The real Mr Bates was ‘cautious’ about being depicted in the drama (Picture: Rex)
Fresh outrage has been ignited across the country following the release of the four-part series, which shone a light on the hundreds of people who were wrongly convicted of crimes as a result of the Post Office scandal.
Despite the actual cause of the controversy being a faulty IT system, innocent postmasters were accused of criminal acts, including theft and fraud, with many even being sent to prison in a devastating miscarriage of justice.
In a new interview, Toby – who has starred in movies and TV shows including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Harry Potter film franchise, Detectorists and The Long Shadow – revealed what it was like to meet Alan Bates in real life.
Chatting on the podcast Media Confidential with executive producer Patrick Spence, the 57-year-old explained that prior to the drama coming out, he spent ‘very little’ time with the very ‘modest’ Alan.
‘Very little. I was in America, actually, in Brooklyn and I was working on a project and I rang him up, Patrick gave me his number and I rang him up, and he made it very clear very quickly that he was slightly cautious about the idea of a drama. Because I think he’s had his hopes deferred so many times,’ the actor shared.
Will Mellor also stars in the drama as Lee Castleton (Picture: ITV)
‘I think there is a modesty about him and the idea of being dramatised seemed surreal at worst and possibly inappropriate in some way, because he is so focused on the action he is doing. Nonetheless, he talked to me, he was charming, and he said unfortunately I don’t express emotions, which I think might make your job a little hard, which obviously as I’ve already said to you I didn’t believe.’
Toby explained that he got a ‘much better picture of Alan’ after speaking to Conservative politician James Arbuthnot, who played a vital role in trying to achieve justice for the victims of the Post Office scandal.
He added that while Alan has been in touch, he ‘hasn’t commented on my role’.
‘He definitely hasn’t done that. I think I heard him say in some capacity, I can’t remember where it was, I heard him say, “I’m the last person who is qualified to comment on” – I think it was on Newsnight – “comment on how Toby Jones did my role,”’ he said.
‘And I totally understand that, because I often feel I’m the last person to comment on my own acting. I have no sense of what I do. I can’t look at it objectively. I can’t see myself as others see me’
Alan is just one of the many people who was heavily impacted by the controversy (Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire)
Executive producer Patrick also weighed in, saying that Alan was ‘very nervous’ throughout the process of the series being made ‘about the way in which we would portray his character’.
This, he outlined, was down to ‘a number of different reasons’ – ‘because he represents a whole community, he is a private individual, and also because he sees himself as an unemotional man when we were telling a story in which we were presenting some of those emotions closer to the surface than he would wish to see them dramatised’.
Patrick continued: ‘It was not always easy on either side to find common ground in how we would represent his character on screen. I think it’s also, I hope he would be happy with me saying that he is thrilled with the end result.’
Alan recently received a huge surprise live on This Morning, when Sir Richard Branson revealed that he was treating him and his wife Suzanne to a holiday.
‘I can’t think of anyone who deserves a break more. Hopefully see you there. Best, Richard,’ the business magnate said.
Alan appeared visibly choked up at this announcement, grinning from ear to ear.
Mr Bates vs the Post Office is available to watch on ITVX.
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