Robert James-Collier, The LevelSeptember 16, 2016
DS Nancy Devlin (Karla Crome) is a woman with a secret, having helped keep shady businessman Frank Le Saux (Philip Glenister) out of the police spotlight for years. He is the father figure that she never had growing up in Brighton, but a murder early on in this six-part thriller threatens to expose Nancy’s ties to Frank. Working alongside Nancy at the National Crime Division in London is Kevin O’Dowd, played by Robert James-Collier, who tells TV Choice more about the show…
Tell us about your character Kevin O’Dowd…
O’Dowd has got a thing, potentially, with the main protagonist Nancy. They work at the National Crime Division and they’ve been moved over to homicide to work a case together so they’ve got a bit of history between them. He’s a gregarious, very outward, warm character who can light up a room. He’s the kind of guy you want to go for a beer with.
Is he all good?
Well, in these seedy detective dramas I think they always have layers so what you see is not what you get. At first glance you think he’s very charming, he’s a lovely guy and very charismatic. But there’s a lot more to him than meets the eye, otherwise he’d be extremely dull and one-dimensional. But what more there is I can’t tell you…
Has he got an inkling about Nancy and her secret?
The thing with O’Dowd is he’s got an affection for Nancy and he wants to look after her, so with that said he tends to watch over her a lot more than maybe a normal work colleague would. So maybe we might see him picking up things about Nancy’s journey, not necessarily getting it right but something doesn’t add up.
Is there much chasing and action?
We’re ragging it around in cars and chasing people. It’s boy’s toys isn’t it? I’ve probably gone through about five clutches on this show because, one, I’m a bad driver and, two, you want it to sound good when the camera’s on so [makes an engine revving sound]. It’s very pacy. The guy who looks after the cars is just like, “Really?” You can smell the burning of the clutch!
Were you looking for something specific after Downton Abbey?
Not really, I just wanted to do something different and new, which is what I wanted to do with Downton. For something to come along that is new, it’s a privilege to be involved. It’s certainly different as well. I wasn’t actively looking for it, I just wanted to find good work because it’s hard out there. But this seems to have ticked both boxes, which is a nice neat step away for me in terms of what I’ve done before.
Do people still come up to you who have a bone to pick with Downtown's scheming under-butler Thomas Barrow?
Oh yeah, that always goes on, but he was quite nice when it ended, so they’re all happy now, I think.
Were you pleased he got redemption?
I kind of wanted him to get his comeuppance but Julian Fellowes thought differently.
Did you want him to die?
I wouldn’t go as far as die!
He tried to take his own life…
Yes, that was a big pivotal turning point but I’m happy he’s happy, and they’re happy he’s happy. Everyone’s happy.
Are you using your own accent in The Level?
I suffer from a lack of range so he’s got to sound and look very like me!
Do you think you would you be a good detective?
No. I’m too hungry all the time to be honest with you. I’ll be like, ‘Do you want to get a bite to eat?’ and the villain’s gone. I’d be like, ‘Oh this sushi is lovely’ and step in a piece of key forensic evidence. ‘Oh f*** I’m in the crime scene but s*** this is good sushi.’ I’d be terrible. I’m quite lazy as well, I’m not one for late nights and early starts.
Who are your favourite TV detectives?
Petrocelli, I think he only got one or two series [the lead character was a lawyer]. He was on at university, which is where the aforementioned don’t like getting up and working, that’s what university was all about for me. Lying in bed watching Petrocelli and worrying about getting up for the second episode of Neighbours at 5.30pm. I like Columbo as well because of the way he walked away and just came back with a line, ‘Just one more thing’. I like Starsky And Hutch, just because they skidded over bonnets and David Soul was the man in that tan leather jacket.
Anything lined up after The Level?
Jeez, I’ve only just started, you’re worse than my dad! It’s a bit early yet so nothing in the pipeline.
Did your dad enjoy Downton?
Yeah, but I think he was just happy I was working to be fair. But he did like what I did with the character. But working for four months is just one less thing for the parents to worry about.