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This interview was conducted prior to series eight.
What was your reaction when you read the scripts for this new series?
I knew just how good this series was at the script readthrough before filming. There were tears and applause. It had a really good feel about it. Hermione Norris (Karen) said, ‘The magic is back. It’s Cold Feet as we always had it in our hearts.’ So I’m very excited about that.
We have learned a lot since Cold Feet returned and it has paid dividends. The scripts are strong and it’s genuinely a nod to the old. There are parts of this series where you think, ‘Well you didn’t see that one coming, did you?’”
Where do we find Pete and Jenny (Fay Ripley) when we meet them again?
It’s that time of life where everyone thinks, ‘Well should I carry on or not?’ It’s that fork in the road. But they have settled their differences.
They did split up once and they did have affairs. It did go wrong. But that’s in the past and resolved. They are now moving forward. Then in this series the Giffords face a family crisis. It’s written brilliantly with good humour. Without being irreverent.
The public identify with Pete and Jenny because they are very representative of a normal couple and family. We represent the norm. The middle ground. The fact that we do fall out and make up again. You can see they have a great affection for one another despite everything.
It’s great they also play on Pete’s vulnerability. He is so keen to help. Sometimes to his detriment. He is so keen and it’s often ignored. You feel for him.
Pete is involved in an emotional scene with his step-daughter Chloe (Madeleine Edmondson). Was much acting required?
I’m adopted so that really struck a chord with me. That really got me in a place emotionally where it was very real. Scenes like that just come out of the blue. Sometimes Cold Feet is bittersweet. But sometimes its bitter-bitter. Life is like that. Sometimes it will deal you spades.
It hard to believe Chloe is now 15 and how the kids on Cold Feet have grown up. It is
terrifying. My daughter is 16. Which is a massive shock to me. A young woman now. Myself and Fay have got children who are around the same age as our children in the show. Which obviously helps. But they grow up so quickly now. And there’s less innocence today with kids because of media and all the resources they have at their fingertips.
Pete ends up in a canal in the first episode. How was that to film?
It was really me in the canal. It’s not a double. There’s a lot of rubbish in those canals. I said, ‘I could feel Victorian skulls cracking underneath my feet.’ The bottom drops away like quicksand in parts. And there’s other bits where you can stand on a plateau.
Before we filmed they obviously did safety checks on where we were going to shoot and a run through. So I just watched what the stuntman did and copied that. Then after I filmed it he said, ‘Well you didn’t really need me.’ And I said, ‘I was just trying to make it look authentic.’ I wanted to give it a strong sense of realism.
I wore a wet suit underneath the costume but it was still so cold. We also had to be covered because of health and safety. You can get Lyme disease because of the rats. So one of the things you have to do is drink copious amounts of full fat cola after you’ve been in because that kills Lyme disease. Although I don’t think they’ll market it that way.
There was also anti-bacterial gel by the bucket load. All over faces, ears and up noses every time we came in and out of the canal. Just to be on the safe side. That water is not pleasant.
Where did you film the music festival scenes?
We shot the music festival scenes in Delamere Forest in Cheshire. There was a heatwave when we filmed the first scenes and then we had torrential rain. It was freezing. But I loved filming those scenes.
It was an incredible bit of work from the art department on basically a blank canvas. When I got there I went, ‘My God, this is amazing what they have done.’ All of the tents, the yurts the tepees. It was so good. Despite the fact I’m in the industry it never ceases to amaze me sometimes when you walk on set or on location. You go, ‘That’s amazing.’
I’ve done stand up three times at Glastonbury. I also did Reading. Back in the day when I was a youth and a free spirit. I was very professional until my job was done and then I was away to the Green Fields. Glastonbury is an amazing thing. The sheer size and volume of it. It’s an eye-opener. I had a great time back then but I wouldn’t go near one now. Absolutely no way.
What were some of the other highlights of this series for you?
David’s (Robert Bathurst) storyline in this series broke my heart. When he finds himself homless. It’s so relevant now. There is a huge crisis. A serious problem. Respectable people are finding themselves on the streets. It’s even more prevalent now than when we shot it. It’s so topical. Pete is really shocked when he finds out.
I also love some of the other scenes where the unexpected happens. One thing I don’t want Cold Feet ever to lose is those elements of breaking traditional drama conventions. That’s always got to be there for it to be Cold Feet. I’ve always loved that. Especially when it’s scenes I’m not in. The thing I love about watching the series back is not watching me but watching the things I’m not in. To see how it all gels together.
David talks about not losing sight of what is important. Is it easy to do that today?
There are so many distractions today. That’s why mindfulness and meditation has become a bit of a movement now. Just for people to go, ‘Stop, put your phone down and just have a minute.’ It’s the pace of life today as well. Everything is quick. Cars are faster. Broadband is quicker. The attention spans of kids - flick this, flick that. Nobody sits still.
Pete goes to a golf driving range with Adam (James Nesbitt). How’s your swing?
I don’t play golf. While Jimmy plays proper golf. But I can swing. I’ve stayed at hotels in the past that have done golf and I’ve had a lesson. So I’ve had my swing measured on a computer and I do know what to do.
I’ve also had years of training on crazy golf courses for putting. And they say, ‘You swing for show but putt for dough.’ So I have played a little bit but I’ve not really grasped it. Maybe in later life. But I did find my putting was pretty good thanks to crazy golf. And there weren’t any obstacles either.
Your character likes to be in charge at a barbecue. Is it the same for you?
I always have control at a barbecue. No-one ever tries to usurp me. They know it’s in good hands. As a non-drinker I’m quite happy to have that purpose as chief griller. So at a barbecue it’s a joy to be in control of the meat. Where back in the day I would have quite happily been barman. I love cooking and food anyway.