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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Nativity – Andrew Buchan plays Joseph

Andrew Buchan plays Joseph

Andrew Buchan has recently graced our screens in the critically acclaimed Garrow's Law on BBC One. Here he talks about playing Joseph, being trampled on by Clara the donkey and sharing a trailer with Peter Capaldi.

You've stared in Garrow's Law, The Nativity and The Laconia [due out next year]. What attracts you to a project?

I look for something that can challenge me or makes me ever so slightly afraid – fearful of how I am going to approach it – then I'll go for it. If the project appears linear or predictable then I'll usually give it a miss. Anything that involves me being stretched as an actor I go for.

How did the role of Joseph make you feel?

Slightly apprehensive at the start but then I was reassured by Coky Giedroyc [the director] we sat down and talked about it for a long time and she said "Joseph isn't just a man, he is elements of every man."

And the brilliant thing with Joseph – which I had to keep reminding myself – is, he was feeling all these emotions for the very first time, unlike in modern society where people may have been in love three or four times before and experienced betrayal.

Joseph is experiencing this for the first time and it makes it all the more raw, visceral and powerful to play.

How did you work together with Tatiana Maslany to form such a believable on-screen relationship?

I feel very privileged to have worked with a lot of outstanding actors: Alun Armstrong, Peter Mullan, Matt Smith and Andrew Garfield. They're so brilliantly reactionary and in the moment. It almost makes the job slightly easier. I remember when we were filming Party Animals, Matt and I would want to forfeit lunch to practise over our break.

I first met Tatiana in a coffee shop in Ealing Common with the director Coky. We went across the road to some rehearsal rooms. I don't know if it took me by surprise – but it certainly brought a smile to my heart – that we were sitting on this very basic settee and went through the whole script.

But we totally did it and she was completely in the moment and was ready to travel where ever we took it. That was a catalyst for this extraordinary journey we went on in the next five weeks.

Tatiana is one of those people who will say "Of course let's rehearse. If you've got an idea let's do it". On set it kind of made it effortless and how you most want acting and the experience to be. That was fantastic and we giggled a lot – she's class.

Was there any improvisation on set?

We didn't deviate from the script at all. That was a funny and quite extraordinary thing actually because with most scripts actors love to get their teeth in and say "I don't agree with this. My character wouldn't do this!" No one did with that – no one said a thing.

Do you think that's because of the quality of Tony Jordan's script?

I think so. He brought humour, sadness, anger, hurt, pain, trust and love, this huge bundle of emotions to it, but in a very real and simple fashion; and I think that's what The Nativity commands – it needs that.

How did you find filming in Morocco?

Well, I think you'll get a much better tagine over here. The scenery though is extraordinary, picture postcard every where you go.

Filming against such incredible backdrops really helped me to get into character. It is some of the most stunning scenery I've ever come across.

In the evening when we'd be running low on time the director would say "Andy, get the donkey, get Clara [the donkey]". We'd stand and look out to a desert and I'd ask "What's the shot?". And I'd be told "Just walk that way and I'll tell you when to stop". So I was just there just walking into a desert with the donkey.

You mentioned Clara the donkey. What was it like working with children and animals?

There was one day when the baby got restless and the following day we re-did the scene – and you could hear a pin drop. It was a dream.

The donkey, however, was a different story. They're such extraordinary creatures. They carry such heavy weights and carry everyone's burdens – it seems – that you feel so sorry for them. That ran out quite quickly when lovely Clara stood on my sandal-clad toe – again.

There was one shot where we were walking down alleyways knocking on people's doors, looking for help. And she just turned around and ran. Luckily Tatiana wasn't on the donkey at this point; but it had 'outtake' written all over it.

What are your favourite memories from filming?

There were days when the cast shared trailers and I was sharing with Peter Capaldi. I nipped back one lunch time. I'd never met him before, I'd only ever watched The Thick Of It. And there I was meeting him in the middle of a desert, in Morocco, in a caravan – it was a bit surreal. He is a great guy.

A huge scene in which Tatiana and I had to argue about her betrayal, we filmed alongside a little stream, it was a big day. Each scene is so full of magic that it's hard to choose a favourite.

What was the costume like to wear in the Moroccan heat?

It was fine actually. You think it's going to be awful but they know what they're doing over there. For the most part you are well aerated, everything is very loose fitting. In the houses there they've got shaded areas so when the heat got very intense we'd sit there with the Moroccans.

When you were younger were you involved in any Nativity plays? Yes and I played Joseph. I remember that Mary was very tall whilst I was the size of a pea. So there was a huge height discrepancy between us – which was quite funny.

Finally, what do you hope viewers will get from this adaptation of The Nativity?

I hope they find it a very honest account of what happened. I hope they are excited, reeled in, surprised and even refreshed by it.

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