Nathaniel Parker interview for Me and Mrs Jones
British Comedy Guide
Nathaniel Parker, who plays Tom in Me And Mrs Jones, talks about the show...
Hi Nathaniel. Can you tell us about Tom's relationship with Gemma, and if you based him on anyone you know?
Tom as a character has many facets. He is one of those chaps that we all admire and like, but there is just something about him which is ever-so-slightly irritating. I think he'd make a very good choice for Gemma. He is somebody who is at first it seems, reasonably solid and honest, and dependable. It doesn't necessarily pan out like that. He has lovely little facets to him where he can speak different languages and, dare I say, comes across as a bit of a knob, or a bit of a know-it-all. I do that actually! There are too many of us out there who are a bit too close to Tom. I can't speak Thai in a Thai restaurant, but Tom would.
At one point he's described as a "toothbrush with three speeds" - dependable and strong, and that's lovely. He may not be the most inspirational choice for her, but he likes her very much. I think he's very keen on Gemma, there have been some other ladies and mothers flitting around the school gates at the beginning who I think would love to have made a play for Tom, but he makes his own play and takes the ball into his own court. He asks her out in the beginning, which is lovely for him - it's quite an ambitious thing for him to do. It works and she goes out with him, which takes him completely by surprise. Having asked her he probably thinks, "it'll never happen, it'll never happen" and when it does, he's elated.
How does it compare to other comedies you've worked on?
Well I'd like to say this is the tenth comedy I've worked on and I'm slick and easy at it, but that's not quite true. I did many years ago do a Harry Enfield series as a fireman with loads of makeup. This is a very different rhythm for me. It's lovely. It's very natural which is what I hope a lot of my other acting is in the drama field. But it's a different kind of naturalism and you have to really trust the words. They're brilliant words, but I'm not used to the rhythm of it. In the beginning, luckily I got loads of reassurance from my producers, Beryl and Serena, who were constantly coming up and saying "just trust yourself". It is very different - very often in a drama I'd think about the sentence as I was saying it. This is much more fluent, much more fluid. I found from the very beginning when we had a read-through with Neil and Sarah there, that I was dealing with people who were giving me a bit of a masterclass from the word go. I've actually worked with Neil before on stage in the West End, but that was only a half sort-of comedy - this is very different, and I felt very quickly in very good hands.
What was your favourite scene, and your highlight from the series?
We have many favourite scenes to look back on with this. For me, the funniest one I read was the very first scene. I wasn't even in it. I love it where Sarah is gathering up her children for school and they gather the post-mistress as well. I just think it's brilliant! There are a couple of other scenes - one in a later episode - I don't know if I should necessarily talk about the later episodes, but there are plenty. In the first episode, the Thai restaurant is a wonderful scene - Sarah and I had a blast when we were doing that when Tom gets to speak Thai. That was very good fun. Tae-Kwon Do! I take a Tae-Kwon Do class which took a couple of days to shoot and that was very funny. There's a little moment where Neil just jumps on my back. It's all very good.
What do you think will appeal to people?
I think the cleverness of this programme, which must have had a lot of thought go into it, is that it's going to be very easy to watch. It's a show where you'll have people from all walks of life recognising every single person in this, whether it be the child or Tom or Sarah, or whoever it is. There is a character there for everybody. The amount of times when I've been describing it to friends I've had people say "oh, that's me", or "I know that person", people can relate on just about every level. So many of the very funny things are very natural, we do them all every day. They're just that little bit heightened, which is what makes you fall on the floor when you're doing it. Sometimes we can't finish a take because we're laughing too much, and sometimes you see the cameraman chuckling and we have to do it again. Not having done many comedies, that must be the sign of a very funny script!