Rob Brydon fills ShortList in on his and Steve Coogan’s Italian sequel to the hit BBC comedy.
The Trip To Italy finds you and Steve swapping the Lake District for a gastronomic tour of Italy. Whose idea was that?
It was [the director] Michael Winterbottom’s. He suggested Italy, he suggested us tracing the footsteps of Byron and Shelley. It was fantastic; the food was absolutely delicious everywhere we went.
Did you feel any pressure making a second series, as the first is so beloved?
I certainly felt pressure, because the first one was such a hit, and the people that like it really like it, and watch it again and again. It’s like a new album by your favourite artist, but we address that head-on by discussing the idea of sequels in the very first episode.
There’s another bit in the first episode where you mention that people assume you’re “slightly more affable” than you really are. How much truth is there in that?
That’s pretty close to the truth. Throughout both series of The Trip, it’s a combination of utter truth, slight truth, slight fiction and utter fiction. I would say that me being an affable man but not quite as affable as people think is 95 per cent true [laughs].
Which bits represent the ‘utter fiction’?
Well, honestly, the thing of me and Steve constantly niggling at each other, being competitive… That doesn’t happen. In reality, we’re just two middle-aged men moaning about getting older, being bewildered by aging. That’s what The Trip is really about: the inevitability of death. And you see some of that in the new series; us asking, “When did this happen? When did the scenery change?” That’s a conversation I’ve had with Steve in real life many times.
Were you tempted to allude to any recent real-life occurrences – Steve’s involvement in the phone-hacking trial, or his Oscar nominations?
Yes, what was that film called again? Philadelphia? The nominations hadn’t happened while we were filming, but I remember he showed me some early edits. He was very excited; he knew it was good. And the hacking trial does get brought up later in the series; there’s a frosty exchange between us where Steve just suddenly mentions it.
Do you still get people in the street asking you to do impressions from the first series?
It does happen, but it’s a bit rich to complain about it. When it comes to the impressions, I want to have my cake and eat it; I want to do them whenever I choose, but not be thought of as just an ‘impressionist’. It’s like Kevin Spacey – people talk about him as a genius actor who also does incredible impressions. That’s what I’m aiming for [laughs]. You don’t see Spacey referred to as an impressionist.
You both do an excellent Tom Hardy in the first episode. Are there any other new ones we can look forward to?
I’d planned to learn more, but I never got round to it. I wanted to learn Daniel Craig, but it didn’t happen. I do Gore Vidal later in the series, and Steve does a good Frankie Howerd. But I suppose it’s 80 per cent the same impressions as the first series, and that’s another example of complete truth, because when you go away with a friend, you do end up talking about the same things you always talk about. I’ve just been on a skiing holiday with my best friend and the things we talked about then were probably the exact same things we talked about on our holiday the year before. Some people who watch The Trip get that. They love that. Other people – let’s call them ‘thick people’ – say, “Oh, it’s the same thing again and again.” But that’s life [laughs].
Have you ever bumped into any of the people you impersonated in the first series?
I’ve met Anthony Hopkins a couple of times, and we ended up both ‘doing him’ together. He was laughing his head off. He’s a very accomplished impressionist. He did Tommy Cooper, we both did Richard Burton, and he egged me on to do Michael Caine.
And did you?
Of course I did. If Anthony Hopkins asks you to do Michael Caine, you do Michael Caine. I actually got an email from Michael Caine after the first series, telling me he enjoyed my impressions of him.
Will there be a third installment of The Trip at some point?
My feelings about this vary depending on my mood. We’ll see how this series goes. I like the idea of doing another one in ‘x’ amount of years, when you can see the physical change in us, because, as I say, it’s about getting older.
What would be your dream third series destination?
I’d love an excuse to go back to Australia. People point out that it’s not known for its cuisine, but I’ve had some great meals there. I get a lot of tweets saying “Do one in Wales!”, too.
You’re fairly prolific on Twitter. Have you ever tried to convince Steve to join?
Oh no. That would be a fruitless enterprise. He has a barely concealed contempt for all that stuff.
The Trip To Italy begins on BBC Two, 4 April at 10pm. Brydon’s new series The Guess List starts 12 April on BBC One