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Vicious' Iwan Rheon Q&A: It's nice to play a happy character for once

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If someone asked you to come up with a pair of acting legends to star in a sitcom, you couldn't do much better than to suggest Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi. The heavyweights of the dramatic world have signed up to star as a couple in ITV's new comedy Vicious, which starts tomorrow (April 29).

But the amazing cast doesn't stop there - we also get treated to the likes of Frances de la Tour and one of our favorite Misfits stars, Iwan Rheon. We caught up with Iwan recently to find out what Vicious is all about, why filming the show was scary, and whether he'd be up for a Misfits movie...

If someone on the street came up and asked you what Vicious is about, what would you tell them?
"It's basically about a mature gay couple who have been together for 48 years and who are quite vicious with each other, but it's not in a horrible way - you really like the characters and it comes from their love for each other. You do get these lovely gentle moments with them. And then it's about their group of mates as well, who are all older, shall we say! My character Ash moves in upstairs, but then he becomes really good friends with them as well."

How does Ash affect Freddie and Stuart when he moves in upstairs?
"It's kind of, 'Ooh, who's this young man?' But they do become really good friends, which is lovely. It's quite a sweet relationship where they kind of adopt him in a way and bring him into their little family, and they help him with stuff. They're also detrimental to him, but in a funny way - it's always from a place of affection. He gets to be a part of their world, which is a world that he's not experienced before."

What kind of humor is in the show? The name Vicious suggests it's kind of biting...
"Yeah, it's very witty - back and forth exchanges. It's all kind of based on the character, which is, I think, the strong thing about it. You get the relationships very quickly, and the audience are very quickly on board, because Ian and Derek are incredible actors and everyone else in the cast is - it's just been a dream to work with them all. But yeah, you get the relationships very quickly and the script's very sharp and witty as well. It's kind of non-stop."

The cast are incredible - did it feel intimidating going into work on your first day?
"Oh yeah, yeah! Yeah, it was intimidating. It was scary and intimidating, but exciting and surreal."

Was everyone nice to you?
"Yeah, they were lovely straight away - really, really supportive. And I think they appreciated what I was going through! It's nice - they talk about when they worked with certain people and how it was the same, so when they were young and they were coming into jobs and working with people like Laurence Olivier..."

The show's filmed in front of a live audience, too - was that scary?
"Yeah, it's pretty daunting. But also, in a way it can be comforting, because as soon as we first went out and we saw the response and felt the warmth of the audience and how they got it all straight away, it puts you at ease a bit because you know you're part of something that's really funny. If they're laughing then hopefully everyone else will as well."

Studio sitcoms or shows filmed in front of an audience don't always have the best reputation. Do you think Vicious could change that?
"Hopefully, yeah. It's a very traditional way of doing it, but it's very script-based and character-based - it's not relying on gags. It's far more sophisticated, I think. You really get to know the characters and that's where the comedy comes from, as opposed to just really cheap gags. They have a time and a place, but this is more of a sort of traditional sitcom - like more of a Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous-type era. It's a bit more like that."

Apart from you, this show has a largely older cast - do you think young people will still enjoy it?
"I think so, yeah. And the young people that I have invited to come to see it - I don't know whether they'll be honest with me or not, I hope they would! - they've really enjoyed it and found it hilarious. I think there's something special about it. It's been done in a way that's very easy and accessible, yet it's very clever as well."

So tell us about Ash - what is he like?
"Ash is a really, really nice guy - really nice! He's just happy to be there, really. He's kind of come into this world and he's from Wigan, and he's moved down to London to try to start a new life in a way, and he doesn't know anyone. So this is his first impression of London! But yeah, he's just a really enthusiastic, happy, warm, loving kind of young man."

And his relationship with Freddie and Stuart is really nice?
"Yeah - they kind of take him under their wing in a way, but it's a two-way thing. His lack of cynicism and bitterness towards life that they may have kind of enlightens them and attracts them in a way that, 'Wow, this is lovely'. And on the other side, what they give Ash is the opportunity to become this person, whereas some people like that, the light would go out because life would have crushed him. But I think what they're doing to Ash is they're making him more alive in a way."

It sounds like there's a lot of heart behind the show.
"Yeah, it's really warm. There is a lot of heart and there's some really lovely moments. But it's great because it escalates into a really funny comedy, and then what that allows you is to have lovely dramatic moments where you feel it's really touching, and then it's brilliant at just breaking it and all of a sudden it's back to laugh out loud."

You're in Game of Thrones at the moment too. It seems like you like to do a bit of everything, - comedy, drama...
"Yeah - I never want to be put in a box and be told what I am. It's nice to be able to do loads of different things and then figure out what I'm good at. It's nice to do things that are completely out of your comfort zone, like this. But it's nice also to get to play a really happy character for once - oh my God!"

A lot of people probably know you from Misfits - are you hoping to break away from that a little bit with this?
"Yeah, it's just playing another character - that's what's fun and interesting. But yeah, this is totally different, and totally different to Game of Thrones. It couldn't be further away, so yeah, it's great. It's exciting."

Howard Overman said recently that if there was a Misfits movie, he might bring back Simon and Alisha - would you be open to that?
"Yeah! I think if the script was good enough and if the storyline was good."

So it's not one of those things that you've left and now think, 'That's it, that's over'?
"No, no. I think I'd be an idiot not to [go back]. But I think it'd be a really fun thing to do to go back and revisit, because obviously I feel so much love for Misfits and gratitude to them and those guys at Clerkenwell Films and E4 and how they gave me such a huge opportunity and gave me a lot of really challenging stuff to do while I was there. So yeah, if I get the opportunity, I'd love to. And in a way I do still feel like it never really got finished. I thought the Simon storyline in the third series was quite rushed and you didn't really get to see enough of it, for various reasons. I think it might happen. I think it's quite likely that it will happen, yeah, if they can get everyone together to do it."

People would love that - the show has such a huge fanbase.
"Yeah. It would be a logistical challenge to get all of us available at the same time, but yeah - I mean, I'm up for it."

Did you watch the last series? What did you think of it?
"Yeah, I enjoyed it, yeah. I think Joe [Gilgun] is hilarious. I mean, I don't know - it's very weird."

I was going to say it must be strange watching it when you're not in it.
"Yeah, it's very weird watching it and being like, 'Why am I not in this?' But yeah, it was quite nice to watch it and not have the worry of me being in it! Being like, 'F**k, I hope I'm not s**t in this bit!' So it was nice, yeah."

So if people are thinking, 'Why should I watch Vicious?' what would you tell them?
"It's funny! It's something you can sit back and just enjoy. You don't have to think too hard - it's kind of there done for you. It's using that brilliant British traditional sitcom and maximising it."

Vicious begins on Monday (April 29) at 9pm on ITV1.

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