TORCHWOOD WEEK: Kai Owen interviewed

The second series of Who spin-off Torchwood is nearly upon us! It starts airing on BBC Two on Wednesday 16 January. The same day, issue 166 of SFX goes on sale, which includes a seven-page Torchwood feature, complete with exclusive on-set photos.

To tide you over until then, we’ll be putting up a different Torchwood interview every day this week. On Tuesday, it’s the turn of Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto); on Wednesday, head writer Chris Chibnall; on Thursday, producer Richard Stokes; on Friday, Eve Myles (Gwen). Oh, and if you missed our report on the screening of the first episode, you can catch it here . First up, here’s our chat with the actor who plays Gwen’s long-suffering boyfriend.

We gather that Rhys is a bigger part of this series.
“Yeah, Rhys has really become heavily involved in it –I’ve become busier, and he’s got more to do. He’s got featured episodes and gets quite a bit of the stuff that’s going on.”

How is that happening, exactly?
“Rhys just gets a little bit curious and he sees something that sparks his inquisitive side, and he just might do a bit of detective work... but the consequences are not what he expected. He didn’t expect to find out what he actually does find out.”

How many episodes are you in of the 13?
“I think I’m in about nine, ten? Unfortunately I’m not gonna appear in anything that Martha Jones is in. So I’ve got a few off there.”

I was going to ask what’s it like working with John Barrowman... although I guess you don’t get any scenes with him really.
“Well, the great thing about this year, now it’s cranked up a notch, is that I get to work with everybody this year - a bit of everything. He’s fantastic to work with and yeah, you don’t know where he’s gonna go! He’s a joy to have on set, he’s a fantastic leading man. He keeps the energy sky-high and he’s a bad boy!”

Gwen doesn’t always treat Rhys very well. What’s your thinking as to why he sticks with her?
“Rhys absolutely worships the ground he walks on and he’ll do anything for her. I think Gwen doesn’t want to lie, doesn’t want to keep a secret from Rhys, cos she loves him as well. I think she does it purely to protect him - she doesn’t want him to worry, doesn’t want him to panic. I think she hates lying to him and hates hiding things from him, but she has to do it.”

Does the relationship between Gwen and Rhys develop this year?
“It does, because there’s certain circumstances... things develop where he becomes her rock, even more so. The love is still there, the massive love. And also, on a domestic side, they’re getting married and Rhys wants to settle down to have a normal life - or as normal as he possibly can with what Gwen does. But he also becomes a shoulder for Gwen to cry on a lot more.”

Do you have a perception of how the series has changed since last year?
“I think it’s got better. There’s a lot more humour in it. When I’m sitting in on readthroughs or even viewing it for the first time you can see it - cos I don’t really have much to do with the team. So I see mine and Eve’s scenes, and that’s come on and their relationship’s developed more into more of a domestic couple. Then when I see or read the Torchwood team stuff, there’s a lot more humour in it. There’s a lot more banter, and the scripts just seem so much better. Even though they were brilliant last year - I loved them last year – everything’s just gone up a gear, I think. Everybody’s upped their game on all levels, and it comes across.
“From my point of view I think it’s just being more secure with the character. I had a funny feeling that it was gonna be a success last year, and it was, so you come back with a bit more confidence I suppose, don’t you – “it was good last year, let’s try and make it a bit better”. It’s nice to know that you’re going in the right direction. And also I think Torchwood knows what it is now. It’s got an identity, and there’s a bit more danger to it that seems to come across more.”

What’s the most unusual acting situation you’ve been in this year?
“There’s a part where I have to stare at a massive eye. There’s a few of us who have to do it, and it was all done in greenscreen. [Director] Colin Teague was explaining to us that this eye is enormous, and Rhys has to go and look at this thing which is closed, and it opens as Rhys gets near and he has the old, ‘Aaargh!’. And there was nothing there at all! Great experience to do, but very strange!”

How much are you able to change things and improvise?
“There are always suggestions. Eve always brings quite a lot to the table, she’s always got plenty of suggestions, and myself and Eve always have lots of ideas before the scene starts. Because it can get a little bit monotonous, Gwen and Rhys havinn arguments. So there are scenes where it possibly could have been an argument that we’ve turned into quite playful, lighthearted arguments - that sort of suggestion. And there is sometimes maybe one too many “I love you”s or “God, I wish I weren’t doing this job”, all that sort of stuff! You don’t need it. They [the audience] know. They know what he thinks, they know what she thinks.”

One last question: in season one we saw you getting out of bed and slapping your bare backside to the tune of “Shave and a haircut”
– are we gonna see your bum again?

“We haven’t seen it yet! I’m willing to! There are a couple of slaps on the behind but I don’t think it’s bare flesh, I think it’s just a good old-fashioned pair of boxer shorts. But there’s still six weeks filming to go, and I think there’s every opportunity...”

Did your mum and dad see that scene?
“Oh yeah, they loved it! I’m just having my showreel done now and the slap on the backside is on the end of the showreel. I said, ‘I’ve gotta have that in!’”

Interviewer: Ian Berriman
Photography: Rob Scott