THEKERRYHOWARD: Can't believe I said I was trying to look handsome @russelltovey. What must he think! #kerryhasgenderissues
russelltovey: @THEKERRYHOWARD handsome! So funny x x x
russelltovey: RT @speckulation: Hey @MBruce83 @Julie_Atherton @russelltovey @JonLee321 @Sheridansmith1 @Spiceboy81 @TomParsonsMusic 200,000 plus views! ow.ly/8SMTO
russelltovey: RT @ShortFilmSunday: Our debut recommendation "In Passing" from @ChrisCreature chriscroucher.com/films/in-passi… , featuring Russell Tovey & Lesley Sharp. Hope you enjoy #SFS
During that previous encounter, the Billericay-born actor had discussed his debut acting gig, in children’s TV drama Mud. He was 11 at the time, and the experience coincided with his first inkling that he might be gay.
“I was really screwed up,” Tovey recalled. “I was so young, but I’d fallen for an older actor in the show. I was 11, so he must have been about 19.”
Also starring in Mud: Dagenham lad Russell Brand. So, when I meet Tovey this time, I ask: all those years ago, did Essex boy Russell T fall for Essex boy Russell B?
“No, it wasn’t him,” Tovey replies with a smile and a sip of his blackcurrant and lemonade (he’s allergic to lager but partial to a vodka). “But Russell was great – and he offered me a porno mag when I was a kid. I think I declined.” And then we’re off, talking about below-the-belt stuff. Maybe we can blame the environment: a Friday night in a busy pub run by Sandra Esquilant, the characterful landlady-cum-arts patron who is one of Tracey Emin’s best friends (Tovey’s also a discerning collector of modern art).
In the cult supernatural flatshare drama, he’s following the example of Aidan Turner (vampire Mitchell), who departed at the end of the last series, having been killed by Tovey’s character. Fangs for the memory and all that, and the show’s rabid following will be agape when they learn of the manner of George’s departure, but why is Tovey leaving too? Did Turner’s exit change things for him? “Yeah, I just felt that I’d been with it since the pilot, and I’d done three series – and for some reason I’ve got it in my head that three’s the magic number. It’s like when you come to the end of a relationship or you need to move house – you suddenly go, ‘I’ve got such happy memories here, and everything’s been lovely. But I just know that I’m ready for the next step now.’”
Now he’s parlaying those small-screen triumphs into big-screen ambition. He has three films coming this year, four if we include his voice-acting gig in the next Aardman adventure, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. He was recently in Venice shooting Effie (made by Him & Her director Richard Laxton), in which he plays the butler of 19th-century arts patron John Ruskin (played by Greg Wise). Grabbers, a comedy-horror filmed in Ireland on a small budget of €3m, was selected for this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Finally there’s Tower Block, a London-set thriller about a sniper shooting up a council block, which gave him the opportunity to work with Sheridan Smith, for whom he professes his adoration.
More immediately, he has his London play, in which he’s starring alongside Jaime Winstone, daughter of Ray. Then, after a fact-finding trip to the city last year, he wants to return to Los Angeles to pursue an American dream.
“The goal is to go over there, book a pilot for a new show, shoot it, come back here, do the third Him & Her, then go out there and do the series.”
“I came out in one meeting!” he laughs. “They weren’t aware. One of them got very excited, and the other one said, ‘Oh, we can go shopping together!’ But,” he shrugs, “I’m out [as a gay man] – if it doesn’t work because of that, it doesn’t work. I’ve got an amazing career here, things are great, and people don’t really seem to care – people are allowing me to be who I wanna be.
“I’m never going to be Orlando Bloom,” he adds. “Certain people find me attractive but I’m never going to be billed as the romantic lead. I’ll always be the anti-romantic lead, the guilty secret crush. But for me that’s the most interesting thing. Being gay sits absolutely fine with that. I’m not trying to be someone I’m not.”