Matt Smith: ‘I’d never set foot in a boat before’

Matt Smith talks about taking to the water as rower Bert Bushnell in BBC One’s new drama Bert & Dickie (BBC1, Wednesday, July 25)…

What was it like training with the world-famous Leander Rowing Club?

“It was pretty daunting. I’d never set foot in a boat before. It was hard work. We’d get up about sevenish and train as they were doing. Everyone at the Leander Club welcomed us and helped us greatly and we couldn’t of done it without them.”

How did you get on with the specially designed, two-man skull rowing boats?

“The boats that we were rowing in were similar to the ones that Bert and Dickie rowed in so were much harder, even the Olympians were saying that. They were not easy. It’s to do with how they are weighted and balanced, and the types of oars, which were very thin, we had three or four duckings.”

How does Bert’s dad, in Bert and Dickie compare to your own?

“I am very fortunate, he’s a wonderful man who allowed me a sense of freedom that perhaps Bert’s dad didn’t. For four or five years of my life he would drive me around every day. In my last year he drove me to Leicester every single day. And for three or four years before that he drove me up to Nottingham three times week, which is an hour and 20 minutes from Northampton. And he was doing that while doing a job, a good job. He sacrificed a lot. We got very close because we spent so much time in the car together and I look back on it with great fondness actually.”

How much of an influence did your father have on you when you were younger?

“I can’t underestimate the influence he’s had on me as a person, he believes that if your going to do something then do it properly. My dad always used to say ‘you’ve just got to work harder than the bloke next to you’. And he’s right. If you think to yourself ‘if I work harder than everyone else in the room, then I’ve got the best start.’”

Did you feel the need to impress your own father?

“There is a history of footballers in my family, my grandad played for Notts County and my dad played at county level. But there were no expectations because my dad’s a wonderful man and he would never put the pressure on me.”

Bert and Dickie is also the story of how the resilience and spirit of the World War II generation made a success of the 1948 Games…

“The fact that it went on at all was a bit of a miracle. There was such camaraderie and determination to do the country proud. I hope we’ll see some more of that same spirit thissSummer when the Games begin here.”

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