Tom Hollander on new BBC1 comedy drama Us: ‘Douglas is quite annoying’

Tom Hollander tells all about Us and why his character is annoying!

Us is a new four-part BBC comedy drama about middle-aged biochemist Douglas Petersen. Douglas (Tom Hollander) considers himself happily married to wife Connie. They have a nice house, decent jobs, and have successfully raised their son Albie, who’s soon off to university.

So when Connie wakes her husband in the middle of the night and reveals that she’s leaving him when Albie moves out, Douglas experiences more emotions than he realised he possessed!

However, when Connie suggests they still go on their meticulously-planned grand tour of Europe with Albie, heartbroken Douglas sees a glimmer of hope and privately vows to win back his wife. But can he convince Connie that he’s still the man she fell in love with?

Tom Hollander (The Night Manager, Baptiste) tells us why new comedy drama Us – a four-part adaptation of David Nicholls’ acclaimed novel of the same name starring – is more relevant than ever…

What makes this story about a marriage break-up an effective comedy drama?

Tom Hollander: “What’s good about Us is that it feels very true. Lots of people want their life to have other chapters, so it’s a story about that rather than some scandalous betrayal. It’s worse than that because it’s so normal and ordinary. It’s an honest depiction of how things go sometimes. Yet, ultimately, it’s a story of hope.”

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Why is Connie considering leaving Douglas?

TH: “Douglas is quite annoying. He’s funny, but he’s a bit of a control freak – a laminated paper person and a helicopter parent! It could have been a story in which two people put up with each other and then spend the rest of their lives looking out the window wondering, ‘What if.’ But this is one where Connie isn’t happy with ‘What if.’ It’s an act of courage on her part that she’s disrupting a perfectly satisfactory existence.”

How important are the flashbacks to when Douglas and Connie fell in love 24 years earlier (Young James Herriot star Iain De Caestecker and Father Brown’s Gina Bramhill play younger versions of Douglas and Connie)…

The way they were... Iain De Caestecker and Gina Bramhill as younger versions of Douglas and Connie in Us

The way they were… Iain De Caestecker and Gina Bramhill as younger versions of Douglas and Connie in Us

TH: “The flashbacks are very important, and Gina and Ian are brilliant in them. You see the journey these two people have gone on, who they were, who they’ve become, and how what was right for them once, isn’t now. Their past is refreshing, charming and has the energy of people falling in love, which is very different to the energy of the contemporary story.”

Do you think the series will resonate with viewers, especially with the recent pressures of lockdown?

TH: “Obviously we didn’t know coronavirus was coming [the series was filmed last summer] and that people would be forced into lockdown, but the opening scene where Connie wakes up in the middle of the night and says, ‘I can’t bear it anymore’, we did think some people have that thought anyway. So lockdown will have brought it up for people. I think some relationships have probably proved themselves during lockdown and others have fallen apart. It should be recognisable to enough people.”

How did you find filming in London, Amsterdam, Venice, Barcelona and Paris for Us?

TH: “It’s a shoot that would not be possible now, so it’s strange to even talk about it. People who haven’t been able to go on holiday this summer have the opportunity to go on a virtual holiday with this drama but as it turns into the holiday from hell, they may not regret their staycation…”

Us airs on BBC1 on Sunday 20 September at 9PM. All four episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after the first airs.

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