ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to chat with Good Omens alum Daniel Mays to discuss his role in the well-received British biographical music drama Fisherman’s Friends, seeing him in a unique role in comparison to the “hard-hitting” characters he’s used to taking on. Click here to rent or purchase the well-received film centered on the Cornish singing group!
Mays, who has been around the industry for 25 years, found it to be an interesting opportunity to make a “departure” from portraying the more “intense characters” that have come his way throughout his career and to instead play the love interest in a semi-rom-com story, calling it a “really interesting experiment to take on.”
“They showed me the script and it was based on a true story, I had no knowledge of The Fisherman’s Friends as a singing group,” Mays noted. “I didn’t know who they were. So they sent me their album and the music along with the script. I just thought, ‘You know what? If this is done well and right and it’s cast intelligently, then I think we should be onto our winner.’ It kind of ticks the box with all of those sort of crowd pleasing, heart-warming movies that the UK did so well. One thinks of The Full Monty and you know, all those type of movies that are all about the underdog, you know, and surpassing all expectation. Well, I think Fisherman’s Friends, it really does that. You can’t help but have a smile on your face when you finish the movie, also it moves you to tears as well. They say, I think we’ve really drained loads of different elements and levels to the film. And I think that’s a testament to the ensemble cast and all their performances and the superb direction of Chris Foggin, also.”
In bringing his fish out of water character to life, the 42-year-old star expressed his biggest creative challenge was to “always make him likable,” noting how when audiences are first introduced to music exec Danny he is “kind of described as a tosser.”
“He’s got his eyes on the prize and all the gadgets and gold discs on his wall, and you know, he’s living a very narcissistic, shallow existence and he’s just looking for the dollar,” Mays described. “But I think the key to him was that underneath all of that, he does kind of have a heart of gold. And I think when he’s pranked by his boss played by Noel Clarke, I think he instinctively finds something in the story of “The Fisherman’s Friends” and that sense of community. And he of course, he falls in love with the girl in the village. I think all of those factors contribute to him kind of coming to a crossroads in his life. And you know, he reevaluates what’s meaningful and important to him. And it’s about companionship and love and all of those, you know, universal things that we all kind of need to exist. So I think it’s sort of a very—I mean, it’s a deceptive film in many respects. You know what I mean? I think it surpasses all your expectations of what you think the film would be.”
Though from the UK, Mays originally grew up in lived in the southeast area of the country in comparison to the story’s southwest setting of Cornwall and when it came to shooting on location he recalled it to be “such an idyllic place” and even recognizing it from the iconic British medical dramedy Doc Martin.
“There were a lot of American tourists walking about the place, because that show is so popular in the States,” Mays pointed out. “But I mean, the thing that you have to get your head around when you arrive is just how small a community it is. You know, and that was the beautiful thing about it, is that the community as a whole who live down there really welcomed us with open arms. And you know, we were actually shooting in the Golden Lion pub itself, and just to be able to sort of shoot in the actual location where this story took place lends itself to the story and gives it an air of authenticity and realness, which I think really comes through as well.”
When it came to building the rapport with the rest of the ensemble cast, Mays described the process as a really “natural thing,” even with his having to quickly familiarize himself with the cast and material after just having wrapped work on another project.
“I remember finishing that job and being whisked away in the car and having two days to acclimatize down there,” Mays recalled. “Then, literally, there’s a sequence when I’m on the end of a seawall on the mobile phone, which is the only place you can get a signal to make a call back to London. So that was literally my first scene that I shot for Fisherman’s Friends and they chained me up to this sea wall, and it was very windy. All of a sudden, they get blown off into the sea. But it was just literally hilarious. And I didn’t really have time to think about it, but I was sort of thrown in the deep end with it. But when you’re surrounded by actors as good as that, the camaraderie and all of those things felt incredibly natural.”
After receiving strong reviews from UK audiences for over a year, the film has finally made its way to American audiences through digital platforms and VOD and May finds it “really exciting” and is “quite confident that the audiences in America are going to really love this film.”
“I think you’d have to have a heart of stone to not fall in love with the locations, the cinematography, the story of the Fisherman’s Friends themselves,” Mays expressed. “Like I mentioned earlier, what another huge bonus of this movie is the musical element. The sea shanties are utterly infectious. I mean, I didn’t have to learn any of the lines for the sea shanties, but we would invariably finish a day filming and then we’d be in the pub singing the sea shanties along with all of the community. And I knew all of the words to all of the songs afterwards. I even sang on the seaside with the real Fishermen’s Friends at the wrap party. And every month, they sing down there and they get over 1,000 people in the audience. And it’s a really idyllic, beautiful setting. And they called us up onto the stage and we sang about three or four sea shanties with them. So it was one of the most memorable wrap parties, and just we had the best time on it.”
A fast-living, cynical London music executive (Daniel Mays) heads to a remote Cornish village on a stag weekend where he’s pranked by his boss (Noel Clarke) into trying to sign a group of shanty singing fishermen (led by James Purefoy). He becomes the ultimate “fish out of water” as he struggles to gain the respect or enthusiasm of the unlikely boy band and their families (including Tuppence Middleton) who value friendship and community over fame and fortune. As he’s drawn deeper into the traditional way of life he’s forced to reevaluate his own integrity and ultimately question what success really means.
The movie stars Daniel Mays (1917), Purefoy, David Hayman (Blinded by the Light), Dave Johns (Blithe Spirit), Sam Swainsbury (Fearless), Tuppence Middleton (Sense8), Maggie Steed (Paddington 2), Vahid Gold, Christian Brassington (Poldark) and Noel Clarke (Bulletproof).
Fisherman’s Friends was directed by Chris Foggin (Kids in Love) from a script by Meg Leonard (Finding Your Feet, Blithe Spirit) and Nick Moorcroft (Blithe Spirit).