Gill Morgan Interview

Gill Morgan is proud Mum of Harry, one of the babies used the most in Season 7 of Doc Martin.

Harry plays Martin and Louisa’s son ‘James Henry’.

Transcribed from a Skype interview in October, 2015.

DMO: Hi, could you please explain who you are and how you were involved with Doc Martin?

GM: Hi, I’m Gill Morgan, and I’m Harry’s mum. I went to take Harry down to audition back in February 2015 in Port Isaac at the Town Hall. There were 150 babies seen, and we were one of the lucky four chosen.

DMO: Why do you think Harry was chosen?

GM: Basically Harry has extremely blonde hair, very blue eyes and slightly larger ears (but not huge!). So they were looking for a baby face that would fit for Martin Clunes. We went along to the village hall, Harry was number 121 who was seen during the day, and they said to us as we walked up to them “Wow we need to video Harry, do you mind?” I said, “Absolutely not!”

DMO: How did you hear about the audition?

GM: It was on Facebook. One of my friends messaged me and recommended that I take Harry to the audition because of the blonde hair, blue eye thing. So I said to my other half, “Oh go on, we’ll give it a go. As you do, what can we lose?” It was a Sunday, a lovely day and we went down to Port Isaac. I’d actually never been to Port Isaac in my life before Harry’s audition, and I live in Bodmin which is really not far away at all. We thought it would be a really great opportunity to at least get Harry seen and see how it all worked and what kind of commitment was expected.

DMO: And what kind of a commitment was expected?

GM: It was a massive massive commitment. I actually decided not to go back to work after Harry was chosen, because we had to be able to say yes to the next day’s filming when the call could come in at 9 or 10 at night. I had to decide whether to go back to work and have someone on hand to look after Harry and take him in, but I decided to give up my job.

DMO: Can you tell us about the whole filming experience?

GM: There were four babies that were used in series 7. Harry, Ollie, Archer and Maverick. Maverick was not used much as he wasn’t as comfortable with the filming as much as the other babies. Ollie was used a lot more in the later episodes as he was a bit more used to it by then and when Harry and Archer didn’t want to be separated from us mums. It is a hard age group to do this with, I think it was hard for them. When they’re 12 months, they only want their mums!

Going back to the very first day on set, Harry was actually named the ‘BAFTA baby’ by Nigel Cole because he was just so fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for a better child!

You’re only allowed five hours a day on set. Two hours what they call ‘performing’, but it’s half an hour of performance, and then you get half an hour break. So over the five hours the maximum time filming is two hours. As you can expect, a child wants to sleep, wants to eat in between those times.

The cast and the crew were absolutely fantastic and very giving. We had lunch on set, anything we needed it was always there. It was like a family. It was so lovely to be there. I never ever thought that I would be so lucky for my son to get chosen. It was a wonderful experience. I can’t thank the people involved enough. So basically I’m still gob smacked in a way, that everything happened really!

DMO: Do you have a favourite memory or story about the filming?

GM: Definitely the first three days of filming, when Harry pretty much filmed the whole lot. There was no baby swapping at that point, which was brilliant because you can really tell the difference in the scenes, like where James Henry is sitting in the high chair, it’s just one baby. There was a scene where Caroline Catz was holding Harry, she was able to walk around with him, kissing him, and really making it look like it was her child. It was so lovely to see on screen! She really did enjoy working with Harry.

My very favourite bit was just being there on set. I just felt very lucky that my son was there!

DMO: Any funny anecdotes from on set?

GM: We always had a lot of fun off set, like when we were in the trailer. Harry and Archer played so well together, and I got along so well with his mum. We still keep in contact now.

In regards to funny stuff happening on set, I was always a little apprehensive going on set because you want your child to do well in whatever it is that they’re doing. So I think a lot of it was fun for me to watch, but also a little bit on edge like “Ooh is he going to do what they are wanting him to do?”.

There were funny parts, towards the end, where they were trying to get the babies to sit and stay in a playpen. They made us hide in the chimney area, out of shot of the camera. It was like ‘Go on Gill, just sit in the fireplace and we’ll see if Harry will be okay there’. It was just so random, you think ‘I’m not going to be on film but I’m sat in a fireplace!

DMO: That’s hilarious!

GM: To be honest, the whole experience was fun in itself. Meeting Caroline Quentin, and she said ‘what a darling boy my child is’. I actually tweeted it on Twitter. I was actually amazed at what a lovely lady she was as well. Martin Clunes has an absolutely fantastic way with children. The people that see him as the grumpy man that he is on the telly, just don’t see who he really is. He isn’t grumpy at all! He’s such a lovely fun guy, he really is lovely.

DMO: Often seeing the production is very different from what you think it will be. Was there anything surprising to you after having seen the filming?

 GM: Yes! Very much so. It’s interesting to think that you’re actually filming as such in a house. But you’re not. You’re at a farm and all the sets are made up. They had to change a set and they had a tight turnaround. The next moment when I walked into the farm there was a whole other set up of scenes. It was just amazing how clever, and different an experience it is. I was a Doc Martin fan before, but seeing it for real and seeing it made, it was amazing to see how a program is made. I think for me, the best part of it was how quick they can do scenes and I think by the time they were on maybe episode 3 or 4 they were almost finished with editing on episode 1. How quick a turn around it is from filming in July to being aired in September. I just think it’s absolutely amazing!

DMO: Who did Harry get along with the best out of the whole cast?

GM: Definitely Caroline. She really took to Harry. At the beginning he was much better on set and used a whole lot. Martin certainly tried with him, and there are scenes where Harry is being held by him and it’s absolutely fantastic. Sometimes with the days and the time that it took to get the scenes filmed, it’s funny because you think ‘Oh I don’t think Harry will be in that scene’ – but actually you see him, and he is!’. It was just brilliant. The way that the cast worked with the children was lovely.

DMO: What about Robyn who plays Janice. She had to look after the babies quite a bit, didn’t she?

GM: Yeah, she did. Robyn was a really lovely actress. I have pictures on my phone where we were on set but not being filmed and she was playing with Harry and Archer. She was just a natural! It was like she was actually a real baby sitter. She gave a lot of time and attention. Obviously being filmed on set it’s a slightly different nature, the babies have to be in a buggy or carried around. So behind the scenes it’s totally different. But she really was a very lovely lady as well.

DMO: Did the show turn out as you expected based on what you saw being filmed?

GM: Actually, it turned out a whole lot better than I expected, to be honest. I’m hooked. There was places where I thought that Harry wasn’t filmed, but then he was filmed, caught on camera. Actually watching it is a real excitement for me and a bit of a surprise as to ‘ooh I forgot about that, or I didn’t realize he had been used for that scene’. It’s great seeing it on telly!

DMO: Would you go through the experience again?

Absolutely yes! I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. I get goosebumps, and I’m so excited watching it on a Monday night. On the floor, glued to the telly with my phone to take pictures of the scenes that he’s in (laughs). It’s a real honour that he got chosen. It’s brilliant.

DMO: What do you love most about Doc Martin?

GM: That my son is in it! (laughs) Is that a good enough reason? But apart from that I think that Penhale really makes it. He is such a dry humoured character, her really does make the show. And I love the storyline that they’re using. It’s very gripping. The people that haven’t seen it in different countries will be waiting for series 8!

DMO: For sure! What advice would you give to others who want to have their children involved with Doc Martin filming?

GM: If there is definitely an opportunity for a casting call for Doc Martin again, just go ahead and do it. Doesn’t matter how much a distance you have to go – it’s worth the experience. I just think that Harry will look back on this and think ‘Wow Mum, I was on telly!’. I would love for him to have another opportunity, so if you ever get the chance to do it, just do it, it’s definitely worth it!