Interview with Jason Isaacs, Dyan Cannon, Jennifer Grant and Jeff Pope of “Archie” on Britbox by Jamie 12/5/23
From executive producer Jeff Pope, “Archie,” now on Britbox, brings the little-known story of actor Cary Grant’s rise to stardom, starting with his formative years as the troubled Archie Leach, who overcame his struggles to reinvent himself, to become the superstar the public knew.
Pope, along with Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, and Dyan Cannon, his ex-wife, as well as Jason Isaacs, the actor who stars in the title role, spoke with Jamie Ruby for TVMEG.COM earlier in the week.
The idea to do the series first came to Pope after reading Jennifer Grant’s book, Good Stuff, about her father. “I became fascinated with the kind of wit and humor of the man, as Jennifer relayed,” said Pope. The producer hadn’t realized that Cary had retired, and wanted to know why. “[W]hen he became a father, he gave it all up to become a stay at home dad, and I thought, that was my starting point…when you dig back into his past, you realize, because of his traumatic childhood, he was so determined that he was going to be the best father he could, and not be an absent father, which a continuing movie career would have meant.”
It was ten years ago when he first came to Cannon and told her he wanted to make the movie. “We talked it right into being and now it’s a four hour miniseries, which gives the audience a full bodied look at him,” said Cannon, who wrote memoirs from which the series was also partly based, adding that she was involved in both the casting and the biggest decision making and that she is is thrilled with the way it’s turned out, including the performances.
Jennifer Grant spoke to Isaacs’ performance in particular. “I was very grateful…that we found Jason,” she told the site. “He really had dad’s voice and dad’s mannerisms, and dad’s tenderness, especially, so it was a bizarre process watching my mom and dad.”
Series’ star Isaacs spoke about that transformation during the interview, praising the creative team for the physical part of it. “Mostly it was other people doing the work,” he said. “It was extraordinary costumes that were tailor made by the best tailors in the world and that compensated for my various punches and twists. Liz Headley, our incredible makeup artist gave me a chin and eyes and hair and, obviously, prosthetics when he gets heavy and he’s older. So, a lot of it was done for me.”
It was Grant’s voice that was the most difficult for Isaacs. “I didn’t want to do the voice he does in the movies, because I knew that nobody talks like that in real life,” he said. “I don’t mean the accent. I mean, his speech patterns were so similar, so repeated, that there was no way he was like that when he was being spontaneous. I found only one elicit recording of an interview he gave once, because he didn’t do interviews, and didn’t really want…the world to see who Cary Grant really was. Cary Grant was Archie Leach, and behind closed doors, when he stepped off screen, he was someone entirely different.”
Isaacs learned a lot about Grant during the process. “I don’t think anybody, unless they’ve read the biographies and read Dyan’s book, knew that this man who was famous for one or two things, being suave and debonair, was the very opposite, who seemed the very epitome of certainty and masculinity and solidity, was so fragile and so fractious and so angry at the world and himself,” said the actor.
Watch the miniseries to find out more about Cary Grant yourself, now on Britbox, and be sure to watch the full interviews with the cast and crew below!
Coming to BritBox in North America December 7, 2023, Archie outlines the life of the infamous Cary Grant. Born in Bristol, England in 1904, to parents Elsie and Elias, Archie narrates the story of a young Archibald Alexander Leach’s troubled childhood and how extreme poverty, his father’s adultery and the loss of his older brother, John, tore the family apart and sent his loving mother into a downward spiral of grief and depression. Jeff Pope’s scripts reveal how deceit, cruelty and one, overpowering lie shaped Archie’s life. At 14 he auditioned for the music hall act, the Bob Pender Troupe, a band of acrobats, stilt walkers, clowns and comedians after seeing them perform at the Bristol Hippodrome. Lean and athletic, he learned the art of stilt walking, and when the troupe went on tour to the US, teenage Archie was intoxicated by the land of opportunity. Believing he had no family to return to in the UK, he decided to stay in the US to try to make his way in showbusiness.
With no thoughts of acting, a chance meeting with the comedian George Burns helped him find his first footing on the acting ladder and a contract with a movie studio who felt he needed to change his name, and Cary Grant was born. The drama intercuts with scenes from 1961 when at the height of his fame, living in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, the legendary actor was breaking all box office records, but desperately unhappy in his private life. With two failed marriages behind him, he began to woo an actress he’d seen on a TV show, Dyan Cannon. Thirty-three years his junior, Dyan, didn’t initially fall for his charms turning down his attempts to meet, because she didn’t feel they could ever be a match. Dashingly handsome, suave and sophisticated, Cary continued to pursue her, with introductions to his famous friends, until they eventually wed in Las Vegas in 1965.
The series also stars Laura Aikman (Not Going Out, Gavin and Stacey) as Cary’s formidable ex-wife, actress and filmmaker Dyan Cannon, with Harriet Walter (Succession, Ted Lasso, Killing Eve) as Elsie Leach, Cary’s mother.
Dainton Anderson (Patrick Melrose), Calam Lynch (Bridgerton) and Oaklee Pendergast (Home) play young versions of Archie Leach, and Kara Tointon (Mr Selfridge, The Halcyon, Sound of Music Live) plays young Elsie.
Archie is a 4 x 60 mins drama commissioned by ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill for ITVX. Rebecca Hodgson (Sherwood, The Irregulars, Deep Water, The Road to Coronation Street) is the producer and Paul Andrew Williams (A Confession, London to Brighton, Song for Marion) directs. With the blessing of Cary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer Grant, and ex-wife Dyan Cannon, the pair serve as Executive Producers. Jeff Pope executive produces the series for Etta Pictures with Diederick Santer for BritBox International. The series is coming to BritBox in December 2023.
Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool. He studied law at Bristol University but fell in love with the theatre and directed, produced and appeared in dozens of productions there, at the National Student Theatre Festival and at the Edinburgh Festival. He graduated in 1985 but then attended the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and began working in 1988.
Jason’s notable roles include Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, Mr. Darling/Captain Hook in Peter Pan (2003), and many soldiers: Col. William Tavington in Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot (2000), Captain Steele in Ridley Scott’s Blackhawk Down, Major Briggs in Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone, Captain Waggoner in Fury, Captain Lorca in Star Trek: Discovery, Field Marshall Zhukov in Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin and Rear-Admiral Godfrey in John Madden’s Operation Mincemeat. He was Hap in the cult series The OA, Maurice in the WW2 film Good (2008) and Jay in the multi-award winning MASS. He has made many TV series in Britain and the US and has won or been nominated for a Golden Globe, International Emmy, BAFTA, Critics Choice, Peabody, Satellite and many other awards.
On stage he was Louis Ironson in the original productions of Angels in America parts 1 and 2 for the Royal National Theatre and has performed at the Royal Court, Almeida and West End Theatres.
Jason is married to documentary filmmaker Emma Hewitt, who he met at drama school and with whom he has two children.
Dyan Cannon is the first woman in the history of the Motion Picture Academy to be nominated for Oscars both in front of and behind the camera. Her diligence and determination have been rewarded by many prestigious honors.
She received her first Academy Award nomination for her memorable role as Alice in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), opposite Natalie Wood and directed by Paul Mazursky. For her performance, she garnered the coveted New York Film Critics Award.
Dyan received her second Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Live Action Short for writing and directing the 48-minute film, Number One (1976), which she also produced, edited and scored. The New York Times commended the film as one of the best movies ever made concerning children’s development.
She received her third Academy Award nomination for her comedic role as Julia Farnsworth, opposite Warren Beatty, in Heaven Can Wait (1978), for which she won the Golden Globe Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Later that year, she starred in another comedy hit, Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), opposite Peter Sellers and directed by Blake Edwards, and was named Female Star of the Year by NATO (National Association of Theater Owners).
As the singular force behind the motion picture The End of Innocence (1990), Dyan undertook a triumvirate of tasks as writer, director and star. Dyan’s work received amazing reviews from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.
Dyan has co-starred on two outstanding prime-time television shows. For several years, she brought her own brand of humor, class and sexiness to the role of Whipper Cone on the Emmy Award winning series Ally McBeal (1997). She then starred as the vivacious and free-spirited Honey Bernstein-Flynn on NBC’s comedy series Three Sisters (2001).
Her filmography is vast and includes TNT’s remake of the Warner Bros.’ Classic Christmas in Connecticut (1992), directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger; Author! Author! (1982) opposite Al Pacino; The Last of Sheila (1973), directed by Herbert Ross; two films directed by Sidney Lumet; Deathtrap (1982), co-starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, and The Anderson Tapes (1971), starring Sean Connery; and Honeysuckle Rose (1980), in which she played Willie Nelson‘s wife and made her debut as a country music singer; Such Good Friends (1971), directed by Otto Preminger…and numerous other films. She has starred on Broadway and in her own musical stage act at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe. Dyan co-wrote the title song for Chaka Khan‘s album, The Woman I Am, with Brenda Russell.
Dyan wanted to take time off from her acting career to write. During the next nine years, she not only collaborated on a Broadway musical, but wrote her memoir, “Dear Cary,” which was on the New York Times best seller list three different times spanning four years. It is now being made into a miniseries.
Dyan is recognized as an exceptional motivational speaker for prominent associations and corporations. Children are her passion and most of her work centers around the care and welfare of kids. She is the national spokesperson for the Hemangioma Treatment Foundation, an organization that provides treatment to children all over the world who are afflicted with vascular birthmarks. She is the international executive spokesperson for Operation Lookout, an organization dedicated to recovering missing and exploited children who have been kidnapped from their homes, schools, etc. She has also been national spokesperson for Martin Colette’s Wildlife Waystation, an international refuge that rescues and rehabilitates wild and exotic animals, as well as national spokesperson for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America
In addition, she devotes time and energy to several other charitable organizations such as California’s Special Olympics for physically and mentally challenged athletes and also works with recovering addicts weekly.
Dyan is a permanent court-side fixture at the Los Angeles Lakers basketball games.
Jennifer Grant is the daughter of actors Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon. Her father initially opposed her becoming an actress. She graduated from Stanford with a degree in history and political science in 1987. Initially, she went to work in a law firm and later tried a stint as a chef. But, finally, she decided to move into acting in 1993, landing her first role on Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990).
Jeff Pope is a British television producer and screenwriter who co-wrote the film Pierrepoint and the television drama The Fattest Man in Britain and who won a BAFTA in 2006 for the drama See No Evil: The Moors Murders. He is also the Head of ITV Productions Factual Drama. Pope wrote the screenplay for the 2018 film Stan & Ollie, and co-wrote the 2022 film The Lost King.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda