Michael Fenton Stevens on Paul – lover or controller?
Writer, The Archers
Michael Fenton Stevens (Paul Morgan)
Seeing his ex-wife remarrying has increased Paul’s desperation to be with Lilian to alarming levels. The actor Michael Fenton Stevens examines the motivations that drive his character.
Paul feels that the important thing is that when he loves someone he should devote everything to them and those things need to be reciprocal. We’ve gone through periods with the character where he’s said ‘I love you so much, I will put up with anything to stay with you’. They were very interesting and quite difficult scenes to play, because clearly Lilian had decided at one point that she couldn’t go on and risk it anymore. He gave her a way out and said he’d he at her beck and call.
But was he deceiving himself when he was saying that?
I think he was absolutely. Now he’s getting to the point where he can’t bear sharing her.
I think that’s also what is happening with his ex-wife. Not that he loves her any more as he does Lilian, but he still feels responsible for her. He thinks that Celia is leading herself and his children to a position where everything will go wrong. Whether that’s really true, in his mind it is. So you have to play those things as if they are true for him.
It’s the same when it comes to deceiving Lilian. This has been the first time he’s done that in the whole of the time he’s been with her. I think because he is deceiving himself he can’t actually be completely honest about it, because I don’t think he understands the reasons behind things. It’s not that he’s thought it through and worked it all out. It’s an emotional reaction and so it doesn’t make sense.
As far as he’s concerned, he’s not done anything wrong. All he ever did was protect Celia and the children and make sure that they were doing the right thing. But of course to them that came across as domineering and as somebody who was telling them what to do.
It sounds like the part has progressed from being a relatively simple proposition to being a very complex one.
Yes and that’s the skill of the writers, I think, because they’ve taken that from tiny little things that you’ve done in performance. There was a line quite a while ago in a scene where he was telling Lilian they’d do this now and do that and she was saying ‘don’t keep telling me what to do’. I said I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that’s what my ex-wife used to say, that I was too controlling.
There was an element of over-earnestness about the character. The absolute earnestness of the man leads you down that road. I’m sure the audience has been split, as have we performers, as to how he would eventually turn out. Either a person who was genuinely completely in love and be delightful, soft and gentle – as he was for many months – or controlling and wanting to be in charge.
He wants Lilian to be with him all the time. He can’t bear the idea of her being with Matt, because as far as he’s concerned Matt is completely the wrong man for her. Paul thinks he’s the right man. He will show her love and devotion – and they have great sex!
It obviously angers him that Lilian might occasionally sleep with Matt. As far as he’s concerned, it’s almost prostitution. He thinks she’s with him because she needs to be for her business, whereas they love each other. He genuinely means that, I think.
Michael Fenton Stevens (Paul) on Anita Dobson, instant rows, trust and green room chat