Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani are Him & Her
September 3, 2010
By: Sarah Dean
Being Human's Russel Tovey and comedian Sarah Solemani star in a new BBC Three anti-romantic comedy.
They play Steve and Becky a young 20-something couple who simply want to drink, eat and have sex – so they do. They don't want to get a job – so they don't.
It might sound boring, but it's actually really funny as we watch their endless days of nothing played out in minute detail, warts-and-all, in real time as they exist together in Steve's bedsit, happy and ambition-free, milking the state.
We caught up with the pair alongside the shows writer Stefan Golaszewski to find out more...
How close to life is this?
Sarah: Very close to life.
Russell: Well we've all been young, we've both been unemployed at times, and yeah lazy – so I think we've ticked all three of them boxes at some point. Sarah probably more than me – the laziness, not the unemployment, she's never stopped working.
What about the bedsit scenario - have you ever had to live in a terrible shared flat?
R: Sarah probably has she's quite a hippy. You'd love that, I've always been quite spoilt I suppose.
S: I haven't been in a bedsit but I've been in halls in uni and I'd wake up and there would be a pan on the pillow, a pan of spaghetti. You wouldn't put it in a bowl you'd take the pan and sit on your bed, and fall asleep.
Did you have any couples in mind that you model the couple on?
R: Stefan's relationship! No, I think the writing is so amazing you don't need to copy anyone you can envisage it it's so sort of naturalistic, you just sort of slip into it. Research wise I mean what would there be to research?
S: It's sort of that private dirty intimacy you have with your loved one which is disgusting to other people but when you're in love with them it's sort of what you love about them.
R: Yeah the smell of farts and you on the toilet. And if someone was observing that bit, which they will now because of the show, that's when they find it all a bit disgusting. But when you're in that relationship it’s just completely normal.
S: And it's like capturing that space when your fooling around in a couple and other people can't see that bit of you. Why I think Stefan's writing is so amazing is because it's captured the essence of that private world that we all have that no one else gets to see.
So is it quite a sweet relationship between them then?
R: Yeah it's a love story they are completely and effortlessly in love they bicker and stuff but there is no doubt that they have a rock solid connection to each other. That's what's great about this show you see this side, they're not like a sitcom couple that's constantly arguing, where she's the trouble and strife and he's the man that's annoyed, it’s more like the genders are swapped round in this.
Stefan: Yeah it's almost like it's the other way round where he gets all the paranoia and she's cool and calm, which probably says quite a lot about my relationship.
Do they ever go out or do they just stay in the flat?
R: They do have to go to the shops sometimes but in what you see they don't.
Is it easy to film just in the one set?
R: It's brilliant, so refreshing.
R: Because sometimes, when I've been doing Being Human, every day there is somewhere different I’ll be running around naked screaming. With this you know you're going to be naked in just one room running around screaming. It's just really lovely and you feel like that's the world, and yeah it get a bit claustrophobic and it gets a bit hot in there but you just step outside and drink lots of water.
You're probably quite at home now with stripping off on set aren't you?
R: Yeah I'm just over it now, my naturalist naked side has come out of me now. But when we did the pilot of this by the end of the week we were talking absolute filth to each other we'd just burp in front of each other and she'd probably fart, yeah you did the other day – write about that!
S: That was a cough, from my bottom.
R: So yeah we bonded on that level.
S: And I had to train myself to get out of that level of filth because I went to my friends house and her mum was there and I looked out the window and went "oh my god that chimney looks like a big black c**k!" It did actually look like a big black c**k in the skyline but there was no filth trap it just came straight out and now I've ruined the landscape in their living room.
How important was it for you two to get on?
R: In the audition process we had six auditions to begin with.
S: Yeah we had loads and there was a room in a basement and they'd picked a scene to audition where we're snogging and I sat in that basement and I must have snogged about 15 blokes.
R: It was heaven.
S: And then you know we had great chemistry, I think, I hope.
We saw you describe it as filthy Stefan? But it's probably just frank isn't it? It's quite nice to see a couple as people recognise as they're watching at home.
R: Yeah there's so much in it that you can see and relate to completely whether it's in you or someone else.
Do you think it's killed romance though?
R: No it will make it better, I think people will strive to be Becky and Steve. Even in their filth you want to be them they're really kind of cool and blissfully happy.
S: And there is nothing phoney or fake about them or how they are with each other. It's a very honest portrayal of two people in love who don't have much else to do.
What do they bicker about?
S: You get a bit funny sometimes.
R: As a character right? Well she nicks my chips
S: Or you know how in your bag you have loads of bits of crap? Like bits of crisp and hair, well I empty my bag on the bed so then that's all there.
R: He doesn't like her eating toast in bed with crumbs. So it's little things - not big things like she slept with the neighbour.
What about real life, are you quite house-proud at home?
R: I am a bit anal.
S: I alternate. If I clean I like to get every little spec up but then I can be comfortable with leaving it for a long time.
It's not judgemental about them at all is it?
R: It's inspirational! They don't have any worries; they don't worry about the future, they're just living in the future and loving it. They're on benefits and there's mention of the jobcentre but I don't think they've ever been.
S: Well they probably go to get their dole but they aren't actively looking for work.
Do we hear about their past and how they got together?
Stefan: Not really it’s very much in the now, you just sort of enter in the middle, they've been together about 8 months.
R: It's like watching a documentary isn't it, just half hour snippets, because it's all real time looking in on their lives and they don't have any desire to do anything but what they're doing.
What about the friends and the mum we saw a clip of can you tell us about them?
R: The world does open out and people come in but we never leave the flat. We've got Becky's sister and her controlling boyfriend and Sarah's mum and dad and a flat neighbour that loiters, Dan, who pops his head in occasionally. But he doesn't really say much he just turns round and looks a bit gormless. We are his only friends really but even we don't really like him, but we're not horrible people, we're really big hearted welcoming people, just a bit too into each other. Steve just wants to stay in bed, that's it your mine, let’s just have sex all the time.
S: If they could they probably would if they didn't have to go and buy food they'd probably literally just stay in bed. I felt a bit like the grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I get out of bed in the morning, get in bed at work, then go home and get back in bed. That's my whole existence.
It's quite refreshing because usually TV's all about getting fit and going to the gym and personal hygiene but this is a complete antidote...
R: Trying to stay trim on this job is just impossible.
S: Yeah there's this scene where I'm eating chips and so I arrived on set about 8pm I was eating chips till about 9pm and Stefan chose the word 'chug' as a stage direction so I couldn't take my time.
R: It was so funny just chugging it. What about me and the sausage rolls? And the Dairy Milk? I was nearly gagging on Dairy Milk, I had nearly two big slabs. We've all put on weight doing this.
Do we see them in the bathroom quite a lot?
S: You see me constantly on the toilet.
What do they talk about in that situation?
R: That she smells, we don't reference the fact that one of them is having a number two we just get on with it, they're so comfortable around each other.
S: There's a nice moment where he comes and looks at me and goes 'you look so cute when you do a poo' – little touches.
Being Human started on BBC Three as well, you must be becoming the face of the channel?
R: Yeah it's a nightmare - wouldn't wish it on anyone. Na it's all going well thankfully they keep getting me back for new projects I'm happy to be on BBC Three, it's a good channel.
Do you hope this might move like other ones?
R: Yeah Being Human went to BBC One and will again hopefully, I don't know but I think BBC Three is really a cool channel now and people go to the channel to watch things specifically on that channel.
Is there anything you can compare Him & Her to that's around at the moment? It seems to have the sweetness of Gavin and Stacey?
R: Well yeah you've got the sweetness of Gavin and Stacy because it's about a domestic relationship and the style is more like The Royle Family in that you're allowed to have moments to let it breath and it's observational comedy, Big Brother-esque like a reality documentary. I also think it's completely fresh in its approach to characters and the writing is so fresh.
The thing about the show that's so amazing is you haven't seen it all before and no-one’s ever been able to produce something that is so simple and fresh and brilliant as it is.
Was it hard after doing Being Human which is such a big hit?
R: Well I’m doing Being Human again, I did the pilot of this nearly a year ago and I knew it's exactly what I wanted to do because it's different to Being Human and you hope to be in a position where you can make choices.
Catch the first episode of Him & Her Monday 6 September at 10:30pm on BBC3