How did you get involved with Cucumber and working with Russell T Davies? I wish there was an amusing showbiz anecdote about how I met Russell at Stephen Fry’s house and we just struck up a conversation – but there isn’t! My agent phoned and asked if I wanted to audition. As a big fan of Doctor Who – and only really a fan of Doctor Who after Russell recreated it – he’s a man whose work and contribution to British television drama over the years has been the gold standard. I remember watching Bob and Rose, and The Second Coming is genuinely one of my all time favourite things that’s been on television... So it’s a bit of a dream come true working with him, then? It absolutely was. At the point where my agent said his name, he added: “There’s a couple of things to bear in mind...” But before he even finished that sentence, I said I didn’t care what they were – I’ll do it. So he tells me I’m playing a gay man and it’s very physical and I have to get naked – but I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s for Russell T Davies, so it’s fine.” If Russell T Davies asks you to get naked, then you HAVE to get naked, right? Yeah, pretty much. The first couple of jobs I did on the stage both required me to full on snog the face off some incredibly attractive young women. And I’m a married man and a father of two, so the only way I could possibly justify kissing very good looking young women is that it’s acting. But that’s the point. In acting, there should be absolutely no difference in whoever you’re kissing as long as it’s part of telling a story. So the point that there were any kind of caveats about kissing another man is just old fashioned fucking nonsense bullshit. You can’t go, “Sorry, I gotta kiss a poofter? No, sorry!” You have to be the worst kind of fucking arsehole to be like that. It was never a big thing for me. But you’re starring alongside another straight married man with kids himself, in Vincent Franklin, so there must’ve been some camaraderie there? There was. What we could both absolutely agree on though was that it was incredibly liberating. There’s always been a voice in the back of my head when working with young women actors, where the very act of kissing naked could be deeply uncomfortable for them. Which I can completely understand. Even though you’re acting, there should be some basic human decency. But the lovely thing about working with Vincent, us both being straight men, was that we were meant to be playing these two guys absolutely into it and turned on – so we could just absolutely go for it, because there was never a sense from either of us that feels like, “Oh, you’re really getting off on this.” There was never any subtext of that being the case, so we were ultimately freed up for it to be as steamy as we could make it. Without spoiling too much, can you tell us a bit about your character? I’m only in one episode, so I certainly don’t feel I can take a huge amount of credit. But the main character Henry has suffered something of a crisis in the beginning of the series and is trying to get back out there, and I’m somebody that he meets through an app, a bit like Grindr. And they get on well. This episode basically is the three or four big characters all going out on dates on the same night. Did working on Cucumber open you up to a lot of new terminology? For example – “Grindr?” There wasn’t anything in there I hadn’t heard before – but there was this phrase “power bottom.” I’d heard the term because there are some very flirty, very sexy gay men who’ve offered themselves to me at various points, and I’d heard the phrase, but once I read the script I
Comedian and actor Rufus Hound is just one of many guest stars in Cucumber, starring in episode four as Rupert – a man in hot pursuit of Henry...
thought, ‘Maybe I don’t actually know what it means...’ So I asked some gay friends about it. But because I had to SAY it, I didn’t want to say it in a way that made it sound like it was coming from the mouth of somebody who didn’t know what it was. “Power bottom” feels like a lot of syllables to me. Why hasn’t been reduced down to like “power butt”, or “pow butt?” All of these things usually end up being contractions... “Po-bo,” maybe? Po bo! That feels like you could call yourself a po bo and that feels straight forward – but power bottom feels like the sort of thing you’d have to put on a job application. That’s what I want the GT headline to be. “White, middle class, straight man tells gay people what terms they’re allowed to use.” You must have some gay mates who’re pretty chuffed that you’re in the biggest gay drama since Russell’s last one – Queer as Folk. I’ve got lots of gay friends, and when I told them it was written by the bloke that’d done Queer as Folk, they were like “Oh, that’s great.” But I think people who’ve been involved KNOW it’s going to be absolutely massive. In that brilliant way that Russell does, when he made Queer as Folk it was important television because it was the first big gay drama. With this again, there IS a sense that it’s important television, but I think it only has that about it because it’s written by the bloke who wrote Queer as Folk. It feels to me at least, as a society, we’ve moved on enough that having a gay drama isn’t the thing where the woman picking up the Daily Mail drops her tea cup and her jaw hits the floor and she’s immediately on the phone to the church council. It’s only given an importance because it’s the writer of Queer as Folk, however, because it’s Russell T Davies and because of how brilliant he is, it may yet be important drama because it will say things that shed more light on the gay experience as it is in the 2010’s. I’d rather we lived in a world where it was less obvious what was interesting about a gay TV show than the opposite.
Cucumber episode four