Darren Boyd interview: A lucky man?

The Lucky Man star on therapy, his desire to make an anti-bullying TV show and why he's walked away from comedy.

Darren Boyd as DI Steve Orwell in Stan Lee's Lucky Man
Boyd by success Darren Boyd has deliberately stopped doing comedy to concentrate on drama roles like DI Steve Orwell in Stan Lee's Lucky Man. Image Picture Steffan Hill/Carnival Films

From his earliest appearances on TV in shows like Smack The Pony and Kiss Me Kate, Darren Boyd has been an exceptional comedy actor.

Boyd won a BAFTA for Best Male Performance In A Comedy in 2012 for his role as an unlikely secret service agent in Sky sitcom Spy. But, 2015’s under-rated ITV hospital sitcom The Delivery Man apart, Boyd has since deliberately moved away from comedy.

Boyd was a copper in the recent series of Luther, and he’s currently on screen as a very different police officer in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.

The first British-set TV series by legendary Spider-Man creator Lee, the entertaining Sky One romp stars James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton who stumbles across a bracelet that seemingly gives him eternal good fortune.

Naturally, Clayton’s life isn’t that simple, not least because of Boyd as Clayton’s would-be nemesis DI Steve Orwell – a cop determined to finish Clayton’s career and frankly a proper kiss-arse.

Darren Boyd got his break in comedies such as Kiss Me Kate and Smack The Pony
Gone in 90 seconds Boyd says the 90 seconds when he actually gets to act are when he feels most alive. Image Picture Steffan Hill/Carnival Films

Boyd is reliably excellent, but is somewhat reticent to take too much praise for the role. “There wasn’t that much to Orwell on the page,” admits the 45-year-old. “The purpose he serves in the show is fairly basic: he doesn’t like or respect Harry and he wants him stopped. We don’t see Orwell’s home life, we don’t know much about him.

“As an actor, that’s a small box of toys to play with, but that means I can play with him a little. I’m not overwhelmed with subtext to muck about with!”

“My mind is full of ongoing narratives I have to deal with, and a lot of the time they’re not particularly helpful suggestions”

It’s an assessment that’s typically honest from Boyd, who partly signed up for the show so he could act with Nesbitt – “It’s incredibly fun with Jimmy” – and he hopes their on-screen relationship can develop further.

But playing a supporting role like Orwell is part of Boyd’s deliberate career plan. “After I won the BAFTA for Spy, I didn’t want to milk comedy and go for similar parts,” he explains. “I was starting to be labelled as a comedian, which I hate out of respect for people who are actually comedians.

“I hadn’t deliberately sought out comedy. And if I didn’t make a stand for other acting muscles to flex, no-one was going to give non-comedic roles to me. I’m quite stubborn. If redressing the balance meant dropping back down from leading roles in comedy to supporting roles in drama, so be it. I’ll do that and hope that a similar breakout role like Spy happens in my dramatic roles. It’s fun and exciting.”

Darren Boyd, who won a BAFTA in 2012 for Spy
A lucky man Darren Boyd was able to overcome a "not so great" time at secondary school. Image Picture Wolf Marloh

A thoughtful interviewee, Boyd is as engaging in person as he is on Twitter, where his overwhelming positivity has attracted 15,000 followers.

But the father-of-two admits that positivity isn’t always easy to maintain. “I have a very active, relentless mind,” he states. “That doesn’t always work in my favour.

“My mind is full of ongoing narratives I have to deal with, and a lot of the time they’re not particularly helpful suggestions. There are few occasions when I’m able to still those voices.”

As well as painting, sculpting and motorcycling, Boyd sees acting as a form of therapy. But even in his job, Boyd rarely gets to escape.

“There are long, long periods when you’re not required to be on set,” he points out. “The time you spend on camera versus the time you spend waiting around is very small. And that waiting gives you time to fret about stuff. Then there’s auditioning for roles, following up on those auditions… And the moment when I’m on camera, that’s generally at most 90 seconds between the words ‘Action’ and ‘Cut’.

“But those 90 seconds are bliss. That’s when I feel blessed, validated and earthed. And I get to tell stories when I act. I’ve always had an unquenchable thirst for the importance of story. My little part in telling them is when I feel most alive.”

Born in Hastings, Boyd reveals that he “didn’t have the greatest experience” at school, but emphasises that he doesn’t want to claim he was bullied.

For the past three years, Boyd has been a passionate campaigner on Twitter for anti-bullying charities such as The Diana Trust.

 “The internet is a fucking crazy, dark place”

His concern was sparked when he read about Izzy Dix, a 13-year-old who killed herself in 2013. Dix’s mother publicly released a poem Dix wrote, I Give Up, in which she revealed her torment at the hands of bullies shortly before she committed suicide.

“That poem showed Izzy wasn’t just a name in the paper, a statistic,” sighs Boyd, his voice breaking with emotion. “It was a little voice crying out, and it just killed me.”

The actor set up the website Future Self, where past victims of bullying share stories of how they overcame their troubles. “When kids are in the vortex, they don’t have foresight,” he explains. “A young person’s world is so immediate – and if that’s filled with detritus, you can’t see beyond it. You want to do the worst possible thing. Future Self shows that you can hang in there, that there will one day be a version of yourself to say that you’re needed on the other side of all your worries.”

Boyd has two young children with his wife of 12 years, nutritional therapist Amanda, and admits he’s worried about their future. “Social media scares me stupid,” he says. “The internet is a fucking crazy, dark place. The idea of better monitoring online is laughable, because we all know it doesn’t function like that.”

He’s trying to make a TV documentary about bullying, and is currently pitching it to production companies – “I don’t have the money to make it myself,” he smiles, adding: “But I’d need it to be done with the right sensitivity.”

“I spent 10 minutes in Luther pulling ‘Oh, I’ve just been blown up’ faces”

The 6ft 4ins-tall actor is also currently filming a second series of Sky Atlantic’s brilliantly unhinged drama Fortitude, the first series of which memorably saw Boyd’s apparently placid Markus Huseklepp try to feed his wife Shirley to death.

“Like Orwell in Lucky Man, Markus was just a suggestion of a character on the page at first,” Boyd enthuses. “But his storyline was way, way out there and that caught people’s enthusiasm. The producers responded, so Markus served more of the story than originally planned. That was hugely rewarding.”

He’s equally enthusiastic about his time in Luther, not least because he got blown up on screen for the first time. “I spent 10 minutes pulling ‘Oh, I’ve just been blown up’ faces,” he laughs. “I was thinking all the while ‘Hmm, what would one do at the moment of actual combustion? Shrink, or be arms and legs splayed?’ I never thought I’d have to entertain such thoughts one day…”

Having portrayed police officers a couple of times now, Boyd believes he’d be more of a psychological good cop than strong-arming bad cap in real life “though whether I’d be smart enough is another matter”.

So, time for Boyd’s ultimate psychological test: Would he rather win another BAFTA or own the world’s best motorbike?

“I have my dream personal motorbike and a BAFTA, so I’m very fortunate,” he chuckles. “I’d have the BAFTA, so I can enjoy it. And then I’d melt it down into a little tiny bike.”

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man is on Sky One on Fridays at 9pm

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