Last Tango’s Rupert Graves: ‘Gary’s crashed into the family like a whirlwind!’

Gary Jackson’s constant desire to be part of the family inLast Tango in Halifax quickly got on Alan and Gillian’s nerves, confesses Rupert Graves…

How did Gary feel about finding out Alan (Derek Jacobi) was his real dad?
“Finding out Alan’s his real dad absolutely knocks Gary for six. He becomes completely lost and feels a real sense of betrayal from both his own parents and from Alan. He feels there’s a lot of time to make up for and he wants to get right into the heart of the family.”

Yes, we’ve noticed…
“Gary’s a real go-getter, who’s crashed into this lovely family like a whirlwind. Unfortunately, Gary’s energy is very unsettling and I think everyone’s becoming overwhelmed by his constant need to be part of them.”

Gary manages to annoy half-sister Gillian (Nicola Walker) by offering her son Raff a full-time job, then saying he’ll pay for her upcoming wedding…
“Because Gary’s got all this money, he wants to offer everything and pay for everything. Gillian’s delighted to have Gary around, but he becomes a bit of a burden, which causes a strain.”

Alan’s annoyed, too, that Gary’s telling people he’s his ‘real dad’. Why’s Gary so keen for everyone to know?
“Finding out Alan’s his real father has opened up a chasm in Gary’s own identity in terms of knowing who he is. Gary won’t feel complete unless he’s the best ‘lost’ son ever.”

Do you enjoy playing characters with an ‘edge’ to them?
“All of [writer] Sally Wainwright’s characters are sympathetic; they all have a human element and I’ve certainly looked for that while playing Gary. Drama is made of conflict – without conflict there’s no story.”

How did you feel about being the new boy among such an established cast in Last Tango…?
“Really terrifying – mainly because they’re all so good! I’d met Derek a few times before and Nicola I’d known through other people, but never worked with her. I worked with Dean Andrews (Robbie) on Ashes to Ashes. Last Tango… is a lovely ensemble piece and I definitely felt part of it.”

How do you juggle work as an actor with being a father of five children?
“It’s been tough on my wife because I worked non-stop last year. Every day in my house is certainly lively. I’d like to put a video camera in my hall just to show you what it’s like getting five children – aged four to 11 – washed, fed and dressed without ending up with their pants on their head! It’s lovely, but when you’re tired it can be a little overwhelming.”

Have your children seen much of what you’ve done?
“They’ve seen things like Doctor Who and Sherlock. They thought Doctor Who was cool because all their friends think it’s cool – but the rest they think is nonsense!”

Last Tango in Halifax continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC1.