The following profile is courtesy of ITV. Catch a new season of "Doc Martin" on KCET starting Jan. 24.
Ian McNeice is fast becoming a rival to Martin Clunes for the affections of the legion of "Doc Martin" fans with a rapidly growing fan club of his own.
The home he rented in Port Isaac during filming is adorned with portraits of his character, Bert Large, sketched or painted by his adoring fans, alongside memorabilia and gifts.
Ian explains: “Bert has an extraordinary thing going on in Ohio. A woman called Gloria has put together this fan club called the Bert Large Lovers Group, which has now more than 500 members.You get snippets from the work face, me talking about various things which have been going on whilst we have been shooting, a question and answer session with me.”
“She’s had t-shirts made up with ‘Bert’s Buddies’ and ‘Bert’s Beauties’. This year she came to Port Isaac and arranged a dinner in my honour with about 30 fans. There’s other fan groups too, like the Clunatics are the Martin Clunes fans. So you have all this vying for whose fan club is the best.”
Ian says he never imagined when he started filming the first series of "Doc Martin" in 2004 just how successful it was going to be world wide.
“You’ve only got to go into the village to see what is going on globally, because on a daily basis that village contains people from all over the world: Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, America, Denmark, South Africa. They all come to see where we make this show. It’s like a shrine. They all come to worship at the shrine of Martin Clunes.”
“They get so excited when they see you as a character are there, and even more excited when we film in the village. We have at least 200 people watching us when we are filming. They come up to us and say how much they love the series, basically to do with the fact there’s no swearing, no sex, no violence, but about the quality features it contains.”
Ian takes advantage of the show’s popularity to help give something back to Port Isaac. He collects money for charities, and is always willing to open local events and present prizes.
“For the last few years I realized people constantly want photographs. I now carry a little bucket and ask them to put a pound in the bucket for charity when they ask me for a photograph. I’ve raised money for the RNLI, the Port Isaac Carnival, the village’s Christmas Lights.”
“So far this year I have collected £1,500 for lifeboats and another £1,000 for the illuminations and the carnival. It is my way of giving back a little to the village.”
“I have become an honorary citizen of the village. People come up and say ‘you are almost part of he village now’. We will never really be part of the village because even people who have been here for 30 years who are not Cornish aren’t allowed to be part of the village. You are not a real Cornishman unless you were born here. I am well aware of that.”
“We love coming here, and we have even come to the village out of season when we have not been filming.”
“We all came to meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall last year. The Duchess had always had a link with the village because Kosovo is one of her charities, and women in the village have been raising money to help the children in Kosovo.”
The Prince and the Duchess were visiting Port Isaac as part of their annual tour of Cornwall and asked to meet the cast of "Doc Martin."
“When I was introduced to the Duchess she asked me: ‘tell me, where is your restaurant in the village?’ I said ‘it’s in the harbour - unfortunately its closed, a bit of salmonella scare going on’ and she replied ‘oh nothing to do with you I hope?’ So that was a sweet moment of bonding with Camilla!”
Large’s restaurant closure was the latest in a line of business ventures which have failed for Bert. Last series saw him embark on a whisky distilling business, backed by Ruth Ellingham. But once more things didn’t go exactly to plan, and he was left with stocks of unsold whisky and a £5,000 overdraft on Ruth’s account.
“Bert pushes his relationship with Al to the limit. Bert hasn’t been very truthful about what he is doing and he has got himself into more and more debt, which includes his son in that. They fall out and Al doesn’t want to have any more to do with him at that point.”
“He has spent £5,000 of Ruth’s money on an overdraft, so she is furious and consequently says to Al, ‘ I don’t want any more to do with Bert. If he comes looking for a job with us forget it.’ So Bert has burned his bridges with Ruth too.”
“The relationship between Bert and Al has always been up and down but this is quite a big rift. It’s a definite rollercoaster. What is so good, and is of most interest, is the conflict between them. That is what has always been the most gripping is how they weather these problems they both inflict on each other.”
While their characters’ relationship might be rocky, off screen Ian and his screen son, played by Joe Absolom are the best of friends.
“From day one Joe Absolom and I really did hit it off. I love him to bits. I aways make a joke with my own sons that Joe is the son that I always wanted. It is a joke, of course.”
“He is an absolute delight. Coming to work with Joe, we now have an incredible shorthand that we can just cut to the chase on various things. We keep in touch a lot. When he comes up to London for interviews we try to meet up for lunch and catch up. While we are in Cornwall we have get-togethers at weekends.”
Down on his luck again, Bert is pondering his gloomy future when Caitlin, a woman he had a blind date with, offers him work in her grocery shop, and a spare room. Bert is apprehensive about accepting the offer as he found Caitlin rather too forward. But with no job, no home and having fallen out with Al he doesn’t feel he has a choice.
“Bert is in the clutches of the spiderwoman - Caitlin! She is ready to sink her teeth into him at every moment. There’s some funny moments with him trying to evade her amorous maneuvers.”
While Bert is fighting off the attentions of Caitlin, Al has managed to secure Ruth’s backing to take over the running of the Crab and Lobster pub, on the strict proviso that Bert is not involved. Out of the blue he gets a very lucrative order from the brewery to supply Bert’s whisky.
“It’s a great deal and Al has to come back, cap in hand, to his dad to ask him if he could start distilling the whisky again. Bert is over the moon to be back in with his son.”