The Cockfields: Bobby Ball interview

As one half of the double act Cannon and Ball with Tommy Cannon, Bobby became an 80s superstar with a long-running primetime TV variety show but he's more recently been seen in Lee Mack's sitcom Not Going Out and comedy-drama Mount Pleasant. The Cockfields, though, offered him a slightly different kind of role to get his teeth into.

The Cockfields: Bobby Ball interview

What drew you to this part?

I didn't take long to say 'yes' at all. I wanted to do it right away because the writers are lovely lads, and because I'm not playing the Bobby Ball I usually play. Sometimes Ray can be a bit nasty, which is a bit different for me. That's why I wanted to do this.

In Not Going Out I'm a bit of a rogue but lovable. In this I am not that. He's a strict father. He hasn't got a long sense of patience. He has a son, David, he tries to keep in order, and he argues with his stepson Simon because he talks back to him.

Then he has his wife Sue who he controls a little bit, I think, but she loves him. He doesn't mean to be nasty. He's well meaning but he does it in the wrong way - he's stuck in his ways.

What's his relationship like with his stepson Simon?

He argues back. Ray's attitude is, "I'm his stepdad and he shouldn't answer back", but he does. I get on his nerves too a bit. His son, David, is a bit daft. He's a bit young for his age, childish, so he gets me going a bit and that is why I snap at him a little. That's why I took the part too, because sometimes I get to shout which I never did as Bobby Ball!

How would you describe the tone of the show?

I think it's realistic, that's what families are like. People will watch it and say, 'That's just like my family'. Every now and again something weird happens, though - I love it.

Tommy [Cannon], my partner, and I did a show with a comedian called Charlie Drake and he said to me, "Don't be blue because if you're blue you only sell two tickets, and if you're clean you sell four, and he was right". This is family friendly.

How did you find working with the rest of the cast?

I knew Sue, but no one else and they're all lovely. Sue's fantastic. She is my age, so we look like man and wife! She talks to me like I'm her husband, it's all, "Oh come on Ray", that kind of thing. She has that motherly thing about her, she is absolutely lovely.

I did a show called Mount Pleasant which was a lovely programme and this has the same feel - there are no divas, everyone gets on and we all make each other laugh a lot. I like a laugh on set. I enjoy it. It has been a joy to come to work.

This theme of introducing a partner to your family or meeting theirs for the first time is universal. Do you remember doing it?

Well when my wife Yvonne was younger she took me to meet her mum Maude who was very lovely but I am only 5'3 and my wife was 5'8. Maude said to her, "Can I see you in the kitchen?" and then she said, "How can you go out with a man who is smaller than you?"

Then I took her to meet my parents and my dad was even smaller than me. I said, "This is my new girlfriend" and he said, 'Well she'll be alright for cleaning windows". That was the first meeting. My dad loved her.

She would always ask me, "What did he say?" because she couldn't understand him, he was from Lancashire.

How long can you spend with your family before you go a little mad?

Weeks. I have a very close family. We are very tactile. Even the boys turn around and say, "I love you, Dad". We don't argue in our family at all - because they know who the boss is. Just kidding!

In the series, David is obsessed with celebrity hunting. Did you ever hang around to get an autograph of someone?

There is only one regret in my career. Tommy and I had everyone on our show so I met loads of celebrities and it never really bothered me but there is one man I had the opportunity to meet in the 1980s and I said 'no', and that's Max Wall. I loved him. I didn't want it to be spoiled for me but I regret that now that he's dead.

What about the other way around: have you ever had a funny experience with fans?

Oh yes, all the time, but I understand it.I love people. When they come for autographs I don't refuse anyone - that's our job. What are you in the business for? These people have paid their money to keep you in the business, to pay your wage, so I do all of that.