A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
By Karen Shaw
If you were filming a drama about the complex nature of relationships, you could do worse than make one about Larry Lamb’s life.
At the age of 66, the actor best known for ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Gavin and Stacey’ has been married three times and is on his fifth serious relationship.
Since being a teenager I’ve always had a soft spot for Larry and I was looking forward to talking to him about his latest venture in ITV’s ‘Love and Marriage’ where he played Tommy alongside Celia Imrie.
It’s a miserable day, the rain is pounding down, the wind is blowing and the sky continues todarken, but Larry Lamb isn’t perturbed. He’s wearing shorts and has been since the beginning of February.
He looks handsome, enigmatic, his voice is sexy, his eyes are like pools of chocolate so with a quivering voice I ask my first question: “So Larry, ‘‘Love and Marriage’ as in the words of Frank Sinatra, does it go together like a horse and carriage’?”
And that’s when I discover there’s nothing meek or mild about this Lamb. Today he’s angry, very angry…
“Well, it doesn’t really matter any more because they’ve dumped it,” he answers.
“We’re talking about something that’s dead, so I don’t really have anything to say other than I’m totally despondent, and really feel deceived, and I’m sick of it.”
Ouch! Not the response I was looking for, so tentatively I ask him to elaborate.
“They dumped it,” he replies. “There won’t be a second series, they didn’t get the right viewing figures, and it makes no sense. We all signed a contract, saying that we agreed to do it for three years.
The actors and crew worked their hearts out, working unbelievably long hours. All their efforts count for nothing. They don’t get the figures, so they just dump it!”
Now for those of you who missed this great series recently televised, it was a heart-warming comedy drama that followed the trials and tribulations of three generations of the Paradise family, with an all-star cast headed up by the inimitable Alison Steadman.
Larry blames ITV for not promoting it enough. “They’re looking for an overnight hit. It doesn’t happen like that!
“Everybody is really upset. Top actors, brilliant script, brilliant editing, brilliant directing, the whole thing was absolutely brilliant. They’ll try something else out, because somebody, somewhere, who’s got the say-so, who’s got the power, has decided no, we’re not doing that. That’s it. End of story. Nothing else you can do. It’s a corporate decision and that’s what it’s all about.”
With an acting career spanning over 35 years, Larry believes that the face of television has changed dramatically and blames former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“That devil woman Margaret Thatcher privatised everything,” he rants. “We’re living in the hell that she’s created, now with all the young people that she educated. She’s busted society up! Back in the old days, there was an element of artistic integrity in television. It’s only because we’ve got the BBC that there’s even one last vestige of it!”
Many will be familiar with Larry playing the east-end villain Archie Mitchell in Eastenders, and for a moment whilst he vents his spleen, it’s easy to see why he played the role so well. Deciding on a different tact I decide to ask him what the future now has in store for him…
“I’m old enough not to worry too much about it because I’ll just do other bits and pieces. I’ve got a radio show and I do things for The One Show, there’s all sorts going on.”Despite being a Londoner born and bred, Larry loves the North of England. “I like all those Northern towns. I just like being in among people, from those provincial areas, because the character is so different to the South. I really enjoy it.”
He cheers up immensely when I tell him I’m a Yorkshire lass born and bred in Haworth.
You’re from Haworth?” he questions. “I was there a few weeks ago, in search of the Bronte sisters on a literary walk for ITV. I love it. I love Haworth. I stayed at the Old Rectory at the bottom of the Main Street.
“If you’re going by, go say hello from me. The people there were lovely, they really looked after me and the food was fantastic. A young couple, absolutely lovely they were. I had a great time.”
So despite Larry beginning the interview in a rather despondent manner, the dynamics have changed and I start feeling relatively comfortable talking to him. In closing I ask if he will be financially reimbursed for the inconvenience of losing a second series of ‘Love and Marriage.’
“If you really like acting, you might as well stay in it, but trying to earn a living as an actor is the problem. If a TV series is dropped they don’t pay you one penny! That’s the life of an actor, sweetheart.”