McDonald & Dodds is back – and it’s the detective drama that almost seems made for 2021.

We’re not short of TV crime dramas at the moment, with fans having the likes of The Bay, Marcella, Unforgotten and Bloodlands to juggle.

But McDonald & Dodds is a warmer, friendlier cop show that is more likely to lower your lockdown stress levels on a Sunday evening than disrupt your sleep with high-octane shenanigans.

Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins chatted about their mismatched detectives and what to expect from this three-part new series.

Meet the cast of McDonald & Dodds season 2

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1. Were you expecting the show to be so successful with viewers of all ages?

Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Jason: You’re hopeful that it hits with the audience. That’s all you can hope for really. I think the unique part of the show is that it’s got this relationship in the middle which is both sort of driven but it’s funny. It’s a funny, real, human, warm, natural thing that happens between Tala and I. I think that’s something the audience has really connected with.

Audiences warm to both characters and their relationship in a world that is changing. It’s a gentle nod towards the changing world and I think audiences have really enjoyed it. The numbers were so good, both critically and in terms of numbers, it was a very pleasant thing to happen. I’d like to keep doing it, I’d love to keep playing him and working in this way.

Tala: I think I was surprised at the range of people who loved it, of how many different age groups as well.

Jason: I don’t know why it connected with younger people. It’s Tala isn’t it, probably? One of the things about the show is that we talk quite deeply about the characters and what they want. It’s about a young woman trying to find her way in a career, thinking about family, all those sorts of things.

We do talk about those things and Robert [Murphy, the show's creator] gets them in the script. It’s not a documentary, it’s not a serious drama but all those things are touched upon – Dodds’ potential loneliness, his disappointment in marriage, her sort of caring for him a little bit. All those things sort of co-exist. We all feel those things.

Tala: She’s really unapologetic, McDonald, I think. She’s not afraid to take up space and it’s lovely just being able to take up that space with this character. I love her flaws, actually. She’s just well-rounded and flawed.

Jason: She’s direct but sometimes she’s very vulnerable. What’s great about it is that Dodds sees that. He sees these chinks of vulnerability and the seemingly driven, very sharp, bright mind who’s not afraid to confront people and get what she wants. But he recognises something else in that. There are a couple of layers in it.

I like playing with that. The best thing I like is about keeping an audience guessing – sometimes you think he’s completely out of his depth, he’s so naïve. He’s kind of unworldly. But other times you think, hang about – he’s completely ahead of the game here. That’s what I like playing with.

They’re both at their best having flailed around a bit trying to solve the difficulties of the case and they start giving each other strength to get over the line.

2. Are you at all similar to your characters?

Jason Watkins in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Tala: I do a lot of eye-rolling. That bit’s not that hard to act. And I’m quite impatient, actually. And I’m driven in my career as well.

Jason: There’s too much of me in Dodds unfortunately. I’m quite cautious I suppose and I can occasionally be quite reckless. I’m quite empirical. I’m not a jumper and see what happens… I think I’m as empirical as Dodds perhaps. And I don’t bang my own drum particularly, I’m not sort of one of those people. I like that – I like him being effective yet not having to bang the drum in someone’s face to say ‘Look at me’. I think he’s a bit older than me, I keep saying that but the evidence suggests I might be the right age!

Tala: Everyone’s really shocked when they see Jason in his normal clothes – he’s got really good dress sense! They’re really shocked that you wear normal, nice clothes, saying ‘You look really young today’ if you’re not wearing a beige anorak.

3. Were there any guest stars in particular you enjoyed working with?

Sharon Rooney in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Tala: All of them, really. I think we’ve been so lucky to get the calibre of actors. I mean there’s certain people – I was obsessed with My Mad Fat Diary so working with Sharon [Rooney] was brilliant. She was amazing and had to talk so fast and learn so many lines, I don’t know how she did it. She’s absolutely brilliant.

Jason: They’re different. That’s one of the great things about this show. I think some of the other cop shows, there’s a sort of style about it and a sort of thriller, flat and fast. Whereas this is a very colourful, warm show with lots of different sorts of characters and it attracts different types of actors, and good actors. Because we’ve had some success I think we’re able to attract really good actors. We love that.

So you can have someone like Rob Brydon who does all sorts of things and he gets a chance to be… quite serious in his work as well as providing that great colour to his work. And then we’ve got Patsy Kensit, Cathy Tyson – you’ve all these really great and different actors, and I think audiences love that.

I think this is the very show that can house various different types of actors, all of a high calibre, and it certainly feeds us. You look at Sharon, and she’s really good. I’m not picking her out ahead of anybody else but she does stick in your mind. That’s a real joy. Hopefully the success that the show has had will lead us into getting people the same way.

We want people to come and do the show and really feel they can do a bit of acting and find something they enjoy playing and that transfers to the audience.

4. What was it like filming with Covid restrictions, and what do you think of the way the pandemic is represented on screen?

Tala Gouveia, Rob Brydon and Jason Watkins in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Jason: It was the first thing we all did [in the Covid world]. When the cameras were rolling it was fine, you kind of feel like you’re that person and still playing that character. It was really nice just to get reacquainted back into something that we enjoyed so much last time. That was great.

But then I suppose around that, it was like a really rubbish party where music plays and everyone has a bit of a dance then you go and stand in the corner away from everybody else and not say anything. It was a bit weird when the cameras weren’t turning.

We were stuck in a bubble with Rob Brydon who was pretty obviously very annoying. You couldn’t quite connect with all the people you really wanted to as you were going through it. It was always a bit of a barrier. That was frustrating. But I think people overall were just delighted to not only do this show but to get back into working.

Tala: It was mainly the social aspect that was just so weird, getting separated from each other. You can’t really hear each other without shouting and you can’t mouth so a lot of just communicating, as we all know, was weird. But it was so nice to be around different people. We’re so lucky because we came out of lockdown and got to socialise.

I think it was [represented on screen] nicely. It’s just sort of little hints. In the second episode, there’s a bit of a clue about it involving Covid. We didn’t do it too much – I don’t think we really want to watch shows about Covid! I think we’re a bit done with it. I like that it’s in there… but it’s not too in-your-face.

Jason: You’ve got to acknowledge it. Tala’s right – it’s a show that, well people probably want to escape from what’s being happening. We all know it’s there and it’s been terrible.

5. How would McDonald and Dodds cope with lockdown when they’re not working?

Jason Watkins in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Tala: I think McDonald wouldn’t be good. I think she’s such a workaholic and she’s always really busy and wanting to do stuff, so I think having to sit around and do nothing, she would go mad.

Jason: I think with Dodds it’s just more of the same! He’s quite solitary, isn’t he? Although he does go for a drink every Tuesday with his mates.

With both characters we learn a little bit more about their outside world. I think that’s one of the good things about the show, it just touches and delves into the off-screen world. Dodds goes for his pitch-and-putt tournaments and a pint of beer, which is very gentle and nice, but I think at home he’d do… some kind of collecting project or a massive jigsaw puzzle. Or he’d research trains or something.

But I think he’s quite resilient. They’re both quite determined, aren’t they? I think whatever the challenge was, I think McDonald has a much more emotional life than Dodds does, but I think they’d be strong enough to get through it.

6. What was it like filming in Bath this time?

Tala Gouveia and Jason Watkins in McDonald & Dodds ITV

Tala: It was slightly easier to film this year because normally Bath is so busy, full of so many tourists. People love going there. In that way it was easier, and also we got to go into some locations which I’m not sure we’d get to use, like Bath Spa and The Roman Baths. We got to film there so that was lovely.

Jason: And The Royal Crescent as well, we were filming on the lawn of The Royal Crescent. It’s a vital ingredient in the show, to have the city as a backdrop. It is the most magical place. It’s just perfect for this show because it nods back to the past. It’s a perfect location.

Tala: We went to the Roman Baths early in the morning and steam was coming off it. It was gorgeous.

7. Will there be a season 3, and where would you like to film it?

Tala: We’re all really keen to do another one, and they’ve been knocking about some ideas for stories and stuff. But we’ll have to see if people are watching it.

Jason: There’s the countryside around which is also beautiful. You drive to a location and you see a house and a hill in the distance and go ‘it’d be nice to film there’. We have filmed in a couple of those in this series.

Tala: I’d like to do one maybe set in Bristol, round the Avon Gorge or something.

Jason: Yeah, that’d be quite good. Dodds would get a bit of a nosebleed wouldn’t he? He’d get a bit worried about going outside… he’d lose his bearings a bit. Maybe they could go to London – that would be interesting. Something like that where McDonald takes him to London and he’s never been there.

McDonald & Dodds returns to ITV at 8pm on Sunday, February 28.

Catch up with series 1 on BritBox.

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