With Series 3 of Detectorists coming to an end, we talk to creator and star Mackenzie Crook about the show. Will there be a Series 4? And what's going on with the gold he found in real life?
Hi Mackenzie. We're huge fans of Detectorists here at BCG, and know there's loads of love for the show out there. Do you get people coming up to you in the street to tell you how much they enjoy the programme?
Yeah. It's an odd reaction. I mean, I've been recognised from The Office and Pirates Of The Caribbean for coming up for nearly 20 years now, but it's a different type of reaction for Detectorists.
I get people coming up that I get the feeling would never normally come up to someone that they recognise in the street. But it's quite an emotional response from them, thanking me for Detectorists. It's really lovely. It's really quite moving.
Do you interact much with the detecting community? We've read articles in which enthusiasts say they're really pleased the show hasn't sneered at their hobby.
To be honest, I've left them alone a little bit. I haven't ever joined a club, and I didn't really meet any real life detectorists throughout the whole of making of the series. But, when we finished the third series, I did go out with a couple of guys and spoke to them, and, yeah, it was good to hear that they appreciate what I did and that we did it quite accurately.
We've learnt via your show that we should call people 'detectorists' rather than 'metal detectors'! We're surprised to learn though that you weren't a detectorist before writing the show, so how did the idea come about?
Yeah, I'd always been interested by it as a kid. It was just this magical thing where people found treasure.
There was an episode of Time Team a few years back where I saw a couple of these guys and they just struck me as very eccentric characters. It struck me immediately, what a lonely, meditative hobby it was, and I just thought it would be interesting to explore. To, yeah, sink into the idea of this couple of middle-aged guys in their obsessive hobby.
So at what point did you get into detecting yourself?
Well, early on, I bought a cheap metal detector, and I had some woodland in Essex, and I went up there, and honestly I unpacked the detector out of the box, read the instruction manual, turned it on, and within five minutes I got a signal and dug up a Victorian sixpence. It was as if somebody had planted it there for me, to get me interested in the hobby.
But, you know, after that I found a lot of shotgun caps and a lot drinks cans and a lot of rubbish for a long time, but I sort of learned that it's a skill, and I've got better at it over time, and now it has become an interest, and something of a passion.
How often do you go out? Once a month?
No, no, very rarely in fact. Probably four times a year I manage to get out, so it's precious time when I do. It takes up the whole day. You can't just nip out for an hour or two if you've got an afternoon spare.
Your show does a great job of getting across what a relaxing hobby it is. Was your intention always to do something slow-paced?
Yeah, it was a very deliberate attempt to try and do something sort of uncynical that didn't rely on cruelty of any humour of embarrassment, which is pretty prevalent these days... which I enjoy, it wasn't a reaction against those comedies necessarily, but just to see if it could be done sort of the old-fashioned way.
I was always a massive fan of [writers] Esmonde & Larbey and The Good Life, and Ever Decreasing Circles... yeah, those are sort of uncynical comedies, where you actually like the characters and want to be friends with them yourself.
Can we talk about Toby Jones for a moment? He's so brilliant as Lance. At what point of the development process was he cast?
He came on board really early on, and he formed who the character of Lance was. In the first draft of a pilot episode Lance was a much more mercenary character. But Toby came on board and it became obvious that Lance was a much wiser and more likeable character. He wasn't the knob that I'd written. So, yeah, Toby definitely informed the character.
Presumably you got to know him quite well, having spent a lot of time with him on location?
Absolutely, yes. I mean we'd known each other for a long while just to say 'hello' to, but we've become firm friends. I think I'm quite similar to the character of Andy; I think I've written just an exaggerated, more pathetic version of myself... but Toby's nothing like Lance! So it isn't a Lance-Andy friendship. It's a different friendship, but just as strong.
Everyone we've spoken to says the Detectorists film set was really friendly and lovely place. It must have been sad when filming wrapped on the series?
It was sad. Yeah, I've heard directors and such like say before in interviews about how finishing a job feels like saying goodbye to friends, and I've never really bought that, but I really did feel like that at the end of this series. It was a strange feeling. I've enjoyed sitting and talking rubbish with Lance for the past four years.
You're speaking there like Series 3 is going to be the last series? You've signalled in previous interviews too that this is probably the end of Detectorists...?
I think it is. Just because the tone of the show, I don't think it could carry on for series after series without starting to get dull, and I think this amount of episodes is a nice amount to leave there and leave the characters in peace. I think I'm happy to leave it there.
I've sort of said before. It's not a big enough deal for me to make an announcement about it.
Who knows what the future holds, but as least I'm going to have a break for the time being.
The characters are going to be friends forever, so it could continue forever Mackenzie! Please? We guess the one bit of comfort we can perhaps take is that, reading the Series 2 interviews you did, you were saying at that point you weren't sure if you were going to do a Series 3, but you did in the end.
Yeah, there you go.
The show seems to have got a few people interested in trying the hobby out. Do you have any tips?
You can buy a basic detector for not much more than 100 pounds, or you can pay up to about five grand for one of the best ones, and everything in between, so in the end, the internet's got a lot of advice about that out there.
My advice would be just stick with it, because, as I said, it's a skill. I think a lot of people buy a detector, go out, find nothing, and just put it in the garage and give up, but you have to learn things; how to use it, and I've just become quite good.
I've found my first gold earlier on in the year, and that was an amazing moment, so just stick with it.
Yes, that gold find was amazing! It's being analysed at the moment?
Yeah, they've identified it as Roman. It's a piece of Roman jewellery. It's still a bit of a mystery what it is. It's either a pendant or an earring or part of a bigger piece of gold jewellery. A little disc with an embossed design of a bird on it. It's tiny but beautiful, and yeah, it was exciting to find.
Will you get it back?
It's going to an inquest. It all takes a really long time. It's almost a year since I found it and declared it, but it's going to an inquest where it's going to be declared officially treasure, and then it's valued and offered to local museums, who have first refusal on it, and if nobody wants it then it'll go back to me and the landowner, who will decide what to do with it.
You must have conflicting feelings... as seeing something you found in a museum would be amazing, but at the same time having it to own would be rather special.
You're absolutely right. To be honest, you have to two weeks before you have to declare anything, and I kept hold of it till the full two weeks. And the amount of people I showed in that two weeks... it'd probably reach a wider audience if I could get it back! Ha ha.
Series 3 of Detectorists is coming out on DVD soon. You've filmed some extras for it?
Yeah, there's sort of behind-the-scenes footage, and some really nice cast and crew interviews. It's all a little bit gushy. I've got to admit, I was watching it through my fingers, because everyone's going on about how glorious it is to be able to be involved in it. If I want an ego boost, I'll sit down and watch those DVD extras, but it could become an addiction!
Brilliant. So what's next for you Mackenzie. Looks like you might be moving on to projects that are far away from lovely sunny Suffolk?
I guess the big thing for early next year is this big Sky Atlantic production called Britannia, which is big sort of historical epic, all set in the times of the second Roman invasion in AD 43. I play the leader of the Druids, and he's a bit of a... Well nothing like Andy, nothing like the detectorists! Although it's rooted in the English landscape, and it's talking about the times that the detectorists are interested in, so there's some sort of connection there.
You should drop something in that show, which the characters in Detectorists can then find. Maybe there can be a Series 4 after all! Thanks for all your time Mackenzie, and wishing you a great Christmas break.
Detectorists Series 3 and Complete 1 - 3 Box Set are available on DVD from 18th December.