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Byline: Marion McMullen

ITV drama Doc Martin has made Coventry actor John Marquez a big hit ... in Detroit.

The former Bablake student says his character PC Joe Penhale is proving a popular police officer abroad, particularly in the States.

He smiles: "The feedback I get is always very positive. Some people say Penhale is their favourite character. Someone told me I was big in Detroit! The series has been sold over there and the Americans are going mad for it."

Acting runs in the family for John. His older brother Martin is also an actor - and they have worked together at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry - and his niece Ramona Marquez is best known as Karen Brockman in TV comedy Outnumbered.

John, whose Spanish-born father used to run Coventry's Kwick Chick Restaurant in the Burges, plays village policeman PC Joe Penhale in Doc Martin and has a dilemma to solve in the new series when his ex-wife turns up out of the blue.

The arrival of Maggie, played by Julie Graham, leads to the local bobby getting a little hot under the collar when she makes amorous advances as he's preparing a night cap. And it provided interesting scenes for John and Julie, who have been good friends for 20 years.

"There was a lot of kissing and stuff with Julie for the scenes, which was really strange," he laughs. "I am a massive fan of hers, she is an incredible actress as well as a friend, so it was a thrill to work with her.

"Julie is godmother to my ten year old daughter Elsie, and our girls play with Julie's girls, as we all live in Brighton."

Penhale is delighted to see Maggie but puzzled because she seems to have completely forgotten that they divorced two years ago.

"Maggie left Penhale a couple of years ago and broke his heart. Then she comes back into his life, but has forgotten they ever split up. She has amnesia, which dawns on him quite quickly," points out John.

"So Penhale has this dilemma - he is ecstatic at seeing her and the fact she wants to be with him and kiss him, but at the same time he realises it is wrong not to refer her to the doc for medical help.

"They split up because Penhale wasn't macho enough. He had promised her life would be a rollercoaster, but it's really not very exciting being with Penhale.

"He tries to prove to her that he has changed, and ends up paying a couple of people to allow him to arrest them, and behave in quite a macho way, just in front of Maggie. But it doesn't work.

"In the end he tries to get involved with a real incident and gets stuck up a ladder, frozen with fear and can't get FAMILY: Ramona Marquez down, so Maggie realises he hasn't changed at all."

John is delighted when viewers feel sorry for his character because he is always messing things up.

"I like comedy that comes with emotion, and I feel Penhale has a really good heart. A lot of the time it is a mixture of feeling sorry for him, which I blame on when I was very young I had a fascination for Bobby Ball from Cannon and Ball.

"I used to watch him again and again. It was that thing of someone who can play on being funny and getting an audience to go 'aaah'. I love that. It is a good trait to have."

John has been busy in the theatre since the last series of Doc Martin and has appeared in Flea In Her Ear at the Old Vic, House Of Games at the Almeida and Annie Get Your Gun.

But he promised himself he was going to make the most of his time off from filming in Cornwall and master the surfboard.

"Before I thought I would just be able to get in the water and do it. But it is so hard, and I don't like being so bad at it.

"But I have taken up kite surfing after being given lessons for my birthday.There is lots of kite surfing where I live, so once I get brave enough you will see me being taken away by a kite."

Marion McMullen


FAMILY: Ramona Marquez PC PLOD: John with his brother Martin (left), and (far left) as the hapless PC Penhale in Doc Martin
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 10, 2011
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