Sunday sees the return of the multi-award-winning Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner. The series is back for a second series and a Christmas Special. I recently spoke with one of the stars, Tom Rosenthal bout what we can expect from series 2, the rumours of an American remake and what it’s like to be paid to attack Simon Bird.
What reaction did you get from Series 1?
Well the important thing to me was my friends and family really enjoyed it. They would’ve told me if they thought it was absolute dross. The public reaction and getting nominated for the awards was quite surreal really. It was a dream come true going to the BAFTA’s and the British Comedy Awards, so I’m very proud to be part of something that was received so positively really. I do stand-up and people would come up to me constantly and tell me that were big fans of the show so it’s very surreal and mind blowing.
What did you think made Series 1 such a success?
You knew people were going to watch it because Tamsin (Grieg), Mark (Heap) and Simon (Bird) have all been in some of the best comedies of the last fifteen years so I knew people would want to watch because of them. I think the two brothers going home and reverting to being children is quite a universal theme that people can relate to and they enjoyed the quirky family language.
Your scenes with Simon Bird can often be quite physical how do you prepare for them and how do you view their sibling relationship?
They just revert to being kids. We worked on getting comfortable with each other physically. I don’t have any brothers or sisters but I’ve seen my friends with their siblings and watched the weird sort of wrestling both verbal and physical that goes on so we had to get into that world of being comfortable punching and kicking each other. In the second series that goes a level up really and we do some awful things to each other. We’re now completely comfortable with it and if it hurts me in one take I’m going to hit him even harder in the next take!
What can we expect from Series 2?
Well Jonny has a new girlfriend, she’s an older woman. Grandma’s got a new love interest too and in the Christmas episode we meet the other Grandma too who is horrible!
What’s it like working as a foursome with Tamsin, Simon and Paul?
Paul (Ritter) and Tamsin (Grieg) as mum and dad are such remarkable actors that in scenes I sometimes genuinely feel like their son. They create such a realistic environment. We’re always around each other on set and we play Boggle or do crosswords and if I’m getting too competitive Tamsin will happily tell me off. We all get on really well and they’re all wonderful people so I think the atmosphere that’s created is definitely infused into characters.
So now you’ve said how lovely they are, who is most like their character?
I think it’s fair to say me and Simon don’t really act, we are ourselves. Tamsin, Paul and Mark are doing these great character pieces and we’re just sort of being ourselves. If I’m being mean I’d say Simon but I’m being honest I’d say I’m most like my character.
Channel 4 have given the series a Christmas Special this year. How does that feel?
The whole Friday Night Dinner for me has been ecstasy tinged with surrealism so the Christmas Special is sort of the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait. I watch all the comedy specials every year and so the idea that I’m going to be able to sit with my family and watch a Christmas Special that I’m in is wonderful. I don’t know if it’s ever going to get much better than that really. It’s Channel 4’s first real Christmas Special so it hopefully shows they really believe in the show and they think enough people will watch it and it’ll be very special for all of us. It’s quite an irony that a Jewish show are doing a Christmas special. I’ve yet to see it but apparently it’s one of the best episodes so I can’t wait. I’m going to save it till Christmas Day so I can watch it with everyone else.
This series Friday Night Dinner will be shown on a Sunday.
Yes. A lot of people seem to bothered by that but I don’t think it matters at all. I’m happy about it being on on a Sunday. It’s a family comedy and Sunday seems a good night where all the family are in. We’re on after Homeland which is one of my favourites and hopefully we’ll get some new fans to Friday Night Dinner and I’ll get to watch 90 minutes of great TV.
What do you know of the rumours of an American remake?
Yes they’re working on it. Robert Popper is very keen to keep the British heart of the show so I’d love to see an American version.
You recently appeared in a Jon Richardson documentary focusing on OCD. How did you feel about doing that?
It was a brilliant documentary and I was honoured to be a part of it. I was worried about talking about it because mine isn’t as serious as a lot of people’s so I was worried it might come across as a self indulgent actor who just wanted to be on the television talking about himself. I didn’t know how they’d found out about it because it’s just a few of my friends in comedy who have seen me tapping things over and over again before gigs who know, so it was quite peculiar talking to the nation about it. People have come up to me and said that the documentary really helped them and that it’s changed their perspective on it. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about OCD and Jon was so good at raising all these issues but I’m very keen to stress that I’m not as bad as most people.
What do you Love and Loathe on TV?
I’m watching a lot of Community, The Thick of It is brilliant and Him & Her too. I’m not a fan of the sudo-reality fare like Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex and I don’t like the Talent shows either. I find them horribly exploitative and unwatchable.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m still doing stand-up you can check out dates on my website. I’m also about to film a new comedy for ITV2 called Plebs which is a sitcom set in ancient Rome which will be on ITV2 next year.
Friday Night Dinner Returns Sunday 7th October at 10.05pm on Channel 4