Exclusive: Matthew Lewis talks “Bluestone 42” ahead of tonight’s premiere!
by Aimee · Published · Updated
This afternoon, MuggleNet spoke with actor Matthew Lewis, whose BBC drama Bluestone 42 premieres tonight for its third season. In our interview, Matt discusses the painstaking efforts taken by the writers to create an authentic environment for the Afghanistan-set show, as well as the positive critical reception the show has received. Lewis also addresses the humor on the show, both on- and off-camera, the origin of his character Corporal Gordon “Towerblock” House’s nickname, and what it is like to film in South Africa.
The third series of Bluestone 42 premiered tonight at 10 p.m. GMT on BBC3.
Listen now to our interview via our player below!
Transcribed by Tracy Dunstan, Chelsea Hastings, Allison Perrone, Katie Hynes, Jessica Kallmeyer, and Tracey Wong
ES: So hey, Matt. How are you?
ML: I’m good, thanks mate. How are you?
ES: Doing well, doing well. So we’re here with Matt Lewis, who is starring in Bluestone 42. I believe series 3 premieres tonight. Is that correct?
ML: It does indeed. It’s on tonight at 10 o’clock on BBC3, yes.
ES: Now, what is new this year versus previous years in Bluestone?
ML: Okay, well for those that watched the ending of series 2, we pretty much take off right where we left. The team are on their way out to go into operations to defuse some bombs in our mastiff, which is a transport vehicle. It runs over an IED and so we get caught up in an explosion. [unintelligible] It picks up right there and we find out exactly how the team have come out of that one, if they come out completely unscathed or whether there’s going to be trouble. I guess what’s new is that… it’s hard to describe what’s new without giving anything away.
ES: [laughs] Yeah, yeah.
ML: [laughs] We have got some new stuff. We’ve got some real surprises coming up this series. And again… I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a real roller coaster and there will be some really jaw-dropping moments that people are not going to be expecting. And I don’t just mean in this episode; I mean throughout the whole series.
ES: Yeah. No, I completely understand. I was reading an article from The Guardian from last spring, that it was a bomb disposal expert who said that the show, the dark humor, and everything was really spot on.
ES: I guess that’s a general consensus that the show has received from war vets and people who have been in those situations?
ML: Yeah, thankfully. When you’re making a show like this, [unintelligible] just making a drama, we want to make it as accurate as possible. But when you’re making a comedy, we have a real responsibility there that… we research it meticulously and make sure it’s as accurate as it can possibility be because ultimately there’s a very fine line between laughing at the wonderful job that these guys do and laughing with them, and we want to make sure that we’re laughing with them and all the jokes and all the humor is theirs. And we want to make sure that any squaddies that are at home watching it can totally relate and it will remind them of the fun times and all the camaraderie that they had. So yeah, we want to make sure that it’s a show for the soldiers – the men and women of the armed forces – as much as for the people sat at home watching. And really luckily… well, I say luckily but it’s all down to Richard and James, our writers, who work tirelessly to make sure it’s accurate. It’s been really well received and we’ve been fortunate enough to get invited along to a lot of armed forces events, whether it’s help the heroes charities or to meet injured soldiers and whatnot. And yeah, the reception has been really great, which for us has actually been absolutely fantastic. I’m really glad that the brave heroes of the armed forces are really enjoying it.
ES: Now, I hear about some really crazy antics for some of these characters. [laughs] Races with pubic lice and all sorts of other things that the characters experience. So, how would you describe the show to people who haven’t watched or might be watching for the first time? Clearly it’s also just very intense in general.
Well, okay. Yeah, so Bluestone 42 is the call sign for our detachment, and we are a bomb disposal detachment of the British army, and so the job of the team is to be on-call pretty much all the time. Whenever an IED gets discovered anywhere in our area, Afghanistan, we get called up to go and diffuse it. And we’re a pretty close-knit unit, so we all work together around the clock. And so it’s all about… as well as the operations and the actual going out and the drama of being under enemy fire, being behind the line and diffusing bombs, it’s also a chance to see the way that these guys let off steam and the fun that they have. And they actually really, really enjoy being soldiers. We get to see the pranks and the fun that comes along with that. So, it’s all about… it’s not just about fighting the war; it’s about what these guys get up to, their lives, because they’re out there for like six months on a tour. There’s a lot of downtime and it’s what they get up to. Yeah, and so the drama and the danger is very real and it’s very poignant, but at the same time it just means that all the humor is really heightened as well and there’s something for everyone. As I said earlier, it’s quite a roller coaster. The ups and downs continue thoughout. You just never really know where you are with the show because one minute they’re dodging bullets and the next thing they’re laughing and joking about it, and it’s pretty exciting.
ES: I gather that some of the characters in the unit have nicknames and yours, Corporal Gordon “Towerblock” House – is it known in the show how he received that name, Towerblock?
ML: Yeah. Towerblock got his name in the Christmas special because in the Christmas special the officer… there’s quite a dynamic, which I imagine probably occurs in the US military as well, but particularly in the British military, the officers who frequently complete school and sort of from the more well-educated backgrounds, and then you’ve got the squaddies who are more [unintelligible] and that’s my character. My character is just a regular squaddy who has come up through the ranks to Corporal, and he didn’t immediately get on with his posh, public schoolboy officer. But the officer is obviously in charge and tells him what to do. So, they’re a bit of loggerheads to begin with and the officer, Captain Nick Medhurst, makes the joke that his [name], Gordon House, sounds like a council towerblock.
ML: And that’s quite funny because he probably grew up in one as well. And so the nickname sticks and they all call him “Towerblock,” which he doesn’t enjoy to begin with but eventually he grows to like it.
ES: Now, I imagine there was probably extensive military training involved for you for taking the role. Did you go through any boot camp or anything like that?
ML: Well, not so much a boot camp, but we definitely had a lot of lectures, I guess you could say. We had a lot of advisors on set. We’ve got a former captain, Liam Fitzgerald-Finch, and a current captain, Ali Gray, who are two ATO veterans, Ammunition Technical Officers. They’re the guys who actually go and make that lonely walk down to the bomb and diffuse the bombs. And we have these two guys on set all the time telling us what to do, how to do it. And when I first got the job last year, Liam took me… had a PowerPoint presentation and basically just took me through everything to do with bomb disposal, which was absolutely fascinating and really interesting. And then of course, Ali and Liam have done multiple tours of Afghanistan and Iraq, and you can just sit down and ask them any questions, and they must get so bored of me just asking questions about their tours and all the things they did. But again, it’s a responsibility that we have on this show to really get it right. We don’t want people picking the show apart, going, “That’s not right. That’s not how that happens.” We want to make sure it’s spot on and the only way to do that is to ask as many questions of these guys as possible. We really couldn’t make the show without Liam and Ali.
ES: Now, the show films in South Africa a bit?
ES: Now, how is that? What is that like?
ML: It’s amazing. We’re in Stellenbosch, which is a lovely wine region about forty minutes out of Cape Town, and it’s just rolling hills and mountains and vineyards and all you do when you’re not working is eat red meat and drink red wine. And so… it’s tough, but someone’s got to do it [laughs] and I will take one for the team and go down there and do that. Yeah, I didn’t want to come home, I’ll be honest with you. I was out there for two months and I did not want to come home. I mean apart from the fact that you’re just working with an incredible bunch of people, cast and crew, the environment couldn’t be any better either.
ES: There’s lots of jokes and antics on camera. How about off camera? Are there pranks on set? Are there jokes that you play on each other?
ML: Yeah, bits and bobs happen, and it’s tough because we’ve got a pretty tight schedule and with the firefights and the explosions and all the stuff that we’ve got to get through, there’s really not a whole lot of time for dawdling around and messing around. But obviously, being a comedy, the directors and the producers are quite keen to let us have a little bit of leeway and a little bit of fun. And yeah, I mean there’s a few bits and bobs that we get up to. I mean really, with Africa, where we are, it’s more to do with just all the amazing things that are around us. Every weekend we’re doing something, whether we’re climbing Table Mountain or going out to do some swimming with great white sharks. There’s just always some amazing experiences to be had and with the bunch of people that we’re out there with where everyone is keen to do stuff together. And obviously, there’s a lot of wine being thrown into the mix as well. [laughs]
ES: [laughs] Right, that’s always a good thing. So now also you’ve recently moved to London, is that correct? You relocated from Leeds?
ML: I did indeed. Just over a month ago, yeah.
ES: How is that? How are you liking living in London now?
ML: It’s been great. And again, it’s part and parcel of the people that I’ve met on the show, really. I mean, my life has always been based up in Leeds and I’ve been very happy with that, but being out in Africa with this particular gang has just been so much fun. I’ve really just found so many kindred spirits with Scott Hoatson, who plays Rocket, and Laura Aikman, who joins this series – she’s new this year; she comes in in episode two. We just clicked and hit it off, and we just got a really tight close-knit gang. It was getting a bit tedious coming down on the train all the time to hang around with these guys; I thought, “You know what? Sod it, I’m just going to move,” and so I moved in to the same sort of area. I live just down the road from Scott and Jamie who play Mac and Rocket, the two Scotties.
ES: Oh, nice.
ML: [laughs] It’s pretty fun, man. It’s nice. We get to see each other quite a bit.
ES: Yeah, fun neighborhood.
ES: Are you listening to… are you keeping up with current music at all? Are there any music you’re currently listening to?
ML: Wow, geez, I couldn’t really tell you any. I’m not really a pop person.
ES: Yeah, me neither.
ML: I’m more of a… I’ve been listening to Noel Gallagher [unintelligible] some new stuff, which is exciting. I’m a big Oasis and Noel Gallagher fan. Actually, I tell a lie. I’m going to sound like such an old man now because I literally… [laughs] my music taste is very much rock and roll, ’60s, and stuff like that. But Scott came around my house the other day and put on a song… and I know the name of it. Oh, I remember. It’s “Uptown Funk.”
ES: Oh yeah, I love that song.
ML: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. Is that right?
ES: I think so, yeah. It’s got an old townie sound to it. Old timey…
ML: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Such a granddad, but yeah, that’s…
ML: I liked that tune. That was a good one. I liked it.
ES: That’s a good one. How is your… clearly, there’s so much that has happened since being part of Harry Potter. We have a segment that we sometimes play with talent that we get to interview through MuggleNet – it’s called Two Truths and a Lie. And I don’t know if you’d be interested in playing, but we have three facts about the character Neville, and I’m wondering – if you can remember – if you’d be able to pick out which one of them is not true.
ML: Okay. [laughs]
ES: Okay, here we go. Here [are] two truths and a lie. Statement one: Neville received his toad Trevor from his Great Uncle Algie upon gaining acceptance to Hogwarts. So, that’s statement one. I’ll read the other two.
ES: Second statement: The original last name for Neville was “Pupp,” which is P-U-P-P. Okay? And the third statement: Neville’s second wand is birch wood with unicorn hair that he received after breaking his dad’s wand during the Department of Mysteries battle.
ML: Okay, I think the last one is true.
ML: And I think the second one is the lie.
ES: It’s actually the third one, but we tricked you.
ML: [laughs] Oh no!
ES: It was a little… it’s very specific. His wand – his second wand – is made of cherry. But that’s the kind of dedication and attention to detail you’ll find at MuggleNet. [laughs]
ML: Oh, dreadful. [laughs]
ES: I wouldn’t have… I don’t envy you. Let me tell you, I wouldn’t have gotten it right, either.
ML: Aww, sorry guys.
ES: Yeah, pretty fascinating that… a surname Pupp rather than Longbottom.
ES: Which has that sort of famous Lord-of-the-Rings-esque…
ML: Was that mentioned by Jo Rowling in an interview at some point?
ES: It must have been on Pottermore. I could certainly get the source and get back to you on it. But…
ML: That’s interesting.
ES: It must have been on one of the recently revealed chapters of Pottermore. She’s been giving some really interesting backstory on some of the characters there. But honestly, I’d say you did fine. [laughs] You knew the first one was right…
ES: … and that’s what I knew, too. I wanted to ask you, there’s this project you’ve been attached to for some time, The Brontes. Do you have any knowledge as to how that’s going or if that will begin filming soon or production?
ML: I really don’t. It was a thing that I sort of… I read the script a while ago and was intrigued by it and was keen. But I’m not really sure what’s going on with the project in a while. I’m kind of busy this year. At the minute, I’ve got a couple of things that are coming up, which I’m really excited about. I’ve got another film coming up this year. So, I don’t really know if I’m going to have any time at the minute, to be honest, but it’s sort of gone away at the minute. I’m not really too sure about it.
ES: Okay. I believe that is…
ES: Yeah, sorry to hear that. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. It seems like a good story. Especially being a period piece as well.
ML: Yeah, you probably know as much as me, to be honest. It’s really gone away. But as I say, there’s some really good stuff coming up. I can guarantee that. Unfortunately, [laughs] I just spoke to my agent about it and there’s nothing that can be said at the moment. But [there’s] some stuff coming.
ES: All right, well I look forward to seeing it and I look forward to catching Bluestone. I believe that may be all the time we have right now, so it was really great speaking with you.
ML: Thank you very much. Cheers, guys.