Gavin and Stacey’s Robert Wilfort on “really, really good” Christmas special

Source: Robert Wilfort

by Olly Allen

Filmed in South Wales, Gavin and Stacey is one of the most iconic British comedies of all time, and fans were sent crazy when it was announced a Christmas Special would be aired this year, a decade after the last series ended. Ahead of the programme’s return, Gair Rhydd caught up with Robert Wilfort, who plays Stacey’s brother Jason, to discuss getting back together with all the cast, what to expect from the special and of course that suspicious fishing trip…

When did you first find out that a Christmas Special would be happening?

“It was back in late Spring. I got a missed call on my phone from Los Angeles and I was a bit suspicious of that. But I checked my messages and it was James [Corden], who I hadn’t spoken to for a couple of years. We eventually caught up and he broke the news to me and I had to keep it a secret for a good couple of months before it went public. I wasn’t expecting him to ring me about that, I just thought he wanted a catch-up!”

What was your reaction, did you say yes straight away?

“Absolutely. People have asked me for years when it’s going to come back and I always thought it never would because James and Ruth [Jones] are always so busy and I never thought they’d have the time to do it. I also thought we ended on a high and if it never came back I’d be happy with that because I was really proud of what we did. But I always thought it would be great to do some more because it’s so much fun to do. So I was thrilled.”

As it is such a much-loved show, did you have any doubts about coming back?

“I think we’d all be lying if we said we weren’t a little bit doubtful. But I know James and Ruth wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t think they had something good. I think that’s what’s great, as James and Ruth didn’t need to do it, they just wanted to do it so there’s a good feeling behind it. I was a tiny bit apprehensive, but really I was just so keen to do it again.”

Have you realised how big a phenomenon Gavin and Stacey has become?

“I don’t get spotted much in real life because I’m not in it all the time and I look very different in real life. I have glasses and Jason has had a variety of facial hairs! But people do come up to me and quote me things and they remember it much better than I do.

“It was only when it got announced that it’s literally been the only thing anyone has wanted to talk about. So I’ve realised that it does have a big reach. I forget that it’s on Netflix and channels like Dave and Gold, and people feel like it hasn’t really gone away. It’s always on somewhere.”

How did you feel when you read the script for the first time?

“More excitement. Relief too that Ruth and James had pulled it off and that it was really good. It made me laugh and it moved me. What they’ve written is a really, really good episode of Gavin and Stacey. They haven’t tried to make it a novelty or too different, it’s just a great Christmas special.”

What was it like when you met back up with everyone for the first time on the script read through?

“It was surprisingly emotional. We were actually all really nervous. The writers were nervous because it was the first time it was being read out loud, the actors were nervous because it was the first time we were doing it. Even though we all knew each other and knew the characters really well, I think there was a bit of a feeling of ‘can we actually do this?’. But we read it and it sounded great, and it was plain sailing from then on really.”

Have you seen many of the others in the last ten years?

“We’ve all met up at various points, but I didn’t realise quite how long it had been. Some people I don’t think I’d seen since we finished filming so it was lovely to see them again. It was a bit like family getting all back together.”

Robert Wilfort. Source: Claire Grogan

What was it like filming in Barry and the surrounding areas again?

“It’s amazing because people were going mental over it. Because of social media, everyone knew where we were filming so there were literally hundreds of people waiting to catch a glimpse of it. We all went out for a drink together one night as a cast and it was quite mad, but in a lovely way! Barry has taken the show to its heart.”

Is Jason one of the favourite characters you’ve played in your career?

“Definitely, without a doubt. I’m very used to doing characters that people watch, but then they’re gone and that’s the nature of the job. But it’s lovely to be part of something that people genuinely seem to love and have taken to their hearts and continue to re-watch.”

What can we expect from the Christmas Special?

“I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say here! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and then you’ll laugh again. When we watched it at a screening the other week, there were tears. I was surprised at how moving we found it. But that might just have been because we were all together!

“There’ll be some surprises, but also plenty of what you expect from an episode of Gavin and Stacey. There are little call backs to the original series. Real fans will notice certain things about how the episode starts and little moments in between.

“And it’s very Christmassy! Hopefully it’s going to give everyone a really nice Christmas.”

Gavin and Stacey and Smithy and Nessa now both have children aged 10 and 12. Did that change the dynamic of the show at all?

“No, apart from the fact we all had to watch our language at times! We did have to apologise to the children a few times. If anything it just made it more like a family, and the kids were great. The kid who plays Neil the Baby was actually one of the original Neil the Babies, which was quite weird! I think they got him to audition thinking what are the chances that he’d actually be able to do it and he was great! He looks the part and even looks a bit like Ruth and James! You’ll see there’s a great likeness.”

Will you be watching it on Christmas Day?

“Yes, I will. We’ll all be sitting down to watch it. My daughter will be watching it for the first time, she’s nine years old so she never saw it the first time around. I’m not sure if she’ll know what’s going on, she might be playing with whatever toys she gets!

Does the Christmas special leave an opportunity for any future series or more specials?

“I don’t know. I think James and Ruth have really, really enjoyed doing it. So we’ll all keep our fingers crossed. Another series would be a big surprise, but never say never! Gavin and Stacey as grandparents would be great!”

Finally, and most importantly, do we find out what happened on the fishing trip?

“I couldn’t possibly say! But whenever anyone asks me that question I always like to point out that the joke is we don’t actually know. It’s the question I always get asked whenever someone realises it’s me. Usually I say Dave Coaches is the only one that knows.

“We’ve had little conversations as a cast but never settled on something. No matter what we think, it’ll never be as good as what people imagine it is. I love the theories. They’re both all wrong and all right! As to whether the fishing trip question will raise its head in the Christmas special, you’ll have to wait and see!”

The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special will air at 8:30pm on Christmas Day on BBC One.

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