Interview: Warwick Davis escapes with the family in TV series

Warwick and family as seen in the new TV show. Picture: PA Photo/ITV.
Warwick and family as seen in the new TV show. Picture: PA Photo/ITV.
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Being cooped up in a camper van with your parents for a road trip around the UK wouldn’t be top of most adolescents’ wish lists - especially not with a camera crew in tow.

But Peterborough-based Warwick Davis’ children Annabelle, 17, and Harrison, 11, launched themselves into the adventures on new ITV travel series Weekend Escapes (which started last Friday), from dressing up as woodland creatures in Cornwall to re-enacting a battle at Sussex’s Bodiam Castle.

“We tend to enjoy the same things and it’s hard to embarrass the kids. Growing up with me as an actor, they’ll come and see me at work and I’ll be in prosthetic make-up, or some weird outfit or a funny wig or whatever, and they’re used to seeing me looking a bit out of the ordinary,” says Life’s Too Short star Davis, who was also joined on the trip by his wife Sam and the family’s pet dog Sherlock.

“We are very close anyway, but the programme certainly brought us even closer. We all came away from the experience still fond of each other.”

Sherlock also managed to behave himself on the trip - aside from a bit of barking.

“He’d get excited and bark, and we’d just get the sound man looking at us shaking his head,” recalls the 3ft 6in star, laughing.

“He’s very cute though, and because he was so young there was this whole wealth of different experiences he got quite early on.”

The six-part series aims to prove that Britain’s best-loved tourist attractions can be just as exciting as more exotic climes, and Davis believes the brief was fulfilled.

“I wanted to discover people in this country that make Britain what it is, that beautifully unique eccentricity that we have. It was amazing, around every corner we found a character,” says the 44-year-old, whose wife and children also have forms of dwarfism.

“And I’m sure you could go around the country again and find a new set of people and a whole new different set of things to do, which are just as entertaining.”

The show also depicts how resourceful the family are on their travels, piling up seats and boxes to reach things and attaching a dog lead to the boot of their car to help close it.

“It wasn’t something that was ever planned, it just kind of came out of the show. As a family, we don’t often consider all of the little changes that we make to allow us to deal with things or have access to things,” says Davis.

“It’s only when you start making a programme that you actually kind of question it. I think it will be interesting for people to get a little bit of an insight into the changes required to make things accessible.”

The actor, whose career began aged 11, playing Wicket the Ewok in 1983’s Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi, says his sense of independence comes from his parents.

“They were average size, but they instilled in me this sense of solving problems. They wouldn’t go out of their way to help me when I was a kid. If I wanted to reach something, they let me figure it out. As you get older, that makes you very resourceful.”

Davis hopes he’s passed his can-do approach on to Annabelle and Harrison.

“The only limiting factor in peoples’ lives is their own mind and their own imagination. I think it’s hugely important that people do just have a go,” he says.

“Hopefully, our kids feel the same way and they won’t let their lack of inches hold them back. It’s about what’s in your mind that really can carry you through.”

After his Star Wars debut - “the moment that changed everything” - Davis worked with writer George Lucas again on the 1988 fantasy flick Willow, and later played a villainous goblin in the Leprechaun movie series.

He’s also appeared in Doctor Who and the Harry Potter films, as Professor Flitwick, with Sam and the kids joining him for the franchise’s final instalment.

But comedy fans will probably know Davis best for the Ricky Gervais shows Extras and Life’s Too Short, in which he plays a satirical, arrogant version of himself.

“I wouldn’t dream of doing some of the things Warwick does, but it was quite liberating to be able to do them for the sake of the show,” says Davis, who is thankfully much more affable that his Life’s Too Short alter ego.

When we speak, he’s en route to Surrey to perform in the farce See How They Run, with the Reduced Height Theatre Company, which he set up. He’s also keen to have his own chat show, citing Chevy Chase and Will Ferrell among his dream guests.

It’s clear Davis is passionate about his work.

“I enjoy whatever project I’m working on to its maximum, never assuming there’ll be more, and that way I’m never disappointed,” he says.