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Former EastEnders and Gavin and Stacey star Larry Lamb stars as Tommy, who’s having an open affair with Rowan Paradise (played by Celia Imrie) in new ITV drama Love and Marriage (Wednesday). We caught up with him to talk about the relationships, turning 65 and working with Alison Steadman again…

What appealed to you about Love and Marriage?

“It’s always the writing. It was the same with Gavin and Stacey. Stewart Harcourt writes characters that people can really relate to. He’s a very humane writer. He is also very, very good at writing women. On a series about a family like this, you don’t want someone who is only good at writing men. If you have someone who can write for both genders, you’re on to a real winner.”

Tell us about your character…

Tommy appears to be much bolder and more in-your-face than he actually is. As the series goes on, you discover that he’s not really like that. He is revealed bit by bit through little vignettes that allow you to understand the depths of his relationship with Rowan.”

Could you outline that relationship with Rowan?

“Rowan represents a source of excitement for Tommy. She represents something that is not happening in his life. Her independence empowers him to have the sort of relationship that he would never otherwise have got as far as dreaming of. He is a straightforward man who is in a seemingly loving, normal relationship with his wife. He is the proud father of two daughters. But something is clearly not quite right in his marriage. 

“Somehow or other, he and his wife have slightly drifted apart. He’s been honest enough to tell her about his affair with Rowan, and his wife has been open enough to allow someone else into her life, although she doesn’t want to know any of the details. As long as Tommy is at home at weekends and doesn’t go on holiday with Rowan and abides by certain rules, it is permissible. His wife is fully aware of it. It’s a very modern, very French relationship.”

So why doesn’t he leave his wife?

Well, that’s an interesting question and it’s left quite up in the air in the story. You’ve seen it going wrong and you’ve seen it sort of come back together again, but you really don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s a bit of a cliff-hanger between the two of them. Maybe we’ll find out more if there’s a second series?”

Are you pleased that there currently seems to be a lot of drama around featuring older characters?

“Definitely. It’s very refreshing. We have dramas like Downton Abbey, which suddenly makes people realise that they have been missing out on something. When I was a boy, shows like Downton Abbey were regular fare. Suddenly, a show like that bursts through and, sure enough, the public gobble it down. It blocks the impasse, and all of a sudden you get a lot of stuff that appeals to audiences of different ages. It’s great. Life begins at 65!”

How did you get on with Celia Imrie, who plays Tommy’s girlfriend Rowan?

I have a wonderful working relationship with Celia. I’ve known her for 33 years. We first worked together in 1980 on a Sam Shepard play at the Royal Court Theatre in London. There are very few colleagues that I have stayed in touch with over the years, but Celia is one of them. It’s such a thrill to be working with her. She’s such an extraordinarily powerful actress. Maturity has worked very well for her. She’s a very established, comfortable performer to act with. The whole thing was a real joy.”

Did you also enjoy working once more with Alison?

Absolutely. I have a glorious working relationship with Alison, as we worked together for so long on Gavin and Stacey, where we played husband-and-wife. So it’s weird that in Love and Marriage I’m having an affair with her sister. If you flash back to Gavin and Stacey, it seems slightly incestuous!”