WHEN they were casting for the lead character in the stage production of The Full Monty the producers’ first port of call was Los Angeles.
The idea is not quite as daft as it sounds since the person producer David Pugh went to see to talk about the part of Gaz was South Yorkshire actor Kenny Doughty who was working in America. And at the same they landed the actress to play Gaz’s estranged wife in Caroline Carver, Doughty’s real-life wife.
“David came to LA and we had this meeting in the Beverly Hills Hotel and it was very exciting,” recalls the Barnsley-born actor. “David works hard and has this great enthusiasm and I was impressed.
“He was in the process of getting the rights from Fox so was going to meeting with them so he wasn’t just there to see me but it’s nice to pretend he was.”
The Full Monty, which will premiere in Sheffield next month and then tour regional theatres before an expected West End run in the summer fitted neatly into Doughty’s schedule.
“I was doing the second series of Stella (the Ruth Jones sitcom which is now running on Sky) and then later in the year I was in a film called Snowpiercer, a big picture with Chris Evans and Jamie Bell, with a Korean director called Bong,” he reports. “So starting on this at the beginning of the year was perfect timing for me.”
Caroline Carver remembers that the first approach by David Pugh was a bit vague. “He talked about a new play though he couldn’t say what it was because they hadn’t yet got the rights.
“When they finally sent the script to Kenny and I read it I knew I would be right for the wife and I said I would like to audition for it. I knew the film, of course, but the play script was so good. Simon Beaufoy is one of the best writers we have.
“We have been living in LA for the last year, going back and forth between London,” she explains. “In LA you have to have a green card so there was a whole period when I couldn’t work and spent that time learning the craft of writing.” It seems to have paid off because she now has a feature film being developed in Britain, Vengeance Waits, which she describes as “a female-driven thriller”.
“When you are an actor and married to an actor you spend a lot of time hanging around,” she continues. “That is what is so extraordinary about this, being able to work together.
“I think the producers were worried how it would work out to have a couple working together. But I was determined, I knew I was right for the part, I am a Manchester girl married to a Yorkshireman. This takes me back to when I was a kid. I feel a strong affinity for her struggles and the grittiness of her character. I felt I knew who she was.
“The play explores the plight a lot better than in the film and that’s not to take anything away from the performance of Emily Woof. We are looking a lot deeper into what she goes through. She and Gaz were childhood sweethearts and now they are apart and there’s the boy getting in the middle of it all.”
For Doughty it was a rare chance to perform on home territory. “I was born in Wombwell and my grandfathers were miners,” says the actor whose family moved to Ardsley and then Wortley when he was a teenager. “I went to Kendrick and then Kingston schools. At Kendrick we did do a production called Children of the Dark about a pit disaster which was good.
“I remember talking to the careers advisor and saying I wanted to be an actor and was given a media studies programme. But at 16 I saw an advert for the Manchester Youth Theatre and I went over there and did a lot of stuff. There was an actor-director Paul James who was really inspirational to me and encouraged me to go to drama school.”
That took him to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and a steady career in TV and film, including a spell in Coronation Street.
He won an award for his performance in TV movie The Aryan Couple where he and Caroline Carver were the eponymous couple. Is that how they met?].
“We met because we had the same agent and there was a postal strike and had to go and collect a script for an audition,” he says. “I saw this incredibly attractive woman and made an excuse to hang around the lift until she came out. In the script we were boyfriend and girlfriend but neither of us got the part – although I got the girl.”
The Full Monty is at the Lyceum Theatre from February 2-23.