An Interview with ‘Torchwood’ star Gareth David-Lloyd

photo: Todd Anthony, courtesy of BBC Worldwide

Eariler this week, I was fortunate enough to speak with Torchwood star Gareth David-Lloyd (who plays Secretary/Field Agent/Love Interest/Incredibly Dapper Dresser Ianto Jones) about music, why the team at Torchwood 3 are so friendly with each other, and things we can look forward to in future episodes.

Possible Spoilers Below!

How did you get into acting?
Well, I started with music lessons actually when I was about 8 years old and then I [started acting]…I [played] a robot in a junior school play when I was probably in grade school.

So you kind of started off in sci-fi in a weird kind of way?
Yeah…I played a computer, a sort of artificial intelligence. So yeah…it was sci-fi.

That’s an earlier start than most people get.
(Laughs)

But you didn’t give up your music – I hear you’re in a band.
Yeah I sing in a band, I play the piano as well. “Blue Gillespe” we’re called. We’re doing a gig in Cardiff on April 20th.

How would you describe your music?
Heavy blues, I’d say.

What was your very first on-screen role?
My very first onscreen role was, disregarding a drug awareness film I did when I was younger, it would be Absolute Power — a typical drama here — and Spin Doctors starring Stephen Fry. I did one episode of that.

You’ve worked on a (Torchwood creator) Russell T. Davies show before – Mine All Mine?
Yes, that was the first time me and Russell were introduced to each other and the character I played was actually called Yanto Jones. When I originally went for the part [in Torchwood], his name was Idris Hopper. [The character’s name Ianto] was a nod from Russell really. He gave me my old character name back.

Did working with him before help when auditioning?
No, because it was so different really. [Mine All Mine] was a comedy family/drama. I had auditioned for Doctor Who before but I was unable to do it because of other commitments. I came in completely new not really knowing what to expect.

What character did you audition for on Doctor Who?
It was Secetary to the the Mayor in the first [season].

So you’re kind of rounding back to a secretarial job? Though not exactly – I don’t think the Secretary to the Mayor would deal with the same sort of things.
(Laughs) No, he wouldn’t have to feed the pteradactyls three times a day.

Your background leans heavily towards the theatre.
Before I got into TV acting, it’s what I did most of really. I played Macheath in “3-Penny Opera” in the West End and then I did “Twelfth Night” with the English Touring Theater and “Three Women and A Piano Tuner” [in] Chicester and then again in London.

Do you think your work in the theater helps in the heavier scenes?
To a certain extent, yeah. I mean, it’s a very different process of work here. With theater you’ve got a lot more time to sort of break everything down and think of an action to go with every word. With TV, because of the script changes and the script release dates, it’s always cut quite fine, you don’t get as much time. It’s more instinctive with television I think, which is apt really because it’s more of a realistic portrayal of character that you’re trying to produce.

So you’re reacting as opposed to churning out lines.
Absolutely, yeah.

Now that your character is getting more development, is what you came up with for Ianto’s background similar to what the writers are coming up?
Absolutely. I get surprised in nice ways – sometimes I think, “Oh, I didn’t think they’d go in that direction,” but every direction the writers have gone I’ve sort of seen it coming. There’s a very organic relationship between the actors and writers on the show in the sense that an actor will do something with a line that will give a writer an idea and they’ll develop the idea and put then new ideas will give the actors ideas too and develp those. I really like the relationship actually, the sort of unspoken relationship between the actor and the writer. You know everything’s going right when they sort of jump on your ideas and develop them and vice versa.

In the premiere for this season, you were described by Capt. John Hart as “pretty and resiliant.” Do you think that’s a fair assement or would you describe the character differently?
It fits for all of us I suppose. I mean, it’s quite broad. I think we’re all resiliant and, I wouldn’t like to say so myself, but everyone’s quite pretty. (Laughs)

Now that Ianto’s has loosened up a bit, he’s gotten a lot funnier I’ve noticed – been able to throw out the one-liners here and there. What’s your favorite so far?
When Tosh is trying to tell Owen all phones lines are down and he’s not having it and he keeps asking, Ianto comes up with a spiel about how the phones are completely down, every phone is down, there’s nobody there, there’s no way of contacting anyone. And the one [in Episode 4 which just aired entitled “Meat”] where Tosh says, in regards to the alien entity, “We can feed the world” and Ianto says, “We can release a single.” I quite like that line, it made me laugh.

I heard that you and James Marsters got along very well.
Yes, absolutely yeah. We got on really well. We have similar sort of political and philosophical ideals, I think. And musically, we get on really well…I think it was the music that sort of started us talking and we’ve been great mates ever since.

And you played a gig together?
Yeah, that’s when our blues band formed. I was promoting a band called Disgraceland over here and I did the odd bit of singing from time to time. But when James asked after I got up and did a song with him whether I’d like to support him at his next gig in Cardiff, I was over the moon but of course I had to get a band together so I went and asked a favor from the guys in the band I was promoting aad a few of them said yes and then Blue Gillespe was formed.

How did he interact with the rest of the cast now that you’ve had a year to gel together? Did that add a new element was that kind of weird?
Whoever we have on, even though there’s tensions about being on our best forms because a star in like James Marsters or Alan Dale (Ugly Betty, The O.C., 24), after that it doesn’t take long for people to get integrated into the family and people start relaxing.

Photo: Adrian Rogers, courtesy of BBC Worldwide

Freema Agyeman did a guest appearance. The energy that she brings in is obviously different because she’s a different person but as James is coming in sort of as a foil and Freema is part of the team, does that change the way she interacted with everybody?
After a couple of scenes it was like she’d always been there. That’s the thing about the cast, really. Everybody’s so welcoming, warm, I don’t think there are many actors who’d come in and not feel welcome and comfortable. Same with us – they warm to us and we try our best to warm to them.

You say the cast is very warm and welcoming, that shows. You have a lot of great chemistry onscreen. What would you attribute that to?
Partly John Barrowman’s personality, I’d say. He’s off the wall so he really lives life to the full and nothing is taken too seriously. That in combination with professionalism and talent, it’s a really nice environment to walk in to.

What is everyone’s role in the cast? Is someone a practical joker or the serious one?
I think we take turns. If John’s tired, Eve or myself will take over and start being the practical joker. We do it in shifts, we do.

What’s the best joke that’s been pulled so far?
There’s quite a cheesy photograph of an actor…and it was very comical and John would cut down and put on props and then not show the prop until the camera was rolling. If it was the stopwatch, he’d cut it into a circle and stick it in the [face]. That was a practical joke that went on for well over a year, I think. I’m not really much of a practical joker, I’m more of a verbal joker. I can’t think of any practical jokes I’ve played on anyone.

Maybe you should try that next season.
Maybe I will… (Laughs)

We’ve already seen a bit of Ianto’s interaction with Capt. John before the relationship with Capt. Jack started up again. How is that going to come into play when John returns?
When Capt. John returns?

I assume he returns.
When John does return, there’ll be so much going on you’ll see snippets of the relationship but nothing that’s developed. I’d really love to actually, I’d love to do some more meaty scenes with James Marsters so I’m going to keep my fingers crossed and hope they write some if and when he returns.

What can we expect from Capt. John Hart and his interaction with the rest of the team when he comes back?
Explosives. Explosions will be used in more ways the one. When he comes back it’s probably the loudest and one of most intense [nights] that we’ve done so far.

We’ve seen love triangles and squares even, but I don’t think there’s a shape to map the Torchwood team’s relationships. Do you think we’re going to see more kind of pairing off combinations or is everyone basically in a set for now?
Um…a little later. I can’t really say anything… (Laughs)

Everyone seems to be bisexual on the team. Is that because Capt. Jack picked the team based on that type of person he is or is it more because of his uncanny ability to seduce just about anybody?
I don’t think it’s acutely Capt. Jack’s fault, I think it’s Torchwood itself. Because there’s only a certain amount of people who know what you do, only four or five other people who know everything about you. It’s like this…it’s underground, it’s like this hot, tense atmosphere where people are put together everyday and I think it just leaves people feeling sexy…it’s the excitement of being [there] and having to keep all the secrets from [everybody else that] helps them form relationships. Within Torchwood, it’s more personal than it would be if you were working in some office down the road.

We saw the hidden alien terrorist cell in the second episode. Is that going to come into play over the season?
I wouldn’t say it’s a one-off. That’s pretty much what we’re going to see from this season. I’m sure there are plans to build on that storyline.

I notice the show has a lot of contemporary themes like the hidden terrorist cell. Do you think these things are easier to play out in a sci-fi show or in a straight drama?
Maybe in regards to what’s going… if it was in a straight drama, it makes it easier for people to think about it because they don’t have to jump over the sci-fi barrier to make comparisons, they’ve got an example for it. But I think sci-fi’s a really good way to do it at the moment because of political tension and threat that seems to be hanging over everyone’s heads in the world at the moment. I think this is why sci-fi has had a new lease at life at the moment because people sort of want to escape the harsh realities of the world — sci-fi is more of an escapist media. I think it’s good in a way that parallels and comparisons can be made in sci-fi because it’s gives people a message without given people a message or a moral dilemma without rubbing their noses in it.

You’re from Wales and I hear your hometown is near where you shoot?
Yeah, in Newport… it’s 12 miles just up the road which is great – I [go to London] to forge a career and my first regular TV job was coming back home. It’s quite ironic really.

Do you get home often? Like, take your lunch break and drive to your house?
My auntie and my sisters are still in Newport and I see them a lot on the weekends and the evenings. I also spend a lot time in Cardiff as well. It’s a really vibrant city at the moment that’s really growing and developing and it’s getting quite sexy so I do a lot of my socializing in Cardiff. But my home life, my friend life is firmly rooted in Newport.

Has the tourist population grown since you started shooting the show there?
Oh yeah. Everytime I walk pass the water fair in Roald Dahl Pass there’s somebody having their photograph taking in front of it hoping the stone’s going to sink down and they’ll end up in Torchwood. There’s already a couple of Torchwood tours in Cardiff, the location tours and things and you’ve got the Doctor Who exhibition – I think the whole Doctor Who universe has really given Cardiff a huge tourist boost.

Are you a sci-fi fan?
I was a huge Star Trek: The Next Generation fan when I was a teenager. I have every episode recorded on long-play VHS. There’s a gap for Doctor Who – the last time it was on before Russell took it on I was a lot younger… when it came back on again… I started watching it and became sort of a Whovian.

I find that in the States there seems to be a bigger jump on for new viewers for Torchwood than Doctor Who. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because there are more shows like that in America. They’re quite spoiled for choice really, the audience, with what sci-fi shows they watch or 13-part dramas. We don’t make that many over here so when we do a big sci-fi show like Doctor Who, we have to make it sort of family accessible, make it accessible for very young children to a lot older people. In America you’ve got more adult sci-fi and younger sci-fi and the mix is a bit too broad for it to take off quite as well as it did over here. But with Torchwood, because of the adult edge on it and because of the sexual, the heated political issues and the drama, I think it’s more accessible to an American audience.

Besides Star Trek, what other sci-fi things are you into?
Films mainly. I used to love Quantum Leap. I was watching it the other day, it’s one of the few shows that I watch now [that isn’t] dated [or doesn’t] quite have the same magic it did anymore. It’s still as addictive as it always was.

How’s the fan reaction been to you?
[It’s been] really flattering. I’ve never had it before but I’ve some really lovely comments and letters and met a lot of lovely people at conventions. It’s been great, it’s been flattering… I don’t quite know what else to say about it really.

Have you been to The States yet for any of the conventions here?
I want to… (laughs) I’d love to be in conventions over there.

I find that hard to believe (not being asked to a US convention).
Maybe thisyear after Season 2’s been over there. Nothing as yet has come up.
(Note to Sci-fi/Comic Convention planners: What’s wrong with you? Get these guys over here already!)

So, what else can we look forward to for the rest of the season?
Flesh eating shape shifters, walking corpses, [more of] Jack and Ianto, there’s a haunted…um, I better stop before I say something I’m not supposed to say.

Have you started shooting Season 3 yet?
No. I haven’t had a 100 percent confirmation on that but I think it’s 99.9 percent sure and I think that’ll be later in the year we start shooting.

Well I really appreciate you taking the time out to talk to me.
No problem. Thank you.

Good luck with everything. We look forward to seeing your character develop through the year and hopefully you’ll be able to get out here for a Con.
I’d love to.

Click here for more information on the April 20, 2008 gig for Gareth’s band, Blue Gillespie, at The Point in Cardiff.

About Tamara Brooks

A few things I wondered about as a kid: Why didn't Wonder Woman punch more bad guys in the face on the tv show?; How does Superman flying around the Earth turn back time?; Could someone really catch bullets with their teeth?; Why didn't the liquid bits of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man cause 3rd degree burns on whoever it landed on? Because melted marshmallow is up there with molten hot lava.