Rob James-Collier on joining Ackley Bridge: ‘Martin doesn’t care about rules’

As Ackley Bridge's new staffers, Rob James-Collier and Charlie Hardwick talk about the joys of going back to school…

As Ackley Bridge opens its doors for a new term, eagle-eyed viewers will notice some new faces among the teaching staff. Downton Abbey actor Rob James-Collier plays new deputy headteacher Martin Evershed. He’s joined by Charlie Hardwick – best known as Emmerdale’s Val Pollard – as ‘director of behaviour’ Sue Carp.

After original school sponsor Sadiq Nawaz lost all his money last series, against her better judgement, head teacher Mandy Carter (Jo Joyner) has had to sign the school over to The Valley Trust to save it. And Martin and Sue have been brought in to whip the pupils into shape. But are they really the ones to help take Ackley Bridge forward?

TV Times is on set in Halifax to meet Rob, 42, and Charlie, 58, to find out more about the new Ackley Bridge recruits…

Rob, tell us about your character Martin Evershed…

Rob: “Martin’s incredibly passionate about teaching English but he’s not necessarily passionate about the bureaucracy, admin and politics that comes with it. Martin doesn’t care about rules and procedures; he’ll do unorthodox things like play classical music full blast with the blinds down and lights off to get the kids dancing. I wouldn’t say he’s a maverick in that he’s trying to undermine the system or anything, he just wants to do things his way because he knows that’s the best way to reach the kids.”

More: First look of Mackenzie Crook as Worzel Gummidge

And, Charlie, what’s Sue Carp like?

Charlie: “Sue’s horrible! She’s beleaguered, disillusioned, feels she’s worthless and won’t be able to retire until she’s 67. She doesn’t do anything that requires much energy. Sue’s also a casual racist. She’ll say something awful and then add: ‘No offence’. If viewers don’t like Sue and are quite horrified at her attitude, that’s fine by me!”

Ackley Bridge Martin Evershed and Sue Carp

Rob James-Collier as deputy head Martin Evershed alongside Charlie Hardwick as director of behaviour Sue Carp in the new series of Ackley Bridge, which starts on C4 on Tuesday 18th June

What does Mandy make of them both?

Rob: “Well, Mandy’s been promised these two teachers, who are really good apparently. But then she finds one, Sue, falling asleep at school and the other, Martin, locking parents in classrooms! So she’s wondering: ‘What have the Trust landed me with here?’ She feels she’s been lied to and has been sent the worst of the worst! But, over time, when it comes to Martin at least, Mandy sees his methods are different and realises it’s coming from the right place.”

Ackley Bridge Martin Mandy

Mandy (Jo Joyner) is not sure what to make of Martin when he first arrives…

Are you enjoying working with the young actors on this show?

Rob: “None of these kids knew who I was and I love that. These young adults don’t care who you are, what you’ve done or whether you’ve been to LA or not. All they care about is whether you’re a good lad. I was ‘certified’ Level 5 on day one by young Zain Khan, who plays Zain Younis in the show, which means I’m a top bloke!

“I do like acting with these young adults. They’re great at bringing the energy we lose when we’re older. It’s good to be reminded of what we once had and possibly once were.”
Charlie: “I love it. I like being around kids and, unlike Sue, I think they’re fun. So I have fun at work – but then put my drained face on to film a scene! It enlivens you when you’re around young people. I did teen drama Byker Grove years ago. I played youth leader Sian but I started off playing the mother of Duncan – better known as Declan Donnelly. Did Ant and Dec give me any cheek? Nah! They were as good as gold. Especially Dec, he’s a little goody two shoes!”

Ackley Bridge starts on Tuesday June 18 at 8pm on Channel 4.