Interview: Russell Tovey on new BBC drama Years and Years.
Years and Years, by Russell T Davies, is an epic saga that takes an ordinary family and catapults them through the next 15 years. As society changes, faster than ever, the Lyons will experience everything we hope for in the future, and everything we fear. They’ll fall in and out of love and grow old, fall apart and come back together, while constantly looking forward.
Each episode propels us a year or two ahead, following the lives of Daniel (Russell Tovey), Stephen (Rory Kinnear) and his wife Celeste (T’Nia Miller), sisters Rosie (Ruth Madeley) and Edith (Jessica Hynes), Gran Muriel (Anne Reid) and the family’s children, as they navigate a world made unstable by politics, the economy and technological advances.
But this isn’t a dark, fearful show. It’s full of wit, warmth, and hope.
Years and Years is about family. It shows how we survive against the backdrop of a political world in which you can’t tell right from left any more. The tone is fierce, funny, heartbreaking and, ultimately, shows one family’s determination to survive the future.
Russell Tovey plays Daniel Lyons in Years and Years.
What attracted you to this role?
To work with Russell T Davies. I love the way he writes dialogue and the fact the emotion can be flipped on its head; you’re crying and then suddenly laughing again. I loved the concept, it confused me to begin with but I thought that was a good thing, to not be completely clear but knowing all the while that you trust the person who’s creating it.
Introduce us to your character and your role within the story?
Daniel starts off in the drama in his early 30s. He is a decent man, he’s gay, married, his brother is his best friend. He works in housing for people who have left prison, as well as refugees and immigrants. He is a very good man but slightly bored with life and not realising, until he meets Viktor, how bored he is and how suddenly life becomes more exciting.
Early on we see Daniel and Ralph’s relationship deteriorate, why do you think this is?
I don’t think he really had a life himself. He went to work, came home, booked a holiday when he could but that was his lot - and then someone else came into his life and it was exciting.
Tell us about the instant attraction between Daniel and Viktor?
Viktor is from Ukraine and he’s a beautiful looking man with good hair and a cheeky twinkle in his eye. He seems a bit mischievous but cute and he needs to be saved. What he’s been through and where he’s come from has been rough - I think Daniel suddenly feels like he wants to protect him, look after him and make love to him all in the same combination.
How do you feel about the world that Russell T Davies has depicted in this series?
It’s terrifying but it’s our world, it doesn’t feel that far beyond where we are now. Our generation have had a lucky time where we haven’t really had anything that’s affected us too much, but now this world that Russell has written about we’ve seen it all go awry. The world is changing around us daily.
There are some really funny and touching scenes, did you have a favourite scene to shoot?
I liked being with the family and I loved those scenes where you can immerse yourself in the dynamic with everyone. The cast were really connected and we really loved each other - I’ve been very blessed with some of the stuff I’ve been given to do.
How do you think the audience will feel about Daniel and the Lyons family in general?
I hope they project their own family dynamics onto them and that they care about them. You’re watching a domestic drama about a family in Manchester and it just happens to be set around what’s going on in the world - you just hope the audience connect with all of them and want to hang out with them.
Years & Years, BBC One on 14 May at 9pm to 10pm