Jessica Ransom Interview
Jessica Ransom is a BAFTA award winning actress. She has acted in many television programs but is best known for her work on Doc Martin. She joined the cast of Doc Martin from series 5 onwards as Morwenna Newcross, Dr. Ellingham’s medical receptionist.
DMO: How did you get cast as Morwenna?
JR: It all feels like a long time ago now… I had an audition with the casting director for Doc Martin, Toby Whale. That went nicely and I was asked back to meet Philippa and Ben Bolt (who was directing the first three episodes of Season 5) and do the same scenes again with them. Then I tried to forget about it as best I possibly could and tried not to torture myself with googling images of Port Isaac.
I went on holiday to Boston to visit my brother and got engaged to my now husband while I was there so that was quite a good distraction! On the last day of the trip I had an email asking me to go in again for another meeting the following week. I had more scenes to do this time including the ones where Morwenna accidentally takes speed and the one where she resuscitates her Granddad. I had no idea how it had gone but a few days later my agent called and told me I’d got the job. I was walking along the street when I got the call – I think I swore and cried and generally looked a bit bonkers!
DMO: What do you love most about playing the role of Morwenna?
JR: There are lots of things. The clothes are a highlight, that’s for sure. I get to go shopping with our costume designer Les Lansdown just before we start each series so we pick out fun things for her to wear together, but I’m never quite prepared for the combinations he comes up with. I’m much more boring and less brave with my clothing choices than Morwenna so I love the dressing up part of the job. I also really love how direct she is – she almost matches the Doc for upfrontness, I’d never be able to do that.
DMO: What thought and work went into the creation of the character?
JR: The writers on Doc Martin are brilliant and it really feels like over the three series I’ve worked on Morwenna has developed into a more rounded character. I love that we’ve seen more of her no-nonsense attitude this series, particularly in Episode One with the boat crash. She really came into her own and dealt with the situation. In terms of research I didn’t really do much – it felt like the character was there in the script. I once went to Port Isaac surgery in costume as Morwenna (not intentional, it was the only time I could get an appointment) and I’m relieved to report that the reception staff there are really lovely and not surly like she is!
DMO: What has been your proudest moment while working on Doc Martin?
JR: I really liked filming the lifeboat stuff for Episode 1 of Season 7. Cutting along through the water being filmed from a helicopter was almost definitely the coolest thing I’ll ever do!
DMO: What is it like to work with each of the cast?
JR: Everyone is great fun and really nice to work with. I have most of my scenes with Martin and he is always making everyone fall about laughing on set between takes. Caroline and I do a lot of gossiping when we work together, as do me and Selina. John is the cast member I probably see the most between filming seasons so it’s really easy and relaxed working with him. Eileen is full of wonderful stories and Ian and Joe are both really funny and chilled out. It’s always pretty relaxed on set- unless it’s the end of the day and we’re running out of time!
DMO: Did you always want to be an actor? How did it happen?
JR: I loved acting at school and was a member of my local youth theatre so it always made sense that I would try and be an actor when I grew up. I studied drama at university which was more academic than practical and then after uni I moved to London and did various bizarre jobs (giving massages in bars, handing out free wine at cricket matches, selling newspapers) whilst doing bits of acting for little/no money. After about three years of that I started writing and performing comedy (sketches and characters) because it meant you could just book a gig and do it rather than have to audition. I took a few shows to the Edinburgh Fringe and it was through that that I started getting paid acting work and got the amazing agent I’m still with today. By no means an overnight success!
DMO: Are you like your character? How so? Or if not – what makes you different?
JR: Not really. I wish I could be as direct as her sometimes- I’m much more of a worrier. I’m probably more organised and better at time-keeping. And we definitely have different tastes in fashion.
DMO: Is there anything about the character or the show that fans might not be aware of?
JR: Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. I suppose a slightly odd thing is that we film exterior and interior scenes on completely different days which is fine if they’re separate scenes but sometimes you might be filmed coming in through a door one day but film the bit where you go in from outside 3 weeks later when the weather is better!
DMO: What is your favourite thing about Doc Martin?
JR: Can I have two? Working with such a nice gang and getting to live in Cornwall for the 4 months of filming.
DMO: If Doc Martin continues for more seasons, what would you most love to see for Morwenna?
JR: I’ve really enjoyed doing the operation assisting in the surgery so more of that kind of thing would be fun.
DMO: Ben Gregor has described you as the best receptionist yet! Was it hard coming onto a show in later seasons and playing the receptionist previously played by Katherine Parkinson and Lucy Punch?
JR: Ha! Ben has to say that- I’m the most recent! That’s very kind of him though. They’re both brilliant, funny actresses who have gone on to amazing things so really it’s a privilege to follow in their footsteps. I think if I’d overthought it too much the pressure would have made me anxious (as if I wasn’t already joining such a big show) so I just tried to concentrate on what I was doing with Morwenna.
DMO: Tell us about you! Who is Jess Ransom? 🙂
JR: Nothing too exciting really. I’m exceptionally lucky to have totally brilliant friends so my favourite thing to do is hang out with them and my lovely husband – I get a lot of visitors when I’m staying in Cornwall! I’m also very into running, I’ve done the London Marathon three times, I have to be careful as I can be a total bore about it.