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Martin Clunes on His Love of Dogs, How Fans Show Their Appreciation

martin clunes
Martin Clunes

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

Martin Clunes has to suppress his own huge love of dogs to play the canine-hating, grumpy doctor in Doc Martin. 

On camera he has to pretend that he loathes mongrel Buddy who is determined to win the Doc’s affections. But when the cameras stop rolling, Martin is quick to make a fuss of ten year old Dodger, who plays Buddy. 

In this eighth season, Buddy manages to make himself at home at the surgery when the Doc reluctantly agrees to a request from his wife Louisa, who says the presence of the dog will be good for their baby son, James Henry. 

Martin says: “The Doc is making a real effort to make things work between him and Louisa, and to be a better husband and father.”   

“As ever the Doc would rather nothing changed, and is resilient to the notion of change almost for the sake of it, but he sees that having the dog living with them is something Louisa wants, and is ultimately supportive, and actually allows a dog into the house.”   

“But the introduction of the dog is a token. It’s a trial period with strict parameters, and when no-one is looking he throws the dog out.”  

It doesn’t help when the dog causes the Doc to seek medical treatment. 

“He twists his foot trying to catch the dog and has to have that bound up and go around on crutches for a while.”  
 

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Just as the Doc is getting used to having Buddy around, another stray dog, Bob, arrives on the doorstep, looking to move in. 

“Philippa (Braithwaite) saw Paddy, who plays Bob, with the dog trainer Sonia Turner when she had just got him two years ago, and knew we had to find a role for him in this series.” 

“Sonia has such a lovely way with Dodger, who plays Buddy, and Paddy. She trains them so beautifully, and so kindly, and they just love doing stuff so much.”   

“You can see all this youth and exuberance in Paddy’s eyes. Dodger is still fantastic and keeps going to the end of the day, but Paddy is just mental and beautiful. I’ve fallen for Paddy as well as Buddy. They are so good on their marks.” 

Buddy and Paddy are both rescue dogs who live with Sonia. She has taught them to know that when Martin is being cross with them it is just acting, so they are never frightened of him on set. 

Martin has three dogs of his own who have been regular visitors to the set during filming: Jimmy a Jack Russell, Penny, a cross between a Jack Russell and a Chihuahua, and Heidi, a cocker spaniel, who has recently given birth to seven puppies. 

"The Best Job in Telly"

After having therapy to save their marriage in the last season, Martin and Louisa are trying to make a new life together with baby James Henry.  

“The Doc and Louisa are attempting to live like other couples do, and just get on with their lives. Louisa has a conflict of loving her work, but missing being with her child and is trying to find ways of spending more time with him.”   

“She wants to move away from her job as headmistress and become a counselor, which involves training whilst she is also holding down a job. The Doc is skeptical but in his bid to be more understanding he takes on extra child care duties to allow her the time to do her counseling training.”   

“She is seeing even less of James while she’s training, which gives her a lot of frustration that reverberates through their home life.”  

Martin describes playing the curmudgeonly medic as “the best job in telly.” 

“What could possibly match this: staying in the West country, surrounded by dogs and people I like.” 

“I really love doing this. I love everything about it. I love being in Cornwall, even though I hate being away from home. If I have got to be away from home then I’d be here.  

“I love being near the sea. I love being out of cities. Even the drive between here and my home in Dorset is lovely because you pass Dartmoor, at one point you can see Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.” 

“There are so many things that reverberate about being here. When we start filming filming in March I like to watch the hedgerows coming to life. They go from nothing to a full firework display, and then that just gently soaks in. Then you see the fields go from being brown to lovely swaying fields of barley.”  

It has been 13 years since the first season of "Doc Martin" was filmed in Port Isaac on the north Cornwall coast. The picturesque village has always been a popular destination for tourists, but the success of the series has turned it into a shrine visited by thousands of "Doc Martin" fans every year. As a thank you to the village Buffalo Pictures, which makes "Doc Martin," set up a Trust Fund for the village to contribute towards the building of a new car park, repairs to the harbor wall, and a nature trail at a local school.   

The Fan Experience

Filming in the narrow streets of the village can prove problematic, especially when so many fans want to stand and watch. 

“The crowds who come to watch have to be marshalled but we have not shied away from it because the village is such a part of the series. It never bothers me to see the crowds watching us filming. I talk to them, I look at their dogs. The most helpful thing is the dogs. You don’t have to talk just about the fact you’re on the telly, you can talk about the dogs.”  

“The one thing I see constantly, especially with the overseas fans is that they want to say thank you for creating this show, which has in turn created this community they have an appreciation of beyond the show.”

We have the Clunatics fan club, and now the Bert Large Appreciation Society a.k.a. Bert Large Lovers. “The people who visit Port Isaac the whole year round are from all over the world. It has surprised me because it was never bargained for. I try not to think about it.” 

The fans regularly show their appreciation by showering the cast and crew with presents. 

“We are all given lots of presents from the fans. A very nice lady from Hungary left me some M&Ms, some cashew nuts from the Co-op, a big bag of jelly beans and a lovely painted egg.”  

“I have a Lego Doc Martin from Holland, complete with doctor’s syringe and dog. You know you’ve made it when you’ve been Lego’d. I was given a Buddha and a medicine bottle, and lots of paintings. I keep them all. It seems rude to throw them away.” 

After filming finished on this season, Martin and his producer wife Philippa Braithwaite went straight onto making the final arrangements for the Buckham Fair, the event they hold on land near their Dorset home every year to raise funds for local charities. 

 

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