You’ve had an incredibly varied career and people would probably know you best as Inspector Japp from Poirot. Grampy is a very different, albeit brilliant part. What attracted you to the role?
I spend a large part of my life trying to get people to forget I played Chief inspector Japp. Apart from one episode in the final series two years ago, I hadn’t played Japp since 2000, so it’s not been part of my life for a long time. Unfortunately, it gets churned out on various satellite channels, so I’m still very associated with it. Although I used to play quite a few detectives, I haven’t really done a lot of characters like Japp. My natural persona would be gritty, Northern working class, and that’s where
I’m most comfortable. Films like ‘Brassed Off’, ‘Little Voice’ and one-off TV dramas from the 1970s are what I’m most proud of, and I guess Grampy is a natural successor to those. The wonderful thing about the Morans’ writing is that it is so real and the people are very identifiable and human. It’s very refreshing to be working on a series where none of the actors or characters is required to have a plummy accent or to have been to an expensive public school.
The character of Grampy is a real one off. What did you learn from Caitlin & Caz about their own grandpa?
Caitlin and Caz didn’t tell me much about the real Grampy. I think it’s pretty plain what kind of guy he is and what his cultural influences have been. I’m assuming that they’ve used elements of the real Grampy that are useful and funny for them and discarded the rest, but we didn’t talk about that much. He’s a great guy, and I recognise his type from many friends of my own generation who emerged from the crazy world we grew up in, some more intact than others. Grampy’s occasional ‘acid flashbacks’ give you an indication of where his head is at. There was never a requirement to impersonate real people in the series. They were just guidelines.
Whilst researching your past, we amazingly discovered you were in A-Ha’s iconic Take On Me video. How on earth did that come about?
I used to play five a side football with the director, and he just asked me to do it. It was a right lark. Steve Barron was a legend in rock video production. I later worked with him on the film, ‘Mike Bassett England Manager.’
Your own kids are grown up. How was it working with such a wide-ranging age group of children?
Working with kids is never that easy, and the original baby we had burst into tears as soon as she saw my face. We had to have twins for the baby, so they could be switched around when they got tired. My kids are aged 27 and 24 now, and it was a bit of a shock re-learning how to deal with the young ones, but I think some kind of muscle memory clicked in. I always liked filming the scenes with
the family best as that’s really what the series is all about. We’re a pretty nice bunch, if somewhat unconventional and eccentric. We get on really well.
We see glimmers of Grampy’s romantic side. Are we going to get to see Grandma?
Shit Nan is an enigma. You only get glimpses of her in the programme, but everyone except Grampy hates her even though she seems to make him happy. She has obviously upset her daughter and all her grandchildren in many ways. Their sex life is not to be visualized by anyone under the age of 65. I suspect Grampy was a bit of a player in his youth, and maybe occasionally (secretly) now. He certainly loves women.
Did you know about Caitlin Moran before you were cast in the series? How was it working with the Moran sisters?
The Moran sisters are true originals. I knew about Caitlin’s work before we started the series. I’d been encouraged by my wife and daughter to read ‘How to be a Woman’. I recommend all men to read it, as they will learn many things about the female sex that they didn’t know. It was a major
part of my education process even though I only read it a couple of years ago. The combination of Caitlin and her sister, Caroline, has produced something unique. I’ve never worked on anything as self-defining as ‘Raised by Wolves’. It creates its own world in a very special way. We had Caroline on set with us throughout the filming and it was invaluable for us to know when things were not quite right or wrong from her perspective. Nobody knows how other families operate behind closed doors, so there’s honesty about this, even though you’ll never really know what is true and what is imagined. One thing’s for sure, though, and it’s that, however extreme the characters' behaviour might be, there is a whole lot of love around. I don’t think I’ve worked on anything that is so bursting with simple humanity and that celebrates the joy and sorrow of being alive.