FEATURE: How Ruth Jones and James Corden got Gavin & Stacey back for Christmas.

by | Dec 3, 2019 | All

When Gavin and Stacey co-creator Ruth Jones appeared on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show in late May she was there to promote a new book. But, as is always the case for anyone linked with one of the BBC’s biggest comedy hits, she was asked by stand-in host Matt Lucas whether she thought the hit show, which finished in 2010 could return. She gave the same answer she’d given for the last ten years. “I don’t think so. James is over in America and everyone’s so busy, so I don’t think it could ever really happen.” She’d given a variation of that answer to countless people over the years, only this time she knew she was lying! The next day, a tweet from her co-writer James Corden broke the internet. As the internet went berserk Ruth Jones fired off an email to Matt Lucas apologising for lying to him.

Ruth Jones and I have been keeping this secret for a while… We’re excited to share it with you. See you on Christmas Day.

In Truth, Ruth and James had been working in secret to bring fans a brand new episode of their beloved comedy that will take pride of place in the BBC’s Christmas Day lineup. Just like fans of the show, Ruth and James had often wondered what the characters in Essex and Barry would be getting up to. How Gavin & Stacey were getting on as parents, where Nessa and Smithy might have ended up and whether Pete and Dawn were still together! Once the decision to write a special was decided, the pair had to decide how best to write it. It wasn’t an easy task given the fact that they live on different continents. Ruth would travel to LA to map out the story. She’d go again to tighten up the script and if friends grew suspicious of why she was going again she’d tell them it was for ‘a holiday’.

Once the pair were happy with the story and James had decided to use his two-week holiday to shoot the Christmas in Barry in the middle of a heatwave in July, the next mammoth cast was contacting the beloved ensemble cast.

Matthew Horne, Joanna Page, Alsion Steadman, Larry Lamb, Rob Brydon, Melanie Walters, Robert Wilfort, Julia Davies and Adrian Scarborough had all been incredibly busy since the end of the series and Ruth admits, “it was a miracle we managed to get everyone, but once we did and everyone was so excited it felt like a good omen for the show.

Everything about the return of Gavin & Stacey has been shrouded in secrecy with only Ruth’s husband and James’ wife knowing what they were working on. They split the task of contacting cast members in half. Melanie Walters who plays Stacey’s mum Qwen got an awkwardly worded text that she put down to either spam or a scam. Even when she got a call from an LA number she still dismissed it. “It wasn’t until the fourth call when James left a voicemail asking me to call him and I recognised his voice that I realised this must be something exciting!” Joanna Page, who has a reputation within the cast as someone notoriously bad at getting back in touch with people who have called her pretty much ignored the fact that Ruth Jones had reached out to her on her phone, email and every social media outlet available. “I was busy with the kids and kept seeing all these messages from Ruth asking me to call her. My first thought was, bearing in mind I’m a mum who is looking after three children all the time, I thought, is she going to tell me that there’s some really dodgy photos of me which are going to hit all of the newspapers. Then I thought, why would they go through Ruth to tell me that? When she eventually told me I was so excited.”

The cast was in place, but now they had the burden of keeping the secret from everyone everywhere. . When Alsion Steadman and Rob Brydon happened to bump into each other at a BAFTA event Alison said, “I’m nervous about G&S” Rob, not thinking fast enough, assumed Alison was at the event because she’d been nominated for a performance in a Gilbert and Sullivan story. “I might have even said to her, you were fantastic in it! I want and sat down and ten minutes later and went ooh!” When it came time to name a cast and crew WhatsApp group Gilbert and Sullivan seemed the obvious choice. Such was the level of paranoia around the show, that Alsion Steadman admitted, “every time I sent a text or an email I called it Gilbert and Sullivan in case anyone saw it. I was so scared it would get out!”

Robert Wilfort, who is back playing Stacey’s brother Jason says he found it easier to keep the secret. “I didn’t even tell my mum! I was unemployed at the time so it would’ve been nice to tell my mum that I had a job but we all kept it a secret.”

Joanna Page remembers the anticipation of receiving the script. “ I had the script in my email but I had to do a readthrough for another job and couldn’t read it! As soon as I got out I sat in a car park for hours reading it and sending emails back and forth to Ruth and James quoting their own lines back at them! I loved it.”

Matthew Horne admits that even though he knew the script for the special was brilliant he was incredibly anxious about returning to the role that made him famous. “I was incredibly nervous. I wanted to be able to deliver because it’s such a wonderful script. The nerves got worse as I saw everyone reacting on social media. After day one of filming everything settled down because we realised that it was going to happen and with all love that it happened with before.”

With the script, cast and original director Christine Gernon all in place, they had to know whether they could still use the same filming locations in and around Barry. Gwen’s house was key to that, but ever since the show became such a breakout hit the house has become something of a tourist attraction. Fans will pose outside and take photos and Ruth knew that turning up at the house might raise some suspicion. “Glenda (the owner of the house) was still there and she let us in again. Before anybody knew we were doing this I went down to see her and I took my nine-year-old niece as a bit of a decoy so that if anyone wondered I was there I could say I wanted to show her where her aunt filmed a television programme. She very kindly let us use her house again and everyone on the street was so lovely and welcoming.”

Once the were on the set, and back filming on Barry Island, the cast found themselves surrounded by fans eager to watch the special being made. Ruth Jones says, “There were people everywhere we went. We’d go out on breaks in the filming to say hello and sign things but it was amazing how many people came out.” Larry Lamb, who is back as Gavin’s dad Mick, says that filming in Barry this time was a world away from the first time the cast shot on the island.

The first time we ever filmed in Barry we were doing a travelling shot and they were kids throwing rocks at us and the police had to give us an escort! The second time we filmed there, the show had aired and we wanted to film on the beach and they said, yes you can have the beach! This time, we were so inundated every time we moved. The houses are on a road called Trinity Street and there were three or four hundred people at both ends of the street every time we did it, it was quite extraordinary. They love the show and they feel a part of it.”

With all the cast back, the special is something quite ‘special’. It’s full of the warmth that made the original series such a huge hit and the script from Ruth Jones and James Corden proves the pair have great affection for their creation. Do not miss this festive treat.

Gavin & Stacey returns on Christmas Day at 8.30pm on BBC One.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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