Question Time: Martin Jarvis

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The Independent Online

Work: Plays a ‘big beast’ correspondent in the BBC2 comedy Taking the Flak. Film credits include Titanic.

Life: Jarvis, 68, is married to actress and director Rosalind Ayres and has two sons and two grandchildren.

Balance: Produces and directs BBC radio dramas, such as Alan Ayckbourn’s Man of the Moment and Ian Fleming’s Dr No.

In Taking the Flak, you play David Bradburn, a foreign correspondent. Has making the series changed your view of journalists?

I’ve always felt a certain affinity with journos; I wanted to be one when I was 15. Since filming Flak I now share a definite fellow feeling. We travelling players are often required to arrive at foreign locations and get our act together quickly. Journalists, too, need to find ways of being convincing with not necessarily a great amount of info or preparation time.

Did your research for the show teach you that TV newsrooms can sometimes be scenes of comedy?

Bradburn, though a preposterous monomaniac, is good at his job and a bit of a national treasure. My concern was not to try to be funny (though I am told he is), but to be believable in the heightened situations he deals with, both on camera and in the private hell of his overweening desire to be on top.

Did you consult any foreign correspondents before playing this part?

Jeremy Bowen gave me several tips on how he presents his live two-way satellite pieces. I met the brilliant Frank Gardner. And though I had the pleasure of chatting to John Simpson, the conversation was taken up with our discovery that we had both attended the same school in south London at the age of eight.

How difficult was it to get laughs from such a subject as civil war in Africa?

Any laughs come not from the civil war, but from the varying attempts of the team to do their job and to cope with the difficulties of the terrain, the food and professional rivals.

A number of well-known BBC newsreaders play themselves in the series, which ones most impressed you?

Peter Sissons, Fiona Bruce and Jenny Bond were excellent, but perhaps my favourite was John Humphrys.

What did you learn of the importance of news coverage in making a difference to Africa?

Filming this series has made me consider more carefully the debt we owe these great communicators. Actors report back from the front line of imagined human behaviour. Foreign correspondents report from the front line of real life.

Taking the Flak is released today on DVD