Mike Wozniak talks about his role in the Greg Davies written comedy Man Down.The new sitcom, which made its series debut last night, introduces Dan (played by Greg Davies), a childish idiot trapped in an adult’s life. Crushing character flaws, an unwanted teaching job, uniquely dysfunctional friends and a willfully insane Dad conspire to keep this Man Down
Dan’s world is at near collapse, his girlfriend Naomi (Deidre Mullins) is fast running out of patience with his inability to navigate the simplest of life tasks, while his best friends are Jo (Rosin Conaty) who has, what can only be described as, the loosest of grasp on reality and Brian (Mike Wozniak), a straight-laced financial adviser who is regularly dumbfounded by the complete idiocy of his two friends.
You play Brian in Man Down. What’s he like?
Brian is a complicated beast. On the surface he’s has this suburban provincial life, he’s very much a ‘lego man’ type. He’s a financial advisor with a wife who he fears and too many children and is stressed, tired and dressed by Marks and Spencers – type. He desperately wants control. He wants there to be order and peace in the world but he’s never going to be able to achieve that and particularly he’s never going to be able to achieve that because he has small children and because outside of his life at home where he has small children his mates are also effectively small children.
He has Dan and Jo who are incredibly chaotic creatures and they’re all friends from way, way back. They sort of look at him at times as a sort of surrogate parent as well so even in his down time when he should be relaxing and having a nice time as far as he’s concerned he’s trying to sort out people’s crap. He’s always on the cusp of a breakdown, its bubbling under the surface at all times. He’s an inch away from total collapse or a total act of madness and in every episode he’s fighting against that – he’s fighting against what his friends are doing to themselves and to him in the hope that he doesn’t crumble and fall to pieces. Occasionally he does fall to pieces.
How much of you is in Brian?
Hmm tricky, that’s a tricky one to ask. I would like to hope and think and pray that not very much because I think actually being Brian would be quite hard in life. I don’t think I’m quite the control freak that Brian is. There are elements of it. I think everyone has elements of Brian in them. That’s why I think I like Brian or why people will like Brian hopefully because everyone’s got a little bit of Brian in them even a tiny amount and everyone knows a person who is a Brian as well.
It’s that thing of seeking control and peace but not being able to attain it. I’ve got a bit of that but I don’t think I’m as caught up in it or as tightly wound up as Brian. Well I hope I’m not anyway and also if I do lose it I don’t think I’d go to the extremes that Brian is capable of at least I’ve not yet in my life, we’ll see.
Is it more difficult, having to play a character who’s less extreme than the others?
No it’s lovely. There’s times when he’s effectively a kind of straight man because they’re more chaotic but it’s fun. In the same way that people enjoy playing villains it’s quite fun playing the straight man who wants to exert control on total chaos. It’s a lovely thing to play.
Did you enjoy the experience of filming? Is Greg fun to work with?
I loved it! It’s been lovely. This is my big first job of this nature – screen wise I’ve done lots of pilots and tasters that haven’t really gone anywhere so it’s exciting for me to be involved with a project that’s happening and has gone to series in the first place. But I’m also thrilled that my first series of something is this as well because I think it’s really good and really funny so it’s a dream job really. It’s been a complete dream gig, it’s lovely.
Do you think laughter is the best medicine?
Well yes I think laughter is joyous, laughter is crucial. I think that’s why I love comedy and that’s why I’m in comedy in the first place. There isn’t much I like doing more than completely pissing myself with laughter. There aren’t many more happier moments in life than when you’re laughing so trying to make people laugh yourself…To do a job where you’re trying to make people laugh and you’re laughing all day is ideal
Was it quite hard to keep serious on set then?
Yes there was times when it’s completely nightmare-ish especially as Greg kept re-writing things and doing extra little bits and adding little bits here and there. He would discovers new thing in the performance so he would often do something you hadn’t expected at all or rehearsed and you’ve got to keep a straight face because you’re the straight guy and you’re not supposed to burst out laughing in the middle of a scene when there’s 35 crew around you who want to go home and see their families and you’re messing up a shot because you’re laughing. That is a challenge. That was the only challenge because otherwise it was lovely.
You have a particularly luxuriant moustache. When did that arrive?
Thank you. Yes the moustache appeared for the first time about 10 years ago and it was grown as a joke of course but I discovered I quite liked it. I preferred it and my wife prefers it. I got married in it and she won’t come near me when I’m clean shaven. It’s there more of the time. I’ll occasionally shave it off for an audition but I rarely get cast in anything without it, people don’t buy it.
So it’s a perennial moustache but I think I think it’s going to have to come off as I think it’s going to be heavily identified with Brian so it might have to come off for a bit if I do something else. It is what it is. We had a lot of children on set in Man Down and they kept asking me if it was real. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that
Are you more at home doing stand-up or acting? Are the two similar?
I prefer comedy acting definitely. I love stand up but I think I’m just at home a bit more with comedy acting which is possibly why I love it more. Stand up is more extreme because when it goes well there’s no feeling quite like it in the world it’s complete exhilarating and incredible but when it goes wrong – Jesus Christ does it go wrong.
Whereas with comedy acting you can get near to those highs but you’re never going to quite hit those depths so I prefer it. It’s safer. Also I think the main reason I like comedy acting more than stand up is because I’m a collaborator really I think I work better when I’m collaborating with people and I prefer it working with other people
Man Down airs on Friday Nights at 9.30pm on Channel 4.