Sandylands interview - Sanjeev Bhaskar (Les Vegas)

Sanjeev Bhaskar plays Emily Verma's estranged father, Les Vegas, whose mysterious disappearance kicks off a strange set of events in Sandylands.

Sanjeev Bhaskar

How would you describe Sandylands?

It's quirky in a way that I haven't seen for a long time on TV. The place is populated with oddballs, but it's also very real. It has relationships at its heart. That's what drew me to it.

How would you sum up your character?

Les Vegas is flamboyance gone slightly wrong. He represents that notion of old-fashioned grandeur that he hasn't quite earned. He's like someone who buys a doctor's qualifications online or who learns surgery by watching videos. There is something not quite right about him. He's not quite there. But there is an innocence about him, too. He's a sweet guy.

What is the state of Les' relationship with his daughter, Emily?

They are estranged. He was out of his depth as a father and didn't ever understand what his responsibilities were as a parent. He had all of the love, but not all of the skill. As a result, there has been a long-running rift between Les and Emily. At the beginning of the series, he's lost at sea, presumed dead. That's what makes her come back to Sandylands - against her better judgement. And that's how they gradually reconnect.

How would you encapsulate the setting of the show?

Very much like Les, Sandylands has a faded glory to it. He is a reflection of the town - he's seen better days. And that's one of the reasons why he's never moved away from it. Sandylands is his little kingdom, his little bit of Vegas and of the high life. That's fairly common in seaside towns. Some people have patently moved on and some people patently haven't. The setting reflects Les very well.

Why else is the seaside setting fitting for this comedy?

I have very fond memories of going to the seaside as a kid from London. It was full of eccentricities and unusual people that I didn't normally see, like fortune tellers, locals who went for a dip in the sea come rain or shine, tarot card readers, Punch and Judy performers, magicians and people selling rock and pointless windmills. You would also watch end-of-the-pier shows performed by people you'd seen once on TV. The question of whatever happened to those performers was suddenly answered. They were at the end of the pier! Those were the sort of people I had never come across in London. Those people still reside there and they are unique to the seaside. That's why it works so well as a setting for comedy.

What was it like doing scenes with Natalie?

I loved working with her. She's a delight. She is the heart of the show and she does it brilliantly. There is nothing hackneyed about her performance. She's a ball of warm light. I'd watch her in anything.

Were you aware of her work beforehand?

Yes. I had seen Natalie on stage before and thought she was wonderful. You feel a bit like an old-timer, but she didn't need any reassurances from me. She's just very, very good. I think Emily's relationship with my character works so well on screen because there is a genuine chemistry there. That was very easy to play. We didn't have to make anything up.

Did you enjoy working with the other cast members?

Absolutely. All the characters leap off the page, and people like Natalie Dew, David Walliams, Sophie Thompson, Hugh Bonneville, Craig Parkinson, Simon Bird and Harriet Webb are superb at bringing them to life. They are fabulous at what they do. When I watched the show, I was delighted to see the sequences that the other actors had created. It's such a great cast.

What do you hope audiences' response will be to the show?

I hope they really enjoy it. It's not cynical or manipulative. It's sweet and innocent. It's a very warm programme, and I hope people will want to see more of it.