"The great thing about this story is that the two main characters' values are so completely different. Joe's values are very materialistic and he becomes a womaniser, he becomes the guy who wants the big house and the flash car, and he thinks that will make him happy. He thinks he will get recognition by having a series of affairs in order to get what he considers 'love'. He is jealous of people who have love and jealous of people who have position, and that's what he aspires to."
So where did Robson find the inspiration for the distinctive look of his character?
"The look came from a bloke I saw in Soho. He had tinted hair, the tight jeans and seemed to be a eighties throwback. I thought: 'That's Joe, that's what he would wear'. This guy just stood out to me as Joe would look. Joe does terrible things. He leaves his wife and child - in fact he does exactly what his parents did to him, but he becomes vulnerable when he's out of his depth. He's very different from other parts I've played. He's calm, controlled and he very rarely loses it. He chooses his moments very carefully. I'm sure a lot of people won't like what he does, but hopefully they'll sympathise with him because of the strong relationship he has with his brother."
How would Robson describe the relationship between Joe and his brother Trevor, played by Stephen Tompkinson?
"Joe feels Trevor is an unnecessary financial burden to him, and Joe is constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure his brother is in tow. He's completely up front, whereas Trevor just isn't! This is a case of two men who out of economic necessity have had to travel down South to find work."
The relationship between the two brothers is a central focus, and both Robson and Stephen, having siblings of their own, can relate to this bond.
"When we were younger, I was very protective of my brother David who's three years my junior. When I was about seven and he was four, I used to take sure he was all right at school, and for many years we shared the same bedroom, but he soon got physically bigger than me and now I know he would look after me if ever I was in trouble. I always remember one particular fight we had when we were younger, and at that point I realised I wasn't the 'big brother' anymore, and we were on an equal level. Grafters works because the brothers spend that time together, and have a history."
Stephen and Robson might seem set to become a popular duo, but Robson is keen to assert that they are not the new 'Robson and Jerome'.
"Actually, Jerome and I were never a double act, in fact, we haven't done anything together for two years. In the same way, neither are Stephen and me! He was just perfect for the role. I think Grafters is incredibly watch-able, it has a lightness of touch. The humour comes out of the drama."
Robson on Stephen
"The first time I set eyes on Stephen was at an audition for Casualty. Of course, we were both nervous and wanted the part. I felt it went well, but they were unsure and told me they couldn't make up their minds - although they had narrowed it down to me and Stephen. In the end, I got it and he didn't. There I was on set pushing this terribly blistered body - which was Stephen - along the corridor, thinking to myself, 'I've got a three year contract and you're getting killed off' Life's a bitch! Heh, heh. Over the years, we've met up quite often. And in the early days, it seemed that we were always going up for the same parts. I respect Steve enormously as an actor. His performance in the movie Brassed Off was just terrific, he was the tops."
"The whole Grafters thing came about when my production company, Coastal, joined forces with Granada TV. When we started discussing who would play my brother Trevor, I said, 'We've got to offer it to Steve'. The fact that we have a history also makes it easier to play brothers, as opposed to someone you've never met before, so that was another reason to choose him. He was top of the list. We have an awful lot in common. We're from the same neck of the woods and being two northern men, we have the same northern values. Having said that, though, our personalities are quite different. Stephen is a lot quieter than me - I'm the noisy one! The same goes for our characters, so it all gels quite well.
"The thing that's always struck me about Stephen is how hard he works. I'm a workaholic and I'd say he is, too. If he isn't on set for Grafters, he's off recording something for radio. We work at a very similar pace. We've had a great laugh making the series, and there have been a few Auntie's Bloomers, where one of us has missed our words or said the wrong thing. The funniest thing though, is that we may look like competent builders on screen, but off screen we're hopeless at DIY. I did manage to get an O-level in woodwork and remember making a handle for a trowel, but I haven't done anything since!"
30 October 1999
He may have lost out on the top actor accolade in this year's TV awards, but Robson Green is in fine fettle back on our screens in the new series of Grafters.
Robson has made his name from starring in top-rating television series. With a string of hits in Casualty, Soldier Soldier, Touching Evil and Grafters, in the past decade or so he's been one of Britain's most popular actors. His performances in TV series are coming to an end, however, as the lure of shorter-run dramas, and possibly American movies, become more appealing.
The North East actor, back in a new series of Grafters on Monday, is now in talks with a leading American production company about doing a movie. And although he still has a lengthy commitment to ITV, through his own production company Coastal, he has made it clear that the days when he had to graft over long-running television series are now firmly behind him. "It's the sheer workload involved in doing runs of eight shows or, as I had to in the old days, 15 or more shows," says Robson, referring to Soldier Soldier and Casualty.
"That sort of commitment takes up such a huge chunk of the year and I would rather do projects that take up less time. Fifteen-part series leave you feeling a bit jaded, especially towards the end of filming." In America, Robson has been talking to Aviator, the production company owned by ER star Anthony Edwards. "Reckless and Rhinoceros, dramas I did with the accent on romance, have both been successful in the US so if and when I do make a movie out there it will probably be along similar, romantic lines," explains Robson. "But I would never want to move to America. A few months at a time would be enough for me - I'd miss England too much, I'd miss supporting Newcastle United and I would miss friends, family and the work I do over here."
So we don't need to expect Robson to get sucked into the Hollywood lifestyle then? "No," he says. "I know it does happen to people, I know that people sign five-year deals out there which are absolutely watertight and utterly impossible from which to escape. But I'm going there on my own terms, not on anyone else's."
Robson is also calling the shots back in the UK with the kind of deal for which most actors would sell their souls. He has a contract to produce 32 hours of prime-time ITV drama over a two-year period and a new contract comes into operation from next May. Part of the current agreement includes a movie called The Last Musketeer, in which he plays an Olympic fencer, and the new series of Grafters, the successful show about a pair of brother builders on leave from their native North East. Joe and Trevor Purvis - Robson is Joe and ex-Ballykissangel star Stephen Tompkinson is Trevor - were doing up a London property in series one, but for this latest collection of stories they've moved even further south, to the sea and sand of Brighton.
Explains Robson: "Joe has set his heart on buying up an old school in Brighton and turning it into a block of flats. There's friction between him and his Uncle Alan (Berwick Kaler) over the financing of the project and also between the Purvis boys and another Brighton developer. Actually, it's just as well there's a lot of emphasis on the planning part of the project, rather than on the building itself, because Stephen and I are absolutely hopeless at anything remotely to do with DIY. There's a scene in the new series where you actually see my character banging in a nail and I even got myself twisted and contorted knocking that in straight. I'm just not practically inclined, any more than Stephen is. People sometimes think I am because I worked in a shipyard on the Tyne."
The new series of Grafters features romance for the two leading characters. Trevor falls in love with Clare, sister of the man who is also trying to buy the old school that Joe's so desperate to develop. And Joe himself starts an affair with an architect called Viv, played by former Between The Lines star Lesley Vickerage.
Romance in Robson's own life is not a subject for discussion at the moment. Allegations of extra-marital affairs earlier this year, put the skids under his marriage and the only comment he will make is brief. "I've gone though a period of emotional damage that has been extremely painful," he says.
Newcastle Evening Chronicle