Recommended Re-Viewing: Daniel Mays On How 'Buried' Captures The Boredom Of Isolation

The '1917' and 'Line of Duty' actor recalls the 2003 series which lifted the lid on life in prison

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Esquire

Recommended Re-Viewing is a series in which we make the case for re-watching an old film or TV series which you can stream without leaving your house. It might be a plot that's so bad it's good, a scene which deserves more interrogation or a director's underrated gem.

For 1917 and Line of Duty actor Daniel Mays, the mundane repetition of isolation are perfectly captured in Channel 4's 2003 series, Buried.


The first time I saw Buriedim电竞官网- it hit me for six. A lot of television shows have been set inside prisons but this one really lifted the lid on life inside so you felt like you were eavesdropping in on conversations. It feels like a fly-on the-wall documentary because it's so raw.

The series is brilliantly led by Lennie James, whose character Lee Kingley was imprisoned for ten years for grievous bodily harm and possession of a firearm while trying to defend his sister from her rapist. He’s essentially a decent man but this moment of madness wound him up in prison so you're on his side.

I think it was one of the first performances of his that really brought him to my attention. I remember bumping into him at a wedding and saying it was one of the best things I’d seen for years. Despite winning a BAFTA it wasn't recommissioned because of poor ratings which was gutting because the crescendo of that first season really opened it up and meant you could go deeper into the prison system.

I graduated in 2000 but the first six months were completely barren and I couldn't find work. It was a horrible time but seeing Buried showed the sort of stuff I knew I wanted to be cast in. I’ve always been drawn to social realism and writers like Jimmy McGovern, who later I was lucky enough to work with on the BBC series Common. Buried is a brutal watch but I think there should always be a platform for shows like it to be made.

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Channel 4

There are scenes showing hardened criminals sat around expressing their emotions in therapy sessions. I think mental health is far more talked about now and rightly so, but that definitely wasn’t the case back in 2003 so it was sort of ground-breaking.

We’re all living in isolation at the moment and you do liken it to being in prison. I imagine there’s lots of people struggling right now because they are contained and not able to invest in their loved ones. The banality and mundane repetitiveness of day after day being stuck in the same place is captured in Buriedim电竞官网-, but it also shows you just have to survive.

As told to Olivia Ovenden

Daniel Mays stars in Code 404 all episodes available from 29th April on Sky One and NOW TV

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