On The Box meets Russell Tovey & Sarah Solemani
September 6, 2010 by Tom Ford
On arrival for my chat with Him and Her stars Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani, I couldn’t help but notice the fitting nature of the setting. Relaxing in The Dog and Duck in Soho, the two amiable actors reflected perfectly the aspirations and interests of their unemployed, lazy yet content characters, Steve and Becky.
We discuss comedy, hygiene and werewolves – but what comes to the fore with ebullient enthusiasm is their passion for Stefan Golaszewski’s honest sitcom…
Him and Her is described as an anti romance – so how is it different to other sitcoms?
Russell – It’s a love story that’s filled with the truth of being young and being in love, being on benefits and being completely content and average. They’re just this couple, working class, who live in a shitty house.
Sarah – Yeah. They’re very content and I think the comments about it being an anti romance…their only conflict is bed crumbs in the bed or a stinky shit or getting drunk.
How much would you say you’re characters reflect your own personality?
Russell – I would love to be able to do nothing but I can’t – I always have to do things.
Sarah – Yeah and I think with cleanliness I don’t think you realise how unhygienic you are until someone comes into your space. I remember when I was at university one of my aunties came into visit and she came into my living room and she dry wretched.
Were you aware of Stefan’s (the writer) other work?
Sarah – I knew Stefan because we were in Footlights together in Uni, so I knew him before. His writing is just brilliant and we love his one man shows.
Russell – He’s just awesome. His writing is just so accessible and real, and also so fresh and it’s like, ‘you know this world so amazingly.’
Sarah – And the aim for him isn’t gag a second, it’s truth. He combed the script and took out anything he thought was too overt. Becky isn’t a character who is full of neuroses, she doesn’t have body image issues, she’s content and has a bloke, gets drunk, done.
You’ve done theatre, radio, film, TV – what’s your favourite format?
Sarah – Anything’s that’s well written
Russell – Yeah I mean, again, if the characters are amazing and it’s well written and you’re working with people that inspire you then you’re in a brilliant place.
Sarah – I love being on a set and I love the family vibe you get and everyone having their expertise. With crew – I really like that. And you’ve all got your skills and you can’t function without anyone else being there.
Russell – This feels like being a part of a team effort. Cos like sometimes I’ve done jobs where it’s been like ‘us and them’.
What are you both most proud of?
Russell – I’m a fan of all my projects. But at the minute, this, because it’s fresh and it just ticks every taste box, it’s what I would want to watch. I’m really enjoying Grandma’s House and this is similar whereby nothing actually happens, it’s an honest depiction.
Sarah – I’m proud of this because it’s a really honest and refreshing depiction of a young modern couple and I haven’t seen that before so to be a part of that is a privilege.
Russell – I love people making references to lots of other shows that we respect – Rising Damp, Men Behaving Badly, Royle Family – and it’s a brilliant place to be.
Sarah - I think it’s got more of an element of a drama in it than those references. Like I said, Stefan combed out any gags in the script so at the expense of comedy you’ve got a story.
Russell – It’s completely character driven.
Sarah – Yeah, and each episode gets better and more complicated with the relationships. It all sorts of kicks off.
What kind of things do you want to do in the future?
Russell – Second series of this.
Sarah – Yeah, second series of this. Him and Her. We’re calling it Her and Him ha ha
Why do you think Being Human was so popular?
Russell – I think Sci-Fi has always got an audience anyway. You could do the worst bit of sci fi with the worst acting and there’ll be an audience. I also think, again, it was really well written and people loved the characters and people really love Rachael Anthony (writer) and my character George Sands. It’s a good show.
Is playing a werewolf the strangest thing you’ve had to do?
Russell – I’ve probably played other characters that are a bit odder, you know, schizophrenics and stuff. It’s out there, but that’s a challenge as an actor to play. But George – he’s kind of a schizophrenic in a way in that he’s a werewolf one minute and a human the next.
What actors do you aspire to be?
Russell – I’d love the career of Julie Walters but the male version.
Sarah – I really love Rebecca Front, her diversity and lasting so long. And a lot of comedy women – Dawn French, Jessica Hynes.
Would you want to stay in comedy?
Russell – It’s a great place to be but you want to diversify…
Sarah – Good British comedy would be a brilliant career.
Russell – But you just want to play brilliant characters and be challenged all the time and get to work with the best people. And if that continues that would be awesome. The thing about this show, it is that, and it’s also a drama. It’s not a send up – we are completely rooted in truth.
Sarah – It’s like that Sunday hangover vibe but it’s their life.