David Carlyle: ‘Olly Alexander Is One Of The Most Authentic People I’ve Ever Met’ – Interview

By Olivia Emily

2 months ago

David Carlyle stars in the BBC's new series, Dinosaur

Streaming now on BBC iPlayer, David Carlyle stars in Dinosaur, a new comedy from the team behind Fleabag and Back To Life. David plays Bo, older brother to our protagonist Nina, a Scottish autistic woman in her 30s whose life is turned upside down when her sister (and housemate) Evie gets engaged after six weeks of dating, and asks Nina to be her maid of honour. With the support of her older brother Bo, Nina must face her sister’s impulsive decision and the changes it will have on her life, taking her on a journey of self-discovery. We sat down with David to get the inside scoop on the series.

Interview: David Carlyle On Dinosaur, BBC One

David Carlyle

© Rich Lakos

Hi David, how’s life going at the moment?

Hi! It’s good! Last year was a bit slow for me at times, but this year kicked off with a bang so I’m loving the twists and turns of work – even if it’s a bit frantic at times! I’m kept on my toes!

You can currently be seen in the BBC’s new comedy, Dinosaur – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Dinosaur follows Nina MacArthur who is a lady in her 30s who is a doctor of Palaeontology and who also happens to be Autistic. She’s got her life in order, she’s got her routine and loves living with her wee sister and best friend, Evie. Everything is going swimmingly until Evie announces that she’s getting married after a six week whirlwind romance with a guy she met on a dating app. And hilarity ensues! It’s honestly a hoot – the show is full of wild characters who you get to know so well, so quickly and it’s a warm and kind adult comedy… I really think it’s truly quite unique!

You play Bo – how would you describe him?

He’s Nina and Evie’s big brother who feels like a bit of an outsider… And, when the engagement is announced, he wants nothing to do with it. He is a bit of a cynic who just wants to stay out of it. He’s trapped in a bad relationship with his girlfriend Hilda and that’s enough of a stress for him – but he has to step up and be a good big brother. Underneath his humour and detachment, he’s a big hearted guy who feels things strongly and Nina helps him realise his worth.

What was it like playing him?

I love this character. He’s got layers and I liked exploring how his emotions – which he struggles to understand – spill out of him. He’s erratic and haphazard, and some of the scenes and circumstances I was given to play around in were so much fun. He gets hammered at a family gathering, and that was such a fun day at work!

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

I think it’s about identifying what your role adds to the whole story. So once I figure that, I start to think about what kind of person that is. And I look around the people in my own life and at myself and see what looks or feels right and then start to piece it together scene by scene. For me, character is behaviour so I think about how someone behaves and why that is the case.

It’s set in Glasgow and you’re obviously Scottish – is it a nice change to star in a series a bit closer to home in that sense?

It’s lovely, yes! There’s ways of being that are typically Scottish – it’s a humour, a way of looking at the world, and it’s nice to lean into that and make a virtue of it.

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

Every day was a riot. My favourite day was filming the engagement party in episode two – it’s essentially a Meet The Parents episode and I loved having the whole ‘family’ together and how mental all of our characters are. I spent the whole day pretending to be hammered – and hammered people are unpredictable, so I enjoyed being wild and free in those scenes and blaming my big acting choices on Bo’s drunkenness! We all just laughed at each other all day.

What is the cast dynamic? Who was your favourite person to work with?

A lot of my scenes were with Ashley (Storrie) who plays Nina, so I feel like I bonded with her a lot. I really feel a strong sibling affection for her (and Kat Ronney, who plays Evie) and I think that comes across on screen. But I have to shout out to Greg Hemphill and Sanjeev Kohli – they’re icons and I felt like I had to pinch myself doing comedy scenes with them. Greg plays Ade, Bo’s dad. I’m a lucky actor, put it that way. I was learning comedy from a legend!

A still from Dinosaur

Evie (KAT RONNEY), Bo (DAVID CARLYLE), Diane (SALLY HOWITT), Ade (GREG HEMPHILL), Nina (ASHLEY STORRIE). © Two Brothers Pictures/Mark Mainz

You previously starred in It’s A Sin. What is that like to look back on?

I think it was always be one of my proudest achievements. I look back at it with total love – it’s been one of the greatest privileges of my life. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I don’t think about that time and the people I worked with who are still some of my best friends. What a thing we did.

And how did it feel to be nominated for a BAFTA?

I actually still have to remind myself that that happened. It’s the biggest compliment anyone has ever given me for my work. I’m so grateful. Nothing will ever beat the moment I saw my name on the nomination list – I was lying in bed and sat bolt upright and woke my husband up… We were both in shock. Then the show’s creator Russell T Davies rang me (it was 7.30am!) and said ‘Wake up, wake up, wake up!’. I love that man. And to be nominated in the same category as my mates Omari Douglas and Callum Scott Howells was amazing. Matthew Macfadyen won the BAFTA that year and he is my favourite actor. What a moment!

How did your experience on It’s A Sin differ from Dinosaur?

It’s A Sin was scarier to shoot for me because of the weight of the story – and there were big emotional days where I had to access upsetting things to do the character justice. But it was so much fun at the same time. I laughed more than any other time at work I think. A shoot of big contrasts. Dinosaur was weirdly more technical a process. Comedy needs quite careful planning to land the joke, I really enjoyed that challenge and working that out!

What is a standout memory from filming It’s A Sin?

The day Lydia West and I shot the scenes in Gloria’s flat – we both had to take ourselves somewhere to get the scene right, you know? And that’s quite an intimate process for actors to go through and when we finished the day we were both buzzing. When you realise you can’t quite remember what happened but you suspect it probably was right… It was a cool day. I learned a lot that day. I realised I was capable of something. That said, I loved the small club and pub moments we shot in It’s a Sin – they take seconds to watch but hours and days to shoot, so it’s a mad laugh just ‘partying’ with your mates all day!

Are you still in touch with the cast of It’s A Sin?

Of course – we connected so strongly on that. I had them at my wedding! We’re all close and I think we will always be close friends – it was a life-changing job for us all.

What has been your favourite project to date?

Too hard to answer! Every job is amazing – I’m so lucky to do what I do!

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

I’m on stage at the moment in a play called Boys On The Verge Of Tears at Soho Theatre (11 April–18 May). Five actors play 50 characters all set in one public toilet. It’s mad and I love it! We all sweat! And I’ve also just had my first commission for a TV show I’m writing, so I’m absolutely buzzing for that – I can’t quite believe it’s happened and I’m loving writing.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

Olly Alexander. He’s one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met and I think his talent is insane – he’s also such a professional person and is just amazing to learn from.

David Carlyle

© Rich Lakos

What’s your dream role?

I’d love to play Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. I think that’s the best play ever written. When they make a biopic of Billy Connolly, I’d love if I could play him. What a force he is. It would be such a challenge and so exciting. I need a wig, mind you.

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

I want to do more drama on screen – I spent the first 10 years of my career doing theatre and I’m loving the opportunity to learn more about crafting characters in the medium with camera. It’s a different skill and I’ve got a lot to learn.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

As much time as I can. There’s nothing better than sitting on my couch watching telly with my husband and my dog asleep in the middle of us. It sounds so cliché doesn’t it? But it’s when I feel the most safe and happy I think.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

I’ve always lived in towns so it’s all I know really, but I suspect that we’ll be moving to the country very soon. It’s an ambition – a little more peace and quiet and nature in our lives is what we need for a bit, I think! That said, I don’t think I’ve ever gone into Soho, for example, and not felt excited and energised! The city seems so full possibility.

What’s your interior design style?

I love colour! Our living room is teal and gold, and our bathroom is a purple velvet. I like boldness like that, aand while I don’t like a room to be full of stuff, I also don’t like minimalism. I like there to be hints to memories and experiences everywhere. We have two Balinese masks in our living room, for example, that are actually quite grotesque, but I love them so much.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An astronaut.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Please learn to meditate sooner – your brain works very fast and it’ll be a huge strength to you, but a huge weakness when it runs away from you!

How can we all live a little bit better?

Kindness to others. I don’t think there is anything more important.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

I’m most excited about the TV show I’m writing, to be honest – it’s uncharted territory for me to make a show this way so every day is exciting. I don’t know what to expect, so each day is a surprise! But, personally, two of my best friends are getting married this year and I’m so excited to be there for their big day. I love a wedding!

David Carlyle Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Baby Reindeer

What I’m reading… Holly by Stephen King

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Succession – Matthew Macfadyen… Absolute masterclass

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Please God, will there be a Schitt’s Creek movie?!

Favourite film of all time… Mrs Doubtfire, I think!

Favourite song of all time… ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman. It does something to me every time I hear it.

Band/singer I always have on repeat… The 1975. They’re my all time faves.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… To Kill A Mockingbird. Maybe the best thing ever written?

Cultural guilty pleasure… Below Deck – I’m obsessed with it.


David Carlyle stars in Dinosaur on BBC One from Friday 19 April. All episodes are streaming on BBC iPlayer now. bbc.co.uk

Boys on the Verge of Tears plays at Soho Theatre until 18 May. sohotheatre.com