“It’s always emotional to say goodbye to people.”
Most of the time, Eve Myles, Torchwood’s no-nonsense Gwen Cooper, bounds around like an over-excited puppy. On stage at the Rift Convention, she overcomes her apprehension at facing her first convention appearance by regaling fans with tales from the set of Torchwood that quickly have the audience in the palm of her hand. But, as she tells Carole Gordon in a quiet moment later in the day, filming Torchwood was not all fun and games. Losing two of the characters from the show at the end of the second series, people who had over the course of filming become and remain her good friends, was a deeply emotional experience - and one that will continue to affect both her and Gwen.
The second series of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood ended with the aptly-titled episode Exit Wounds, with Jack’s long-lost brother Gray attempting to destroy Jack, the Torchwood team, Cardiff and, just for good measure, the rest of the planet. Jack is buried alive for a couple of millennia while the rest of the team try to save the world. So, just a normal day at Torchwood then. Except that, on that day, both Owen and Toshiko die heroically as they battle to defeat Gray.
Not surprisingly, for Eve Myles and the rest of the team, these were difficult scenes to shoot.
Myles is clearly saddened at remembering the filming of that episode. “It was actually filmed on the last day. You’re doing seven months with people and coming to an end it’s always an emotional thing to say goodbye to people - especially when you have to say goodbye to them for good. To do those scenes was very, very hard.”
That’s not to say that Owen (Burn Gorman) and Toshiko (Naoko Mori) didn’t go out with a bang – in more ways than one. There were, Myles says, positives to their departures and she can’t speak too highly of her colleagues.
“They had a incredible exit. They are fabulous characters that will always be remembered. They’re legends. They are wonderful. It’s a very hard thing to say goodbye to people, isn’t it?”
Although no longer in the show, Owen and Toshiko are not forgotten. Myles confirms that the up-coming BBC Radio 4 one-off drama, written specially to coincide with the launch of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and set around that event, addresses the loss of the two team members. The others will always be affected by this tragic loss, but Myles thinks Gwen will be particularly affected as she’s newer to Torchwood and the constant dangers they face.
“She really grasped onto those two characters,” says Myles. “As far as Jack and Ianto are concerned, they are used to everyone dying young in Torchwood. It’s part of the job.”
Of her own work on Torchwood’s second year, Myles is particularly proud of the episode Adrift, in which Gwen discovers a major secret that Jack has been keeping about people being taken and returned by the Rift, leading her to re-evaluate herself and her approach to her role on the team. The episode was, Myles says, more drama than strictly science fiction, more about the relationships between mother and son, and between Jack and the rest of the Torchwood team.
“I am very proud of that because it was a very different episode and I think it was a huge diversion from where everybody thought Torchwood Series 2 was going, a huge diversion. It anchored Gwen again as being human. She learned about the do’s and don’ts. Sometimes, never mind how much good you think you are doing, actually sometimes it’s better just to stay in the background. That’s a big, big thing that goes against everything that Gwen is. Sometimes,” Myles says with a smile, “it’s better to mind your own business.”
Myles particularly enjoyed the scenes she played with John Barrowman, showing another side to the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness.
“You can see another side of Jack in how he’s been dealing with humans who have been taken by the rift. How he described it to Gwen was rather beautiful. And how he dealt with it was quite cold but that’s the only way he could deal with it. It was wonderful for the contrast between Gwen and Jack - you could see the time traveller and the human girl from Cardiff. A beautiful contrast.”
And Adrift definitely contrasts with Myles’s other favourite episode of the series. Something Borrowed saw Gwen finally marry her long-time boyfriend, Rhys (played by Kai Owen). But, in the best tradition of television weddings, all does not go to plan. On the day of the wedding, Gwen wakes up pregnant with an alien baby and has to fight off the baby’s shape-shifting mother, who ends up in the guise of Gwen’s mother-in-law.
Myles giggles as she describes the episode, which gave her the chance to show her comedy skills – and to blast into oblivion one of Liverpool’s most famous daughters, former Liver Bird Nerys Hughes. “I got to shoot Nerys Hughes of all things! You don’t do that every day at work, do you?!”
Away from Gwen and Torchwood, Myles can be seen later this year in a new adaptation of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, starring Andy Serkis from Lord of the Rings, Spooks‘ Matthew Macfadyen and Doctor Who and Torchwood star, Freema Agyeman. And in Merlin, also airing in the Autumn, Myles will appear as a 130-year-old witch.
What about Gwen’s future? If there is a third series of Torchwood (and at the time of writing, the BBC have not officially confirmed they have commissioned more episodes), Myles sees Gwen going from strength to strength.
“In terms of character,” Myles says excitedly, “she’s bloody Wonderwoman! She goes home, she deals with her lover, she has a normal life, she goes to work, she saves the world every day. She’s an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation. And she’s awesome! She’s absolutely brilliant! I’m exhausted playing her, but she is quite special.”
And how about that musical episode that John Barrowman keeps suggesting? With John, Kai Owen (Rhys), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto) and Captain John (James Marsters) all being accomplished musicians, would Myles also be up for it?
“Oh god, no!” she says, insisting she can’t sing but then with a grin adds she could do some hip-hop.
“I’ll chuck some shapes out in the background,” she laughs. “It’s like a musical anyway – they don’t stop bloody singing on the set all the time!”
© Carole Gordon 2008 Eclipse Magazine