It’s an understatement to say we’re fans of Vicious. The ITV sitcom about an older gay couple first appeared in 2013 and – of course – divided opinion in the gay community long before Cucumber hit our screens.
And now it’s back, rightfully so and as unapologetically mean as ever. Not that the stellar cast are anything like their on-screen counterparts.
We’re sat with Sirs Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, theatre legend Frances de la Tour and Game of Thrones bad boy Iwan Rheon, having sandwiches with a view of the Thames – and they couldn’t be nicer.
Which kind of scuppers our line of questioning about being vicious… A debate breaks out as to what is viciousness and what is anger – highlighted by a story that Frances, in her usual wonderful delivery, recounts about being chased down the road by a News of the World journalist who was accusing her of having an affair.
“I was viciously tough with them,” she recalls, “but I don’t actually think it was vicious. I think that’d be to be deliberately destructive to somebody, don’t you?”
Ian concedes. “The trouble about being vicious to someone’s face is that it’s a wound that can really hurt.”
“And for life,” Frances adds.
“And that’s part of the point of being vicious,” Ian points out. “You want it to hurt.”
He thinks about it some more. “I throw things at the television when I see people parading their prejudices, whatever they happen to be. I long to have a lashing tongue that could silence them forever more.”
Frances considers this. “That’s anger. That’s not viciousness.”
We ask if they’d read any of the reviews for series one. They’re quick to point out that they didn’t.
“I was told very early on,” Iwan says, “by an amazing actress – it was my first job – ‘don’t ever read reviews, they’re not for you.’ Which I’ve held to this day.”
In fact, Ian’s the only one of the quartet who does read what the critics think.
“I was upset when someone wrote that these shows were homophobic. It was a straight person who said it. You’ve got it absolutely wrong – as if Derek and I or these two would put their names and their talent to anything that was. So you worry then, why did they think that?”
“It was vicious of them to say that,” Frances notes.
“I thought, ‘Oh they’ve absolutely got it wrong’,” Ian continues, “and then another friend said, ‘Oh Vicious puts television back 50 years’ – and then they laughed because they were thinking about I Love Lucy, that