It’s not often that actors encounter dead bodies when researching a television role, but that is exactly what Richard Madden experienced on a night out with the Ambulance Service. “I spent a Friday night observing an ambulance crew to find out what they go through during a shift, how they feel, what they talk about,” explains Richard. “The whole experience was exciting, moving and strange. As a job it is really exciting; when a call pops up on screen they hit the gas and race through traffic to get to the scene receiving more details en route. Often it is not half as exciting as it sounds, which is a good thing of course. But it is an absolute rollercoaster.

“For me it was a real life experience. Exhilarating. We arrived at a call; a woman in her 30s, an alcoholic. She was dead in her flat. I had seen a dead body before, my gran, but this was the first dead person I’d seen whom I was detached from and it was an odd situation. It was also weird watching how the police and ambulance men acted around this body because they see it every day. It was really useful for me in terms of the job and where the comedy actually comes from in extreme situations. There might be someone hysterical at the scene but you can have a completely normal conversation with a colleague about what you had for dinner standing by a dead body. It is surreal but hopefully we’ve captured that element in Sirens. What is clever about the writing is that the jobs we attend really filter into the characters’ own lives; they experience something that makes you ask questions about what’s going on in their heads.”

Richard admits; “There is a level of shutting down because you have to get on with the job and keep your head clear. I realised for the people the EMTs are arriving to help it is a huge deal but for them it’s another job and then they are on to the next call out. These things filter into your brain though. I still see that dead woman’s face sometimes, and think that she had kids. It can be scary.”

Talking about his character, Richards says: “Ashley keeps himself to himself. He’s quite a private character but really enjoys the company of the other two boys even though he pretends not to a lot of the time. He particularly enjoys the word play and banter between the three of them, that’s what gets him rolling. The dynamic works really well, they turn on each other, gang up – it’s constantly moving. This dynamic is mixed up with who we are as actors too. It is very homemade.”

He continues: “At the stage in his life Ashley is quite content. He’s got a good job, a bit of money and a nice flat. He is in a content place which is a rare thing in your mid 20s so he has to work out where he wants to go next. His sexuality – that’s what interested me in the part. He is gay and it is not an issue for him at all. He is gay with no problems or hang ups about it at all. But he’s as straight as the other two in every other aspect and these two push him on it just as straight men who don’t know much about the gay life. Rachid especially probes him with questions about his sex life because he’s never spent much time with a gay bloke before and is trying to find out how their brains are wired. He does get on Ashley’s nerves at times but he is just curious.”

“Ashley is not at all a ‘sceney’ gay. I’ve seen a lot of gay characters on TV but he is pretty straight acting and you don’t see that portrayed very often. A lot of my friends are gay and very much like Ashley in that you wouldn’t know. It is much more like that in normal life. In reality these characters would probably never spend time together but they are forced to in this job and they have settled into a dynamic that does work. So they do rub each other up the wrong way but there is also a great deal of affection which comes out in that masculine way of piss taking but through that you get to know them and to realise who cares about who. Ashley pretends he doesn’t give a toss and that nothing means that much to him but we do see what matters to him during the series.”

“It does make me wonder why he is an ambulance man in the first place because it is essentially a thankless job. But you see that Ashley might help out one of his team or watch their back but he never wants that acknowledged. I wonder about his motivation and that is what I find so interesting about him. I can totally relate to his independence. He does enjoy his own time and space which I do as well. I work a lot and enjoy coming home to my flat, my own space.”

“The uniforms are not at all flattering. They do nothing for our sex appeal! We have all made them our own though like the real EMTs do so our characters come through a little. Like myself Ashley pays attention to what he wears although he doesn’t dress flamboyantly. I worked really closely with the costume designer to work out what Ashley’s style was. Spending hours in green overalls means that at the end of the shift even putting on your own jacket is important. But for the job putting the uniform on and the big clunky shoes helps in a practical sense. We were certainly fit for all terrains.”

“The other two are very funny comedians and have very different backgrounds to me but as an actor I try to push myself to try new things and this was definitely a big challenge for me. It has helped me learn about who I am and where my strengths and talents lie. I am certainly more confident with the comedy element now and you do have to be on your guard all the time around Kayvan and Rhys. I’ve found another beat and have learnt a lot from working with them.”

Interviews From 2011

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