Mark Williams

Blandings. Image shows from L to R: Beach (Tim Vine), Connie (Jennifer Saunders), Clarence (Timothy Spall), Freddie (Jack Farthing). Copyright: Mammoth Screen
Blandings. Beach (Mark Williams). Copyright: Mammoth Screen

Comedy actor and Fast Show star Mark Williams talks about playing Beach...

How did you feel when you were offered the role of Beach, Clarence's faithful butler Mark?

I was delighted. I'm stunned that people keep asking me to play characters I didn't expect to play. Being asked to play one of the butlers is like being picked to play for England. All you have to do is think of the great butlers from the past - Terry-Thomas in How To Murder Your Wife, John Gielgud in Arthur and Denholm Elliott in Trading Places.

How did you 'find' the character of Beach?

There are lots of clues in the books. PG Wodehouse says that Beach is always about to explode. He's permanently on the brink of apoplexy. He's constantly put upon. He is worn down by shouldering the whole responsibility for the household.

Was it fun playing a butler?

Absolutely. Beach has some fantastic lines. You also have to be very economical playing a butler, which is why actors like it so much. Every line has to count.

Did you do a lot of research for the role?

Yes. I talked to lots of butlers and they told me that actually it's the butler's house, not the family's. But in the end, it's all about diplomacy.

At one point, Beach has to cope with a rival called Rupert Baxter (played by David Williams). How did you and David get on?

Brilliantly. David and I had worked together many years ago on a show called The Strangerers, and we got on like a house on fire. The only problem was we kept laughing on set, and often had to turn away from each other. David has a lovely manner. He is also very good physically, he's very precise.

What makes Wodehouse such a great writer?

I discovered lots of new stuff about Wodehouse when I was performing him - just as I discovered lots of new stuff about Shakespeare when I worked at the RSC. I didn't realise what a great dramatist Wodehouse was until then.

He really knows the people he's talking about. On the surface, they're comic characters. But playing the butler of the house and being part of that world, you realise how right Wodehouse is about manners and what's at stake. He's a great stylist and a great writer. He moves his characters around brilliantly in space, which is what we want as actors. Sadly that's becoming quite rare these days.

Did you enjoy working with Jennifer Saunders?

Yes. She's great. Her performances are very detailed and she has the most wonderful laugh. In fact, the two greatest laughs in the world are Jennifer's and Glenn Close's [Mark worked with Glenn on 101 Dalmatians]. If you could bottle them, you'd be onto a winner!

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