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Joe Absolom Talks About Al Large's Future, Training with the Port Isaac Rowing Team

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The following profile is courtesy of ITV. Catch a new season of "Doc Martin" on KCET starting Jan. 24.

joe absolom
Joe Absolom

Joe Absolom discovered that the Duchess of Cornwall is a fan of "Doc Martin" when she and Prince Charles visited Port Isaac. 

The cast were invited to meet the Prince and the Duchess when they visited Port Isaac last year as part of their annual tour of Cornwall. 

“We were all in our best suits on the hottest day of the year to meet the Prince and the Duchess. The Duchess is a fan of the show. She told us ‘when there’s nothing to watch on the television we put on episodes of your show, and we love it’.”  

“When I met Prince Charles he said to me ‘it’s a bit different from EastEnders’. I answered ‘yes it is, sir, very different’. I couldn’t work out if he had been briefed. I did EastEnders 15 years ago. No one whispered in his ear prior to being introduced to me, so I was really surprised when he said that.  

“It was a really surreal day. Part of the thing about doing a job like this which is so successful is that it will throw up opportunities like that.” 

It may be 15 years since Joe was in the Queen Vic on "EastEnders," but he has found himself back behind a bar in the new series of "Doc Martin" when he takes over the running of the local pub. 

Al has to close the doors of the B&B, and he discovers the whisky his dad has been distilling has not sold leaving them in huge debt to Ruth. 

“Ruth tells him she is not going to continue to invest in a failing business, so he loses the B&B, loses the whisky business, and essentially a place to live.”  

“As the series starts Al is quite stressed as a result of all this. The reality is that he needs to find a new job and a new place to live. That’s quite a big to do list.”  

“The stress leads to health problems. In the pharmacy he is urged to try out the new machine to test blood pressure. He takes the test as a bit of a joke and it turns out his blood pressure is extremely high.”  

“Worried by the result Al sees the Doc, who puts a heart monitor on him, and advises him to take more exercise and drink and eat less, all those things you don’t want to hear from a doctor.”  

“The doctor warns him if he doesn’t take heed of the advice he will be on medication for the rest of his life. Al is a young man and it’s not the sort of warning he wants to hear. His health is a worry, his business is a worry and his home is a worry. So he’s not in a good place.” 

Morwenna hears the landlord of the local pub is giving up the lease, and urges Al to take it on. 

“Al is a hard worker but luck has not been on his side. Al needs a guarantor, so in one last roll of the dice he goes to Ruth to ask, if Bert is not involved, would she invest in helping him to run the pub.” 

“Al arranges a big night at the pub for all the locals to save the Crab and Lobster. Morwenna rings round everyone urging them to support it if they don’t want to see the pub close.” 

“He actually makes enough money out of the night to impress Ruth and encourage her to put money into the pub.” 

“I liked the idea of running a pub, but I I did wonder if I’d have to learn to pull a pint. I’m not sure how good I’d be at pulling a pint of ale on camera.”  

 Al and Morwenna have begun an item since the last series, and he moves into her home in Portwenn. 

“Al’s relationship with Morwenna is progressing. At the end of the last season they were looking at each other lots. What’s good in this series is that they’ve got rid of all that ‘will they, won’t they nonsense’ and they are actually together.” 

“They are comfortable in each other’s company and they get on well. And it is Morwenna Al turns to when he wants to discuss things.” 

To take him away from the stress he’s under Morwenna arranges a glamping trip. “It’s a tent in the middle of a field, not quite the romantic idea they had in mind.” 

Then Morwenna has the idea for them to take part in a gig race, for which Joe and Jessica Ransom, who plays Morwenna, had to train with the Port Isaac rowing team. 

“Gig racing is a big thing in Cornwall. Gigs used to row out to big ships which couldn’t get close enough into port to deliver things to collect the cargo and take it back to shore. The gigs would race to the boats, and whoever got to the boat first would get the job. So a lot of places in Cornwall have their own gig-rowing team.”  

“Portwenn has its own team as Port Isaac does in real life. You wheel the boat down to the water and then have a gig race around the buoy just outside the harbour wall and back. Morwenna gets really into it and wants to win it and she ropes Al in.”  

“We had the perfect day for it, sunshine, blue skies, seeing the village from the sea was amazing. The weather stopped us doing the scene for two weeks. It was worth waiting because in the sunshine the sea looks beautiful.”  

“We had a few rehearsals in the boats to get an idea of what to do. It came quite naturally. It is all about timing and thinking, and once the timing is in you don’t need to think. We were out at sea for eight hours, rowing back and forth. After a while they towed us out to re-set because they realised we were getting tired.”  

“I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’ll be taking it up. I know the Port Isaac team is looking for new members, and even though I live locally I couldn’t make the commitment to row regularly because of work.” 

Joe and his partner Liz loved their visits to Cornwall for "Doc Martin" so much they bought a house not far from Port Isaac, and have settled there with their three children, Lyla, 10, Casper, 6, and four year old Daisy. 

“It is just a great job and a great experience. They are fun people to work for and with. It’s not like a family, because that’s a cliché. In a family there’s arguments, but this is a really nice job with friends.”  

“We’ve spent a lot of summers with the guys on the series. We’ve seen kids grow up, kids being born. I started this before I even had kids. My kids think 'Doc Martin' is what I do.” 

“You look forward to doing it. My eldest daughter Lyla got a role in this series. She wants to be an actress. In some ways it is a compliment that she sees acting as providing a nice enough life.” 

“When you start filming you just don’t want it to finish. When it gets towards the end of filming you start to panic thinking you’ve got to get a proper job, and the reality is you’re not going to be working in Cornwall!” 

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