Martin Marquez plays Gino Primirola,
Having owned his own fish and chip shop, worked as a fitness instructor and then a barman in a top London hotel before becoming a professional actor, one would be forgiven for thinking that all the bases were covered for Martin Marquez – and that he would require little or no research to play Gino.
But Martin still spent considerable time learning the art of "flaring" from a professional cocktail barman, and practiced for two weeks in order to be able to throw the cocktail shaker around the Hotel Babylon bar.
"When we were prepping for the first series three years ago, the production team arranged for one of London's top cocktail barmen to come round and teach me flaring and other aspects of the showmanship of cocktail-making. We set up a table in my back garden and just got on with it," he laughs. "There was a considerable amount of spillage but it was great fun."
In reality, though, Martin was advised that it was enough to simply look as though he could toss the bottle in the air by handling them and pouring confidently, as flaring costs a lot of money due to the spillage from the pourers.
Martin also sought inspiration from various real-life bar tenders at some of London's top establishments.
"In the Eighties, if you flew into London and wanted a Martini you would go to Salvatore's – since he was known as the King of Martinis."
As well as learning from the professionals, Martin also spent time at the Landmark and Soho Hotels talking to the barmen, and managed to squeeze in a cocktail course in East London, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
"This year, I do get to use my cocktail-making skills more, because when my brother, Ginelli (played by Martin's real-life brother, John), turns up we have an unofficial competition to make the best cocktail.
"Initially, Gino was meant to be Italian, but I do a comedy show with John and, in that, I play a few different Spanish characters. I have been told that I can make a character like that funny. Gino is very straight and has an aversion to gay men which, without being too general, in my experience is more akin to Spanish culture than Italian.
"Gino is very much a stereotype who thinks he is sexy," says Martin. "But I wanted to make him a layered character – primarily a comic character. But, as with anyone, there are always other sides and it is that history that informs how I play him."
Martin and his brother, John, are known as The Brothers Marquez and have performed their much acclaimed comedy theatre show at Edinburgh, and regularly at the Soho Theatre in London.
"We have co-written about four shows together now and are hoping to bring one of them to the West End next spring. It's called I Caught My Death In Venice."
Martin was raised in Coventry. His mum is from Birmingham and she met Martin's dad while on holiday in Spain.
"My dad was a waiter in the Ritz Hotel on the Costa Brava, which was a five-star hotel in the Fifties. He was good friends with the chef, and they put together a staff football team. In those days during the Fifties, English guests would turn up in a Rolls Royce and tip him really well – which I remember him talking about, and how polite the English were." This was an experience that was, sadly, not the case when Martin's father ran his own business.
"Dad used to always talk about how nice and polite the English are," says Martin. "But when he owned a fish and chip shop he gradually saw a very different side to English culture. During his last years of owning the shop, he was seeing the worst side of English society – the late-night drunks being rude and aggressive.
"His shop was smashed up a few times and he has seen a lot of violence – he even had someone die in his arms who was stabbed in his shop which, sadly, is a far cry from his days in a Spanish luxury hotel. Now, he and my mum have retired to Spain, but he does ask me all about my cocktail-making skills and how we shoot certain scenes. He is very interested in how we make Babylon, which is lovely."