Interviews

John Thomson and the return of Cold Feet

John Thomson Cold Feet

Cold Feet makes a surprise return to ITV on Monday 5 September 2016 at 9.00pm, here star John Thomson talks about the show coming back and why the time was right.

Mem TV: Why is now the right time to return to the Cold Feet characters?
“There was talk of Cold Feet coming back around five years ago. For various reasons it didn’t come together. But now is a very good time for it to return. There was no recession when we did Cold Feet the first time around. Everyone was on a relatively even keel. Times are different today.

“Also after the doom and gloom of recent months it will be nice for people to seek solace in something they know and loved from before. But you can also come to Cold Feet fresh, without having to know too much background. It’s self-explanatory. The problems they’re experiencing aren’t necessarily just late fortysomething problems. They are people problems.”

Mem TV: Was it difficult recapturing the cast chemistry?
“Not at all. It just happened. It’s been a joy working with everyone. I relished every single minute. Because we all get on. And it shows. You pick up where you lem off. Like old friends who haven’t seen each other for a while do.

“The script read-through before we started filming was the most nerve-wracking thing because it’s not a natural situation. There’s a lot of people at that initial meeting. Every head of department and his brother. It’s a daunting prospect.

“Also, the first day of filming is always a bit nerve-wracking. Especially if you’ve not worked for a bit because your brain is not trained for the lines. If you’re a jobbing actor and are going from job to job, your brain gets into such a good rhythm for learning. I hadn’t had too long off work but the first day is always nervous.

“And then three weeks later, Jimmy, Robert and me were filming a scene in the pub and Jimmy said, ‘How weird is this? It feels like a few weeks ago we did this. Not 13 years.’ And I went, ‘It’s great, isn’t it?’

“We don’t hang out together. I’m in Manchester and we’re spread all over the place. We’ve got families now as well. That’s the big difference this time. We’re not as free. That’s why we filmed the new series of Cold Feet over five day weeks because it was very manageable to have a family life and work.

“If it had been six days it would have been impossible. I don’t think Hermione or Fay would have done it and I would have struggled. That was one of the things that had to be in place, five day weeks. Because back in the day none of us had kids.”

Mem TV: Asked several years ago where you saw Pete if Cold Feet returned, you replied, ‘I’m half the size I used to be, so probably down the gym with a beautiful model for a wife and splitting his weekends between Didsbury and Monte Carlo.’ It hasn’t quite turned out that way for him?

“No. I’m devastated! When I finished the last series of Cold Feet I was huge. I saw a clip recently of Rachel’s funeral and I couldn’t believe how big I’d got. I’m a bit more mindful about what goes in my body these days. So I am half the size but sadly no model or Monte Carlo for Pete.”

Mem TV: What happens to Pete?
“Pete’s storyline is huge. Because I’m sober – 10 years this Christmas – I think they knew I was no maintenance. Not low. No. When they realised that they made sure I had something meaty to try and deal with to see if I could handle it. And I have.

“There is, of course, light and shade in Cold Feet but a little more shade for Pete this time which was tough to play. There were days when I’d go home and I would be just washed out because of the emotion and the scenes, some of the stuff I had to do. I found it quite hard. I saw a little bit of one scene where they screened a tease at the wrap party. The room went quiet.

“For me, it’s been a fantastic opportunity. I didn’t anticipate Cold Feet coming back. I feel blessed to be able to play Pete again and be given such amazing storylines. I couldn’t be happier.

“Even though I’ve done five series of Cold Feet before, people ask, ‘Have you ever thought about straight acting?’ And I think, ‘Well, what’s Cold Feet then?’ Unless they mean Hamlet. I don’t know!”

Mem TV: Did you draw on some of your own life experience to play Pete’s story in this series?
“Absolutely. Oh God, yeah. With the ups and downs of my life there was a lot I could draw on. It was useful. The Americans don’t admit they have off days. That’s why they’re all in therapy. It was good. But it’s nice for me because my pedigree is comedy and it’s expected of me. I think it’s a very personal storyline to the writer Mike Bullen. He’s delighted with what I’ve done, which is great.

“There was huge amount of pressure on us to deliver in so many different packages. When I saw that first episode on screen I thought it was excellent and it did make me cry. Because of the emotion of the show. It was so well acted by everyone it got me a couple of times. I just shot off amerwards because I was overwhelmed. I felt we had achieved what we wanted to achieve.

“It’s more than just the fact of doing a good acting job. Did it gel? Is it true to what the fans want? All these different things. So when the first episode screening finished I was like, ‘Oh God, yes. I think they’ll be happy with that.’ That was a massive relief. Because we haven’t messed with it. We’ve kept the spirit of Cold Feet and been very true to our original format.

“Cold Feet is not a comedy drama. It’s a drama with comic elements. If you watch it objectively as an ensemble thing, I think it’s brilliant.”

Mem TV: What’s the state of Pete and Jenny’s (Fay Ripley) marriage?
“I think Pete and Jenny are closer than ever. Because they’ve been through so much. Jenny is a stalwart. That’s one of the beauties of this new series. Pete and Jenny are very popular because they’re the average couple. That’s why people identify with them.”

Mem TV: James Bolam plays Harry in this new series. What was it like working with him?
“He was absolutely brilliant. On the money. Word perfect. Just a joy to work with.”

Mem TV: Adam (James Nesbitt) and Pete remain huge Manchester United fans. Did that require plenty of acting on your part?
“A friend of mine saw a trailer for the new series and said, ‘It was you, in a Man Utd strip, drinking a pint. I’ve never seen anything so weird in my life.’ Because I hate sport and I don’t drink! To be doing that, drinking a pint watching football is my absolute idea of hell.

“Pete’s not so great in his choice of clothes. You have to keep things real but at the same time my rule of thumb for Pete is, ‘I wouldn’t wear that.’ The costume people love it. But it’s a bit weird putting football strips on. I wouldn’t be seen dead in one. Even if I liked football. Certainly not every day. I don’t mind people wearing them on a match day. But not day to day.”

Mem TV: Pete is in a cycle race with Adam and David (Robert Bathurst). How was that to film?
“Oh what a day that was. I couldn’t walk at the end of it. It was epic. With Pete in pink Lycra. I have a mountain bike and I do go out on it. That’s fine. You get on your bike, you ride a bit and then you go home. But for filming it was, ‘Right back to the top of the hill and down again.’ People don’t realise how many takes we did. So it was probably 10 hours in the saddle. Despite the fact I had foam reinforced cycling shorts on, I looked like John Wayne at the end of the day.”

Mem TV: Tell us about the Cold Feet children, a visible reminder of how much time has gone by?
“My eldest daughter Olivia is 13 now, around the same age as Pete’s daughter Chloe. Having a 13- year-old daughter really helped. That was easy to draw on. It’s nice to be a dad to be able to play what it’s like. To have that experience and not guess at it.”

Mem TV: David makes a speech about the bleak outlook of his own middle age. Are you as pessimistic?
“It really makes you think, what David says. For me it has a positive effect. Because I don’t want to be like that. I try to live in the moment a lot more these days, spiritually. I’m quite centered. So that kind of fatalist outlook doesn’t really go with my character make-up. Because you’ll never be happy, will you?”

Mem TV: Choices we make in life are also discussed. What different path might you have taken?
“A drummer would have been one. I could have been a full-time professional drummer in a band. And I do love to cook. Despite MasterChef being an absolute disaster, which we won’t go into, I still cook and love to cook. I love food. I’m a real foodie. So catering would have been something I might have liked.

“Something creative, definitely. I’m not a number cruncher. That’s one of the things you realise. When you don’t really identify with people you wonder why. What’s the boundary between someone you meet? And you realise creative people bond very well. Whereas left brains and right brains…I find conversation stilted with systems analysts. You find yourself lost. I’m not socially inept by any standard. But for those people I have to really pull out all the stops because they’re not creative. And I love creativity.

“I’m grateful every day because I do a job I love and I’m paid for it. Not many people have that luxury these days.”

Mem TV: Tell us about the location of the final scene you filmed for this series?
“It was at Salford Boys’ Club, made iconic by The Smiths. I’d never been in the place. I was born at Hope Hospital in Salford and so were my two girls, Olivia and Sophia. Which is great. The maternity ward has gone now at Hope. It doesn’t exist. Sophia was one of the last babies to be born there.

“So I’m Salford-born and I was adopted in Didsbury. It all inter-links. I live in Didsbury, as does Pete. That’s my spiritual home. Just a nice place to be.”

Mem TV: Is Salford’s neighbour Manchester still an important ingredient of Cold Feet?
“Absolutely. As a city it was great 13 years ago. But it’s got better and better. Manchester has changed so much. It’s been massively regenerated and I hope that continues. It’s thriving.”

Mem TV: What happened at the end of series wrap party?
“Because I don’t drink, wrap parties aren’t great. So I said, ‘Let’s try and make it a bit Phoenix Nights-ish.’ We had bingo and a comedy raffle. It was my idea to bring in unwanted gims wrapped in newspaper. The greater the comedic value the better. The bingo went down a storm.”

Mem TV: How do the cast feel about filming another series after this one?
“We’d love to. I don’t see why not.”

Cold Feet, Mondays at 9.00pm on ITV.