TV star Mackenzie Crook talks to Kerri-Ann Roper about the loveable scarecrow and working with his former Detectorists co-star Toby Jones

If you are lucky enough to find yourself filming alongside Mackenzie Crook on location for Worzel Gummidge, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for any creatures you may spot while in the outdoors.

Because aside from acting, nature is one of the TV star's biggest passions.

"Apart from making making people laugh with it (Worzel), that's my other main priority, this idea that we have to protect our countryside and the nature within it and hopefully to spark an interest," begins the 50-year-old, as he talks about an upcoming episode of Worzel Gummidge titled Guy Forks.

Crook, famed for his roles as Gareth in The Office and as the creator and star of BBC Four's Detectorists, stars as the popular walking, talking scarecrow in the BBC programme and has created three new episodes of the show inspired by the classic books by Barbara Euphan Todd.

His adaptation of the story, which previously also featured on television screens in the '70s and '80s, first aired on the BBC in 2019.

"On set I tell everyone straightaway to keep their eyes open for little interesting bits of wildlife," he continues.

"If anyone finds a toad, tell me about it, and we can come over and quickly and film these little bits and pieces'.

"Those little details, close-ups of nature, are really important to me."

Expanding on his love of the great outdoors, he adds: "One of my main passions is wildlife. I've never lived in the country, but I grew up very close to the country and spent all my time down at the river exploring and learning to name the birds and the flowers.

"That's always been a real passion of mine.

"So to find myself in a position where I can weave that interest and that passion into my work and get paid for it is brilliant.

"How cheeky is that?"

The loveable scarecrow character is perfectly suited then, and the returning episodes see the Maidstone-born actor writing, directing and starring in the titular role.

The Guy Forks episode also reunites him with Toby Jones, who starred alongside him in hit comedy series Detectorists.

In the episode, which sees Worzel persuaded by his cousin Guy Forks to swap places for bonfire night, Jones plays all six roles on a village committee, which Crook says, was an opportunity Jones "jumped at".

He explains: "It's the Bonfire night committee, which when I was writing it, I didn't initially think that the same actor would play all (six) parts.

"But I did know that I wanted them all to be very similar, middle-aged blokes, representing the old school way of doing things, and that was the joke.

"And then it was someone else who came up with the idea that we should get the same actor to play them all.

"Toby Jones is the ideal person to do that, and he jumped at the chance."

Something Crook can relate to as he relishes taking on the trio of roles that put him behind and in front of the camera.

He says: "I think I spent the first sort of 20 years of my career being an actor and working in other people's projects, some really amazing projects that I was a part of.

"I got this slow realisation that I wanted to be creating my own work or involved more in creating, in the whole thing.

"And so it was a sort of a revelation, when I did Detectorists, to find out that I could discipline myself to write a script, and then it was a very easy step to know that I wanted to direct it as well because I had it so very clearly in my head.

"And the same with Worzel.

"When I first decided to adapt it again, I immediately had a clear picture in my head of what it should look like, and so to hand it over to someone else to direct didn't make sense.

"I just love being involved in the whole package.

"But it's not because I'm a control freak, because it is an absolute collaboration, as every film set is."

The cast for the upcoming instalments includes comedian Bill Bailey, Gentleman Jack star Rosie Cavaliero, Afterlife actor Paul Kaye, Getting On's Vicki Pepperdine and The Stranger actress India Brown.

With the return to Scatterbrook Farm happening as filming sprang to life post-Covid, Crook talks about returning to set.

"I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that everyone enjoyed being there. The relief of actually being at work, and of all TV projects, we're out in the open.

"It was probably the safest thing to do post-Covid," he notes.

"I quite often think about how a lot of these crews have come from very hard-hitting dramas about really grim subjects, where there can't be many laughs on set.

"So to come to this, where it's all about enjoying yourself, and the better atmosphere on set, the better that's going to come across on screen.

"It's a joy.

"Hard work, but enjoyable, exhilarating."

With three seasons of Sky's gritty series Britannia under his belt, fans have been hankering for news of a fourth series, which hasn't been confirmed.

Crook, who has earned plaudits for his role as Veran the druid, says: "I don't know what the future plans for it (are), if there'll be another series, but I know that I had the time my life doing that.

"And I wrote an episode of this last series and I directed two of them, so I was more involved in that as well this time around as well.

"That's extraordinary, and probably the opposite of Worzel Gummidge ­— although that is very much rooted in the landscape of the country as well."

Returning to Worzel, the actor is thoughtful when asked what he hopes people take from the returning episodes.

He said: "It's deliberately uncynical in this sort of cynical age.

"The baddies in it aren't very threatening.

"It's got a message and I don't want to just be gentle and whimsical, but it's supposed to be a tonic for these weird times that we live in, and I hope families watch it together.

"I hope people don't watch it on small screens with their earphones in individually.

"I'd like people to be laughing together on a sofa when they watch it."

Worzel Gummidge's Guy Forks episode aired on BBC One on Saturday November 6, with dates for the other episodes due to be confirmed and available on BBC iPlayer.