People think that they don't know Russell Tovey, but they do.
Talking about him to almost anybody is like speaking to a slightly senile grandparent about somebody they see all the time – the gardener, the postman, their own son – in that it takes a while, but with a little gentle nudging they get there.
"Russell Tovey?" they say blankly. "I'm afraid I have never heard of him." So you mention that he played the slightly clueless character of Rudge inThe History Boys, first in London, then on Broadway, and finally in the movie. A flicker of recognition passes over their faces. Next, you mention his role in Gavin and Stacey, as one of Gavin's laddish best mates Budgie. An eyebrow is raised. Finally, you point out that Russell Tovey recently spent several months on prime time BBC1, playing John Chivery, a prison watchmen whose unrequited love for Little Dorrit was acted with such heartbreaking intensity that it probably made you cry a bit. And ahah, the light bulb pings on. "Oh HIM!" they sigh. "Why ever didn't you say?"
Tovey, 27, sits before me on a balcony overlooking Soho, smoking and drinking some ginger ale, and concedes that yes, this is the response he normally elicits. Though actually, he says, most people recognise him from Gavin and Stacey