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Russell Tovey talks football taboos, showbiz friends and life in America

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Ralph Jones
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ShortList chat to Tovey about his new film but he’s quite interested in talking about piss.

Your new film The Pass is about a footballer who attempts to repress his homosexual feelings for the sake of his career. When do you think the taboo in professional football will be eroded?

The only way you break down taboos is by having someone who’s an ambassador to go against that taboo. And as it is, no one has yet come out as a Premier League footballer. But they will. That’s gonna be a defining moment. The pressure and attention is going to be enormous. But I can’t wait for that to happen. The dream would be that someone will see this movie and maybe they’ll be inspired to do it because they don’t want to live a life like Jason [his character] does: hiding or tortured like he is.

The film started as a play, which you starred in. Is it different, working on it as a film?

The best thing about doing a play-to-film is that you’ve lived with that character for so much longer than you would have done when you normally do a TV or a film job. I knew this guy; I knew what made him tick probably more than a lot of other characters that I’ve played.

When did you begin serious acting?

Seriously, probably from about aged 19. But properly feeling like I’m part of the business: during The History Boys. Being at the National Theatre, then afterwards, the whole adventure: the play, then the movie, then we’d been around the world, and come back from Broadway, and we had the premiere at Odeon Leicester Square with Prince Charles and Camilla.

Do you still pinch yourself nowadays?

I’m incredibly fortunate that I’ve been acting for all of my life. Before I even had pubic hair, I was working. And now I’m 35 and able to grow a full beard, I’ve made that whole journey.

Still no pubic hair, though.

Completely bald down there, but it’s all growing on my face.

What’s coming up? Are you going to be doing any more writing?

At some point there is going to be a play that I’ve written, hopefully in the next couple of years. I start rehearsals for Angels In America at the National Theatre next year, so I’m going back to the stage for some time.

Let’s talk about your beloved French bulldog, Rocky. Have you considered doing any modelling with him? Could he advertise for any brands?

You know in a photographer’s studio where they have the big lights set up, and you have the flash and the squeaking noise? He’s not a fan of that. At all. You’ll get two pictures if you have to use that flash, then he goes apeshit. That’s his nemesis – that and the Hoover. But if they can do a photoshoot in natural light, then yes. He knows his angles; he’s a supermodel. He’s the David Gandy of the dog world.

I’ve only known him for a brief time online and from what I’ve seen, he’s got an extraordinary personality. Would he model for Calvin Klein?

Mark Wahlberg-style? I think he’d be up for that. He loves getting dressed up. If Calvin Klein said, “We want to give you clothes for your dog and put him in a campaign,” I’d be like, “Yes, Calvin Klein. You can do that.”

You’re working more and more in the US. How does Rocky like it there?

He loves it. The only difference is that there’s something in the water that makes dogs’ piss smell different than it does here.

What does it smell like?

Well, I haven’t sniffed it myself. I assume it’s like the crack of urine. For some reason, he cannot cope. He gets hyper-excited about the lampposts and the fire hydrants. There’s something about it; he gets fixated on the piss smell.

High-quality piss.

It must be.

Who do you think is the most fun in your showbiz circle of friends?

I’ve got incredible girl friends that I’ve made from every show I’ve done. Lenora Crichlow from Being Human is heaven. Sarah Solemani and Kerry Howard from Him & Her: heaven. Sarah Hadland from The Job Lot: heaven. Lisa McGrillis who was in The Pass: heaven. When we can all get together, it’s the best. I love the company of funny women. There is nothing better. And these girls make me literally urinate myself. This is going to be a very urine-heavy interview…

It’s best when they are. I’ve always said that.

Most interviews, if they’ve got a lot of piss in them, you know they’re going to be successful.

The Pass is at cinemas nationwide from 9 December

[Images: Rex]

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Ralph Jones

Ralph Jones is a staff writer for ShortList magazine. In April 2015 he won a seven-foot throne of dildos but he’d rather you didn’t mention it. He performs sketch comedy and is on Twitter at @OhHiRalphJones

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