Tom Varey hadn’t even finished drama school, when he received a call saying he’d got the part of Bert Middleton in the second series of The Village.
“I probably said, ‘Are you joking?’ and then jumped up and down a bit,” says the actor, laughing.
“It took a few weeks for it to sink in.”
Written by Peter Moffat, the ambitious drama is set to chart the progress of the 20th century in one Derbyshire village and Bert - played by child actor Bill Jones and, briefly, Alfie Stewart in the first series - is integral to the narrative.
“Bill was just phenomenal, so I was a bit nervous about filling his very little but big shoes, because I think the nation fell in love with him,” admits Varey, who’s been brought in to play the slightly older Bert, now embarking on life in the roaring Twenties.
Although applauded for its epic scale, when the first series aired, some viewers described it on Twitter as a ‘misery fest’.
“It was the First World War and times weren’t good in a little Derbyshire village. Now you’ve still got the fallout from the war, and of course, people’s losses, especially the Middleton family losing Joe [Bert’s brother, depicted by Nico Mirallegro], but it does feel like the country is on the rise. It’s not all fun and games but it’s definitely perkier,” offers Varey.
Now 21, Bert realises there’s more to life than the village.
“It’s a more happening time. Music influences from America are coming in, like jazz and the Charleston, and Bert’s introduced to other new things, like cars. He nearly gets run over,” the actor reveals.
“He goes on a journey and certainly gets into a few scrapes along the way.
“He’s uncertain of who to trust and what to believe in. It was a real challenge to play someone who’s so torn.”
He’s also romantically confused - by what love is, and who he actually loves.
The Village is shot in the beautiful Peak District around Hayfield and Glossop, and the Middleton farm is located in Edale.