Rob Brydon Reveals He Knew About Gavin & Stacey’s Return Long Before It Was Announced

Rob Brydon Reveals He Knew About Gavin & Stacey’s Return Long Before It Was Announced

Rob Brydon is already being asked about the festive season, even though it’s only summer. “I’ve had quite a few times where people have come up to me and said, ‘Hey, I bet you’re looking forward to Christmas,’” he says, his Welsh accent adding a touch of drama. He knows they’re referring to the “Gavin & Stacey Christmas thing.”

In May, co-creators Ruth Jones and James Corden confirmed that their hit sitcom, which originally aired from 2007 to 2010, would return for one final special episode on Christmas Day. When the show was revived in 2019, Brydon was initially cautious, thinking it might be a mistake since the series had ended on a high note. However, the revival broke BBC viewing records.

Brydon plays Uncle Bryn, a father figure to Joanna Page’s Stacey. Bryn is earnest, excitable, and slightly oblivious, making him one of the series’ most beloved and quotable characters. Since the special was confirmed, Brydon has been approached by fans on the street. Before the official announcement, the news had already leaked to the press.

Brydon is close friends with both Jones and Corden. He has known Jones since secondary school and famously took Corden to task over his “brattish” behavior following the initial success of “Gavin & Stacey.” Despite Corden’s divisive media reputation, Brydon defends him, saying, “The James Corden I know is not the person I sometimes see being reported on. He gets a lot of stick. I’m hugely fond of him.” Their friendship meant Brydon knew about the plans to bring “Gavin & Stacey” back long before the public did. However, he and his castmates had to deny it because the deals and crew arrangements were not yet finalized.

Filming for the special won’t start until the autumn. Corden has admitted that the schedule will be tight to accommodate the ensemble cast’s various projects. Regardless of whether the cameras are rolling, “Gavin & Stacey” remains a constant for Brydon. “When I stop and think about how long it’s been, it’s quite hard to get your head around,” he says. “There’s certainly not a week where somebody doesn’t come up and tell me how much they love it, or call me Bryn, or ask me what happened on the fishing trip. And that’s all fantastic because most actors don’t work, let alone get something that people want to celebrate and tell you how much they love.”

Beyond Bryn, Brydon has had a varied entertainment career. After starring in musicals alongside Jones at their secondary school in Porthcawl, South Wales, he studied drama in Cardiff. He then had stints in radio, as a voice-over artist, and as a shopping channel presenter. A tape of Brydon’s character sketches eventually made its way to Steve Coogan, who produced his comedies “Marion and Geoff” and “Human Remains,” created with Julia Davis.

Brydon and Coogan have since played heightened versions of themselves in four seasons of the improvised comedy “The Trip,” where they travel around Europe’s best restaurants and try to outdo each other with their Michael Caine impressions. Brydon often impersonates people, and during our conversation, his voice jumps around as he tells anecdotes, mimicking everyone from a posh theatre luvvie to an elderly neighbor to a gruff cockney “Gavin & Stacey” fan he once met outside a stage door.

He has also acted alongside Kenneth Branagh in the West End, hosted the panel show “Would I Lie to You?” since 2009, and launched a podcast where he chats with celebrity pals. His latest venture is a role in “My Lady Jane,” a Prime Video period drama based on a YA novel that imagines an alternative, fantastical Tudor history. In this version, Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Days’ Queen,” dodges being beheaded and lives to outwit and fight back against her rivals. Brydon plays a fictionalized version of Lord Dudley, Jane’s calculating, Machiavellian father-in-law.

Brydon was drawn to the role because director Jamie Babbit had worked on the Disney comedy “Only Murders in the Building,” a show he loves. He also liked the idea of playing against type. Brydon, being a warm, avuncular sort of chap in person, tends to get cast as such. In “The Trip,” he is the cheerful, happy-go-lucky foil to the grumpier, more self-serious Coogan. “There was the fact that I was being asked to play somebody who was duplicitous, two-faced, scheming, and manipulative – I don’t really play that [normally], and that was very appealing.”

Working with a streamer was a far cry from the tighter constraints of British comedy. “The production values and the budget are really more akin to a movie than a TV series, or certainly any of the series that I’ve done,” he says. “I went into it thinking I’m making a British TV show, but it’s not, it’s a global thing.”

To distance himself from his usual TV look, Brydon decided to grow some period-appropriate facial hair. “What I forgot was that this was a seven-month shoot for me, so I was stuck with this goatee beard,” he recalls. “And if people don’t know you’re shooting this period piece, they assume it’s a personal choice. They assume that I’ve got to my late fifties and have decided now is the time. I was doing my podcast throughout all of this, and we do a shorter version of it on YouTube, and you should read some of the comments. ‘You look like a n****’ and all sorts of stuff.”

How else did he prepare? “I ordered a book on Lord Dudley, but I didn’t read it,” he jokes. For a while, he toyed with the idea of throwing one of his many impressions into his portrayal. “There’s a very famous British politician [and] I thought I could play it like him, I could do his voice,” he says. “That was my plan for a while. But then I thought that would be quite restrictive […] He was somewhere in the back of my head. I think if you saw it now, if I told you who it was – and I’m not going to – you’d say, ‘Well, he’s not that much like him,’ but it was a starting point.”

It’s not the only thing that Brydon won’t be drawn on. It feels a little like he is in performance mode when we speak, which makes it a bit tough to extract an unequivocal response when it comes to more contentious subjects. “My Lady Jane” has, like many recent period dramas, opted for color-conscious casting, with actors of color playing real-life royal figures like King Edward and the future Elizabeth I. Even though the show obviously takes place in a fantasy parallel universe, it’s the sort of move that you can imagine riling a certain type of, say, Twitter/X commentator or right-wing news channel. How does he expect that aspect of the production will be received? “I think that some people have one opinion. Other people will have another opinion. ’Twas ever thus.”

Asking how he feels about viewers retrospectively applying the values of our present moment to Noughties comedies like “Gavin & Stacey” elicits similar hedging. “I say, knock yourself out… You have your opinion. That’s absolutely fine, but that opinion is no more valid than my opinion or her opinion or his opinion.”

Someone who certainly has a pretty positive opinion about the show is Margot Robbie. The actor is a longtime “Gavin & Stacey” fan – so much so that she requested Brydon’s presence in “Barbie,” the highest-grossing film of 2023, which she starred in and also produced. “I recorded a video message for her birthday as Bryn – somebody in her camp got in touch and said, ‘We’re putting together some messages, would you do that?’” he says. He’d all but forgotten about it until the “Barbie” call-up came through.

On set, Robbie quizzed him about the sitcom, but director Greta Gerwig “would ask me about Human Remains […] They were happy to have improvisation and collaboration – and that, for someone like me, is just perfect. I love that, where you start with a brilliant script but you’re allowed to offer stuff to add on.” He’s still “so proud to be a part of it, because I really think it’s a wonderful piece of work that says a lot of important things while at the same time being hysterically funny.”

Unlike many of his British comedy peers, Brydon has never been particularly fussed about making inroads in Hollywood. Did seeing the “Barbie” machine up close change that at all? “The great thing about Barbie was I spent one day on it,” he says. “Literally, one day. The reality of being a movie actor is being away from home for months on end, getting up at the crack of dawn, working all day long. It’s as if your life goes on hold. […] Maybe once my younger children have flown the nest [Brydon has two teenage sons with his second wife, TV producer Clare Holland, as well as three older children from his first marriage] and I’m in no rush for that to happen.”

He’d make an exception to work with Wes Anderson, he says, although “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna-ish, but I really like my career the way it is.” We’re “almost indoctrinated to think” that Hollywood is “what any actor must crave,” he says. “When I was younger, definitely, that would have been the case. If I’d given this answer when I was younger, I’d have been lying, but not now.”

Finding fame relatively late – he was in his mid-thirties when “Marion and Geoff” became a critical hit – has shaped this resolutely un-starry-eyed approach to his industry, he reckons. “By then, you’ve hopefully formed your personality. By then you’re not going to get knocked off [course]. And if you have perspective, you realize that success in your career is not necessarily the key to happiness. You know having a balance in your life is the key to happiness.”

Source: Alamy, BBC, Instagram

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top