Graham Kibble-White gets ship-shape with Jack Davenport...

"There was a really grim day where in the morning we had to bury a baby at sea, and in the afternoon I had to preside over a lashing."

So says Jack Davenport, with an uncommonly large smile. He's sitting in a hotel bar in south west London, sipping a large glass of red wine. Casually dressed in a brown striped shirt and jeans, with slightly unkempt hair, he looks relaxed discussing his latest sea-faring epic.

No, it's not Pirates Of The Caribbean - we'll get to that in a moment. He's talking about two-part drama The Incredible Journey Of Mary Bryant, on ITV1 on Easter Sunday and Monday.

Telling the true story of the 18th-century woman who became a cause celebre in London after escaping from a penal colony in Australia, it stars Romola Garai in the title role and 33-year-old Jack as the misguided Lieutenant Ralph Clarke, who presides over the prisoners being shipped to Australia.

"Every story needs a bad guy," he says, referring to his character, "and he's it, but by consistently doing what he thinks is the right thing. He's not a classically evil person, he's just a rather pious sad little man who messes it all up.

"It's that eternal thing of giving an unconfident, unformed young man a uniform and a gun and going, 'Off you go'," he continues. "So when they finally get to Australia, they've got a prison with no actual walls, and men, women and children milling around, and you've got guys like Clarke in charge of it who don't know their arse from their elbow.

"That's a lot of pressure for a young man with no real sense of authority. You try being a prison warder when you can't slam the door shut and go, 'That's you in lock-down for nine hours'.

"It's like, 'Go to your tent!'. 'Why should I?' - it's tricky."

As he readily admits, one of the pleasures and pains of this production was working in Australia.

"It's a wonderful place," he says, "I just wish I hadn't been wearing quite so many clothes. I lost lots of weight and my brain was like scrambled eggs, because it was so hot.

"Also, because it's television there's less time for these things and a lot of pressure to try and get it done fast.

"Even though I think it's the most expensive TV production made in Australia, you always felt like you could do with more money and time. It was pretty unremitting.

"The irony is, the Pirates films are probably among the more expensive movies ever made, and yet we still felt like we could do with more money on those too."

Referring to the blockbusting trilogy, in which he appears with Johnny Depp (the second instalment, Dead Man's Chest, is released later this year, with a third to follow in 2007), he says the comparisons pretty much end there.

"Movies like these are more defined in terms of set pieces. It's like one great bravura set piece after another.

"Now, you can't knock-off a scene like that with just a wide shot, a medium and some close-up stuff. You're going to shoot the hell out of it, and that takes a lot of time.

"There's an action sequence in the second film, which actually only really involved six people. It'll probably be eight to 10 minutes on screen, but it took something like six months to do."

As he reveals, working at that pace can get tiresome.

"Yeah, it is a bit boring sometimes," he confesses, "but to be honest with you that's kind of what you get paid for in that sort of movie.

"Sometimes you don't say a line of dialogue for a fortnight, and then suddenly it's, 'Off you go then'.

That's the reality of that kind of film-making. Either you're ready to go whenever they ask or you're not.

"I'll be honest, I'd quite like to do something like a play now, because it would be nice to remember what it is you're actually meant to do as an actor."

With his commitments to the movie franchise finishing in the autumn ("Touch wood," he says), Jack will potentially have time to contribute to a new episode of This Life - if the much reported revival of the cult 1990s drama ever goes ahead.

"We did talk about it," he confirms. "We all met, the five of us from the first series, Amy Jenkins (the writer) and Tony Garnett (the producer).

"We were all up for it, and so we should be, because we wouldn't have careers of any description whatsoever if it wasn't for that show.

"The difficult thing would be to find the entry-point to revive it even for an hour without it looking a bit tacky, because there'd be no real reason for the characters to get back together after all this time.

"Amy suggested a couple of things, which were pretty damn good, I have to say, but I can't tell you what they are."

He admits to being puzzled over why the series is still held in such high esteem by the public, despite vanishing from our screens nearly 10 years ago.

"Let's face it, Casablanca it ain't," he muses. "It was just a show about a load of lawyers with rubbish haircuts and terrible jumpers.

"To begin with, never had a programme been so roundly ignored. It just completely slipped into the schedules, late at night on BBC Two and no-one watched.

"The reason I think it picked up is somehow we got recommissioned and they re-ran the first series, putting it on twice a week. Then they went straight into the second.

"I mean, we were on television twice a week for 32 weeks. People could not avoid it after a while.

"But that's not to knock the writing, which was fantastic. The show had it all: sex, disease, homosexuality, lesbians, robbery, you name it."

So will the long-mooted revival ever happen?

"As of this moment," he sighs, "I've no idea."