An Interview with Russell Tovey

"When I read the script, I thought, “This is brilliant. I can’t wait to say these words.”"

Russell Tovey in Red Top

Q: What attracted you to this film?

A: The main thing that appealed is that I've always wanted to play Andy Coulson. Since the Leveson Enquiry, so many people have Tweeted me saying, "You have to play him!" It's weird because I do resemble him. Also he's from Billericay where I spent my formative years. So vocally, we're from the same world.

Q: How did you go about researching the character?

A: If you're playing someone who exists in the real world, you have the luxury of YouTube. There's lots of footage of Coulson, so I could get his mannerisms and speech patterns. That's a treat.

Of course you have a responsibility towards him, but this is also a Comic Strip sendup. There is a heightened quality to everything, so you don't have to be on the button. It is set in the 1970s and it's stylised. But as long as you have the essence of Andy Coulson, people will be able to identify that character.

Q: What is your impression of him?

A: He is a very interesting character. I've made him a cocksure, cock-of-the-walk character. He is very much on the front foot and doesn't take any nonsense. I love playing someone who doesn't seem to have any weaknesses and is full of testosterone. That was a joy to play.

Q: How did you find it working with Maxine Peake?

A: I loved it. Maxine is fantastic, and I really enjoyed our scenes together. Rebekah and Andy have this tremendous energy. They are two power-hungry people with huge egos. Within that world they are two gods. They can be so offensive and abusive to anyone under them, and they have to take it.

Q: Why has The Comic Strip Presents proved so enduringly popular?

A: Because it's funny. They choose really good subjects and attract a very good quality of talent. It keeps going because it is so high-calibre. Above all it has survived because the writing is great. When I read the script, I thought, "This is brilliant. I can't wait to say these words."

Q: What does the 1970s setting add to the film?

A: It distances it and increases its absurdity. It has a Dallas or Dynasty feel to it. It's more separated from our world. If it was too close, you could obscure certain things. But this is very heightened. We're locating it in the 1970s and having Rebekah ride around the office on roller skates shouting orders of the staff - well, that's just brilliant!