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Russell Tovey

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Russell Tovey reveals his penchant for unconventional roles

Sat in a café, Russell Tovey is feeling guilty. The 30-year-old ex-Being Human star is supposed to be dog-sitting. Instead, the actor’s digging into an all-day breakfast while telling ShortList about his latest role in Sky Arts’ Playhouse Presents. It’s also canine-influenced, as Tovey plays the footman who walked corgis instead of guarding the Queen’s bedroom when Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace in 1982.

How were the corgis?

They were the dogs used in The Queen and The King’s Speech. They wanted their own trailer and everything.

Are you pro-monarchy?

I’m a massive royalist. Growing up, I was fascinated with past kings. I’d actually quite like to play Prince Harry – he’s the sexier brother, a bit more rock’n’roll. Apparently he’s now dating one of The Saturdays, which is amazing.

Any plans for Hollywood?

Being committed to TV makes you unavailable for films. That’s why I left Being Human. I went to LA before Christmas for a week of meetings. They make you think you’re the best thing in the world – you say you like Mad Men and they say they’ll get you on it. Then you land back in England and realise it probably won’t happen.

What’s been your most Hollywood moment so far?

While doing The History Boys in New York, I went running in Central Park and spotted Dustin Hoffman. I approached him as he’d been to see the show the night before, and he asked if I wanted to join him on his run. I rang James [Corden] immediately afterwards and he replied with: “Well, we all had dinner with Julia Roberts last night – so get over it.”

Will there be a Gavin & Stacey reunion?

Everyone wants it to happen. But everyone has to be available. It’s a magical thing, so everything has to be perfect.

Speaking of franchises, have you seen the US remake of Being Human?

A bit of it. I suppose it’s brilliant for [makes air quotes] “the brand”. At least we’d already been on BBC America – if no one knew our original show existed, that’d be sad.

Now you’ve been on Doctor Who, has your chance of playing him gone?

I’ve never wanted to be the Doctor. I’ve always wanted to be the assistant. I see myself as the best friend rather than the romantic lead. Take Sherlock for example: I’d prefer to play Watson.

What was it like appearing in the recent Sherlock episode?

It was the most nervous I’d ever been about a performance. I watched it on my own, shaking, and checking Twitter. Thankfully, most people were nice. Something like Poirot will pop up on TV and people will tweet me about it, which can be cringeworthy. At the time I thought I was Robert De Niro, but looking back I’m more like Rodney Trotter [laughs].

Have you played a role you haven’t felt happy doing?

I can’t play football to save my life and I’ve had to do it twice. For one TV show, in which I was a school’s star striker, I had to have stunt legs. It was embarrassing.

What do you do in your time off?

At the moment I’m taking a couple of art-based city breaks in Europe. I’m obsessed with contemporary art.

Do you have a favourite current artist?

Iranian-American Tala Madani. I met her recently and was all wobbly and panicky. I get like that with artists. I once saw Damien Hirst playing pool with Fat Les, and was completely star struck. I think Hirst p*ssed in one of the pockets [laughs].

Do you buy art?

I spend a lot on it. The first thing I bought with my History Boys money was a drawing by Tracey Emin.

Any other collecting habits?

I used to collect all the original Star Wars figures, which I still have in my parents’ loft. I think my Blue Snaggletooth or Yak Face figurines would reach £150 each, if you’re interested?

Playhouse Presents: Walking The Dogs is on Sky Arts 1 on 31 May at 9pm

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