great screen actors because of their technical skill (Martin and Benedict are brilliant) but if I had to choose I’d say theater.

Is there a role which you haven’t played yet but would like to?
King Lear when I’m older but before that the Fool or Kent in King Lear.

Do you have an actor role model?
Mark Rylance, but I love Klaus Kinski, Paul Giamitti and Gary Oldman.

Would you ever like to change behind the camera and either direct or write a story yourself? If so which kind of story might we expect?
I do write, I’m currently writing a documentary style piece in all aspects of death.

Which is your all-time favourite film?
My all time favourite film is Fitzcarraldo followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (original version) and Get Carter.

Which is more fun for you… playing good guys or evil parts?
I get to play a lot of good guys so I would relish the chance to be evil.

You’re currently starring in The Gift at the New Vic Hoard Festival until end of July. What’s coming next for you?
A family holiday in France as I work away a lot I miss my daughters.

Did you read the works of Arthur Conan Doyle? Would you call yourself a fan of Sherlock Holmes?
I did read some of Conan Doyle but I could never guess the mysteries. I’m in awe of people like Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat who are such fans and incredibly knowledgeable.

Is there a Holmes story you’d like to see turned into an episode?
No, my favourite was always The Hound of the Baskervilles but I thought they did such an incredibly brilliant job on that that I couldn’t better it.

Do you happen to know how many other actors auditioned for the role of Mike Stamford?
You never really find out how many other actors are auditioned for these parts but I always work out that it’s around 50 and obviously they receive far, far more CVs.

Did they tell you why they chose you?
No, in television you very rarely find out why you were given the part. I like to think it’s a mixture of your experience plus what you’re like to have around on set. No director ever wants to work with a brilliant actor who is miserable, or difficult because that then brings the whole set atmosphere down.

The Sherlock fandom cherishes you as the cupid for Sherlock and John. What do you think characterises their friendship? What makes it special?
Really what I think makes their friendship is the skill of both the actors. They are very different as actors and types but they compliment each other perfectly. Each of them are leading men in their own right but don’t seem to have ego which makes for a much better relationship on screen. Like all great double act and characters on screen, having seen those two, I can’t imagine anyone else playing their roles. 

I really like Mike’s comments on John’s blog. Are you aware there’s actually a John Watson blog and have you read your character’s comments?
No, I hadn’t realised there was a John Watson blog (how do I find it) I’m always amazed at the level of commitment shown by the fandom towards the series. I find it very touching that the television series has had such an impact.

(note from Anne: I told David it’s a BBC blog written by Joe Lidster and gave him the link.)

As Mike’s a friend of both leading characters, many have wondered why he wasn’t at John’s wedding. Do you know why?
I often get asked this question, the real reason was that at the time I was doing a play called Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter. I was asked to be in the wedding but unfortunately, and very sadly for me I couldn’t make the filming. I know the fans have their own reasons why Stamford wasn’t at the wedding which is great. 

Mike will be seen in the Victorian special which I think is generally known as a couple of papers posted photos online. I’d like to ask how stepping back into the Victorian era was for you. Did you enjoy the 1890s or was it more difficult to portray the Victorian Mike?
It was absolutely fantastic, I was doing a play at the time in the West End called War Horse so I wasn’t sure whether I can make the filming. It was a real thrill to be able to hook up with Martin and Benedict. It is always a particular joy to work with great actors.

How did filming the special differ from filming the modern time episodes in general?
I think the important thing is just to play the character in the particular scene it doesn’t really have an impact if you’re playing something set in a different time period. I think the real difficulties and complexities come from the set design and so maybe things took a little longer. It was great fun!

Has playing Mike Stamford had an impact on your life, professionally or personally?
I get nice compliments on social media from the fans but I don’t really get recognised too much. It looks good on my CV and young actors are eager to talk to me about it.

Do you think we might see you in Season 4?
In my dream I would be in every episode of Series 4, possibly a new love interest for Molly!! 

Thanks a lot for the interview, David!

If you also like to send David Nellist a compliment, you can find him on Twitter under: @nellidge