18 Jan 2024
by Phillip Othen

Actor Mark Williams on TV technology, alternative career paths and knots

As part of IMarEST’s annual prestigious dinner to be held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London City, we venture away from maritime matters and chat with after dinner speaker Mark Williams. 

Celebrating maritime history, IMarEST’s Annual Dinner 2024 is taking place in London on Thursday 25 April. 

In addition to bringing together marine professionals in one spectacular venue, the entertainment continues after the three-course dinner with Mark Williams of The Fast Show and Harry Potter fame. 

Mark has over 110 acting credits to his name and is soon to appear in new film Robin and the Hood alongside Naomie Harris and Gwendoline Christie. 

What do you think is the most important invention through history?  

I’m going to say clockwork, which may sound a curious choice, but I chose it because of what it represents rather than its material benefits; a power source entirely independent of the natural world (apart from gravity). Clockwork became a metaphor for mechanical ingenuity, even a model of how the universe functioned. So, with this model of using a mechanism to generate power, other solutions could be imagined, like the steam engine: “I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have - POWER.” 

If you were not an actor, what career would you have liked to have pursued? 

I think that having no discernible mathematical ability, I would have been drawn to being a chef. The world of British cooking has changed incredibly since I was a kid. A change I have been very happy to embrace. I shudder to remember what we were forced to eat. I went once with my granny to see a friend from her nursing days, and she was cooking a fillet of coley for her lunch, and she was BOILING it. 

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done? 

My worst job ever was working at a bull stud, mucking out. It was a holiday job when I was at university. The local labour exchange had casual jobs for students in the late 70s and you went and took pot luck. I lasted two weeks. The work was going into pens where there would be a single tethered beast, and shovelling. Very sullen things, bulls. Not much going on in the head, and an air of latent violence. It would cure anyone of a romantic rural life fantasy. 

How has technology changed the film and TV industry and the way you work?  

Sound has changed the most. Digital sound, whilst being much more sensitive is very binary. Sound recordists could squash an analogue signal and get something; digital either works, or it doesn’t. Consequently, the pressure is always to get a very clean, almost sterile soundtrack which doesn’t always suit actors: “Whaddya mean do it again!” 

And on a marine note, have you learned any new knots recently?  

I am very keen on the truck-driver’s hitch, or dolly knot. It can be tied into a length of rope at any point without disturbing either end and acts as a block and tackle to tension the line. Very elegant. There’s an excellent demonstration on YouTube by Princess Hiab. I can’t tie it. Yet! 

Book your place at IMarEST’s Annual Dinner on Thursday 25 April at Leonardo Royal Hotel London City. 


Main image: Mark Williams; credit: Kenny McCracken