There was a moment while he was filming the recent ITV series Sanditon when Kris Marshall could have been forgiven for wanting to jack it all in.
Turn back the clock to a freezing day last February and there he was, in his birthday suit, pacing along the edge of the Bristol Channel before plunging into the icy water.
He and his co-stars Jack Fox and Turlough Convery had spurned the flesh-coloured ‘dry suits’ they’d been offered that morning as they prepared to film sea-bathing scenes for the period drama based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel.
‘We looked ridiculous in them,’ says Kris, who played Tom Parker, the driving force behind the plan to turn the fishing village of Sanditon into a seaside resort. ‘We all agreed we weren’t going to wear them and we’d jump in naked instead.’
Actor Kris Marshall has confirmed that he and the rest of the cast are on call to start filming Sanditon as early as January next year
It was perhaps not the most sensible of decisions, and as the oldest of the three actors, 46-year-old Kris succumbed to the effects of the cold more dramatically than his colleagues.
His body temperature plummeted to 33˚C and moments after the scene was finished he was wrapped in blankets in a heated tent while medics treated him for hypothermia.
‘It was shockingly cold,’ he says. ‘It’s the strangest feeling. You kind of retreat into yourself. I felt weirdly serene and calm. I’ve never experienced anything like it.’
The Sunday-night series finished last month with a broken-hearted heroine and more loose ends than a fraying carpet.
But ever since the final credits rolled rumours of a second series from scriptwriter Andrew Davies have been swirling on social media.
Kris starred as the property developer Tom Parker in ITV’s new Jane Austen adaptation set along the Somerset coast
Today Kris confirms that he and the rest of the cast are on call to start filming as early as January next year when the series launches in the US. ‘If it goes down well there then hopefully there will be a second series. We’re on stand-by for filming.’
In the meantime, the star of Love Actually, My Family and Death In Paradise can be seen as a policeman in the new gangster thriller Trick Or Treat, for which he’s just won a Best Supporting Actor award at the Marbella Film Festival – an impressive feat given he only appears on screen for five minutes.
‘It’s the easiest award I’ve ever won,’ he laughs. ‘I’m not sure it’s entirely deserved but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.’
His reason for agreeing to appear in the film, alongside the likes of Frances Barber, Jason Flemyng and his long-time friend, Coronation Street actor Craig Kelly, is a serious one, though.
While Trick Or Treat is a black comedy that tells the story of a retired Blackpool gang member’s mid-life crisis after the birth of his daughter, its themes are those of male depression and suicide – the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
Scriptwriter and producer Geraint Anderson wrote the film after one of his friends took his own life, saying that he was aiming to highlight the issue of depression in the least depressing way possible.
‘I thought the script was a clever way of addressing what is an urgent subject,’ says Kris. ‘The concept of the strong man was nicely subverted. All the male characters in the film, including the policeman I play, have an undercurrent of depression.’
Kris says he keenly identifies with the ‘white, middle-age’ demographic that is most at risk. ‘Men’s roles in society have changed more over the last generation than they have in the past thousand years,’ he says.
‘More is expected of us. I’m not saying it’s not right, but it’s a big change. When you’re a boy, you’re taught to be strong, competitive and brave.
Chris’ body temperature plummeted to 33˚C while filming the beach swimming scene in Sanditon, pictured, and moments after the scene was finished he was wrapped in blankets in a heated tent while medics treated him for hypothermia
‘You have an ideal of masculinity to live up to, and then there’s everything else on top. You have to be a perfect husband. You have to be in shape. Apart from alcohol and exercise, there are very few outlets for men.’
For his own part, he says he has a ‘great life’ with his 41-year-old wife Hannah and their two children, aged seven and three, in Bristol. But he admits that like most men, he struggles to talk about his feelings.
‘We don’t formulate our own support networks like women do. It’s still perceived as a sign of weakness to talk about your feelings. I enjoy talking with my male friends, but a lot of them are not actors. If I’m talking to my peers, I wouldn’t give out information that would be perceived as a sign of weakness.’
Keeping up appearances is something that drove his Sanditon character Tom Parker in the series, as he hid the truth about impending financial ruin from his wife. Luckily for Kris, playing the role actually brought him closer to his own wife, as filming took place just down the road from where they live.
It’s the first time in his career he’s been able to return home each day rather than staying away from his family for lengthy periods of time.
Much of his career has entailed assignments in places as far-flung as Los Angeles, Australia and, most notably, Guadeloupe in the Caribbean where he lived on and off while playing detective Humphrey Goodman in Death In Paradise between 2014 and 2017.
At the time his character left Kris was tipped to become the new Doctor Who, but the real reason he quit was his family.
‘Once I’d had my first child, for the first four years it was easy because we just took him there with us. But once he got to school age it became impractical and the only other alternative was being separated from them, and I didn’t want that.
‘That doesn’t mean I’m not happy to travel for work. But I have to take into consideration how long the job is. I recently turned down a job in Australia for that very reason.’
No one, then, will be more delighted than Kris if Sanditon does get the green light for more episodes. ‘To be home for story time is brilliant,’ he says. ‘Even if after 14 hours of filming you’re exhausted and just want to fall into bed.’
The only proviso, of course, is the script. ‘I just hope there are no more naked swimming scenes,’ he says. ‘Or if there are, perhaps this time we could film them in summer…’
To locate a cinema showing Trick Or Treat visit the website trickor treattickets.evolutionaryfilms.com.