Joe Johnsey Interview

Robin’s brother, Martin Ellacott, is being portrayed by actor Joe Johnsey.

Martin Ellacott is the youngest of Robin’s three brothers. He is mentioned briefly in The Silkworm, being “notorious in their family for the lack of foresight and love of danger that had resulted in more trips to casualty than the rest of his siblings combined.” It is also mentioned in that book that he sneaks out of the house with his other brothers to go to the Bay Horse pub, leaving Matthew uninvited at home, on the night of Matthew’s mother’s funeral.

He features more prominently in the third book, Career of Evil, when Robin returns to her parent’s house in Masham, North Yorkshire.

“Martin was the only one of the four Ellacott siblings who had not attended university, and the only one who still lived with their parents. He was always touchy at the slightest hint that he underachieved”

It is very clear that Martin likes to wind people up. “‘Does she have a go at you for still having both legs, Matt?’ asked Martin.”

In Career of Evil, Martin also wins a bet on the Grand National. “‘YES! FUCKING YES! FIVE HUNDRED QUID!’ screamed Martin. From the rhythmic thumping emanating from the hall, it sounded as though Martin had found the sitting room inadequate for the full performance of a victory dance.”

Below is our interview with Joe Johnsey, who is playing Martin in Strike – Career of Evil.

How did you first become interested in acting?

“I fell into acting. I took Theatre Studies at college because a charming girl told me that Theatre Studies was the way to go. I had to take another subject so I thought ‘why not, I’ve always enjoyed being the centre of attention’. To my dismay I hadn’t thought it through as she had left college by the time I started. I was awful, but because I was more awful at Chemistry, I ended up taking Theatre Studies in the second year. I was more convinced I would be a professional footballer or athlete. When I told my parents I’d given up my ambitions to be a professional athlete to be an actor instead they realised that their son was either destined for great things or the gutter.”

What drama training did you go through?

“I first started honing my skills working in my local pub whilst simultaneously studying Drama at the University of Huddersfield. I probably learnt more about acting watching some of characters in the pub. I wasn’t even thinking about performing as a career path, I preferred writing at the time. This was until I had to perform in a third year Shakespeare production as part of the course. I played the fool Thersites in Troilus & Cressida and from the rave reviews, from friends and family, I believed I had a chance at being halfway decent at this acting thing. I applied to drama school and got in at the first attempt. I trained at ArtsEd in London. I almost didn’t go because of the fee’s but my parents wouldn’t let me not and casually re-mortgaged the house. No pressure. Got an agent, started doing Theatre and my own sketch shows as well as starting to experiment with film.”

Tell us about your recent short film “Hatched” with Paul Butterworth and his son Josh.

“I met Paul when I got off the train, we were the only two at the station and couldn’t avoid one another. We soon worked out we were getting picked up together. Being my first TV job it was nice to have somebody I could ask about how TV worked. Not the acting side however, but the important stuff. When was it appropriate to approach the catering trailer and how many times could I re-approach before it was frowned upon. We naturally got chatting about films and it was then he told me his son Josh was an aspiring director. So when he got in touch about Josh’s new project ‘Hatched’ and that they were looking for an actor to play Paul’s son (after just playing Paul’s son) it seemed like fate. Josh and Paul have since become friends of mine and we are going to collaborate again in the near future.”

How did you land the role of Martin Ellacott in Strike?

“My agent said that the casting director Shaheen Baig wanted to see me self-tape for the role and I got it. When I first arrived the director Charles came and introduced himself whilst I was waiting to have my hair cut. I had shoulder length hair at the time after just playing Romeo in Romeo & Juliet. Charles is a lovely guy, he said he liked my self-tape but he actually decided on me after finding some comedy videos that I didn’t realise were still on YouTube. It also helps that me and Holliday could pass as brother and sister.”

What was it like being on set for the Strike production?

“Loved it. I thought it might be daunting considering the following the books have and the writer involved but the cast and crew were so friendly that any pressure subsided as soon as we got on set. Helped that my on screen family Suzanne, Paul and Holliday were all excellent human beings.”

For many readers, Martin is a favourite character, with his snarky sense of humour. What are your thoughts on him? The characters of Robin and Strike?

“Martin is my favourite character. Yes I am biased. I do relate to Martin in many ways and I think his humour hides the fact he is touchy about never fleeing the nest. He makes his own fun by prodding the people around him for a reaction. I find both Robin and Strike fascinating characters with great depth, especially Robin in Career of Evil. We really get to know her backstory as well as we know Strike’s and maybe why they relate to each other so well in that they have both dealt with real hardship.”

Have you read the Strike books? If so, what are your thoughts?

“I have indeed. I loved the books and I am eagerly awaiting the next. I think that the relationships created by the writer and the sheer breadth of different scenarios that a private investigator can be faced with means that the possibilities are exciting and hopefully endless.”

What is your next project?

“I have started a ‘comedy’ YouTube channel called ‘Marathon Mondays with Joe’ in which I upload an episode a week detailing my training for the London Marathon. If you want to check it out head to my Instagram: @joejohnsey. I have another short film coming up with Paul as well as my own short which is currently in post-production. I am also working with a writer called Kay Stonham and developing a comedy series based on a character I played in her BBC radio 4 drama ‘Bad Salsa. And who knows, Martin might finally leave home, go to London and gamble his life away!”

Watch Joe Johnsey’s showreel here:

Joe and Paul met at the train station, waiting to be picked up and taken to Masham. They stayed at a hotel called Swinton Park, about ten minutes from the main town. Swinton Park is mentioned briefly in the Silkworm on Robin’s wedding invitation to Cormoran; it is the place where the wedding reception is to be held.

On the night they arrived in Masham, Paul and Joe hung out with a large group of cast and crew, including Holliday Grainger. The next day they were filming at St Mary’s church for scenes in Career of Evil episode 2.