Former High Storrs student Tom Ellis talks about how much he has enjoyed returning to the role of Miranda’s almost boyfriend
You could describe the character as the love interest for the accident-prone screen personna of Miranda Hart but that hardly captures the essence of their relationship.
“He’s an old university friend of Miranda’s,” explains Ellis, “She’s always held a candle for him but it’s never been the right time for them to get together. Gary’s commitment phobia has a lot to do with this.”
The third series, says the actor, will not just be more of the same. “It’s slicker, bolder and funnier than the past two series. It’s really grown as a programme and we’re all much more confident about what we’re doing.
“I can’t give too much away - but I did have a lot of fun this series - showing a slightly different side to Gary.” The show picks up about a year on, and according to Ellis: “Gary’s just been plodding away in the restaurant, whilst still not being able to tell Miranda how he really feels.”
There has in fact been a two-year gap since they filmed the last series, but says Ellis, “It was almost as if we started where we left off. It’s quite a joy and a privilege to go to work every day and laugh and laugh and laugh and eat chocolate and laugh.”
Since the last series Ellis has certainly not been off the screen, appearing in Bafta Award winning drama series The Fades for BBC3, recent BBC1 chiller The Secret of Crickley Hall and a new comedy for Sky, Gates, co-starring Joanna Page “about the perils of the school run”.
This is something he knows all about in real life as the father of three daughters. He and actress wife Tamzin Outhwaite had their second child, Marnie Mae, in August to join four-year-old Florence Elsie and he has a six-year-old , Nora, from a previous relationship.
Ellis was born in Wales but came to Sheffield as a boy when his father was appointed Minister of Cemetery Road Baptist Church, growing up with three sisters, one of them his twin.
He is among the long line of people who have enjoyed professional success after being turned on to drama at High Storrs School. He also played the French Horn with the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra and is a Sheffield Wednesday supporter but has formed an allegiance to Arsenal in his time in London.
After drama school in Glasgow, he got an early break in an ITV adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby and at 23 landed a leading role in the BBC’s Nice Guy Eddie as the son of Ricky Tomlinson.
In 2003 he appeared on stage in his home city at the Crucible in One Minute, a new play by Simon Stephens exploring the effect of a child’s abduction on a group of Londoners.
He played a greenhorn copper, one of several times he has been cast as a policeman, most memorably as Det Sgt Sam Speed in a Life on Mars parody on the Catherine Tate Show and in another comedy, Suburban Shootout.
He went on to play Dr Oliver Cousins in EastEnders and was one of the brothers in BBC comedy drama mini-series Sugartown.
But being in Miranda has probably had the most impact. “Its success has taken us all by surprise,” he says. “We found it really funny and thankfully so did the viewers but I don’t think anyone thought it was going to become one of the biggest comedies on TV. One of the biggest reasons for that is that the series is proper family viewing - it spans generations with its appeal.”
His own family are proof of that. “I have to say Miranda is the only show I’ve been in that they’ve taken any interest in! Lots of my eldest girl’s schoolfriends watch it and she’s at that ‘dad you’re so embarrassing’ stage.”
The ‘will they/won’t they’ element to the Gary and Miranda love story is part of that. “I really enjoy all the scenes I have to do with Miranda as we have a very similar sense of humour. I suppose when we started the show I didn’t appreciate what a hook it would be with the viewers.”
Does he envisage the series running for many more years? “As long as the show’s going, I’d love to be involved with it,” he says. “But I really couldn’t tell you what the future holds.”
Miranda (BBC1, Boxing Day, 9pm).