7 Questions with… King Gary’s Tom Davis: ‘Since lockdown, I’m becoming more like Gary’

If you like Only Fools and Horses and Gavin and Stacey, you will love the King Gary Christmas special on BBC One. We speak to the King of Butterchurn Crescent Tom Davis.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 22 December 2020 - 12.23pm
BBC Tom Davis as Gary King in the BBC sitcom

“I didn’t want to get bogged down in Covid this and Covid that. I think Covid has had enough f***ing air time,” says Tom Davis, the star and co-creator of BBC One sitcom King Gary.

Davis and his co-stars managed to sneak in filming a Christmas special during the middle of a tough year and if you missed the first series, this seasonal offering is the perfect entry point for the big-hearted, old-school BBC sitcom.

In the vein of Only Fools and Horses and Gavin and Stacey, King Gary is about an Essex family who live in Butterchurn Crescent and work in the building trade.

Gary (Murder in Successville’s Tom Davis) and his wife Terri (Detectorists star Laura Checkley) have the aspirations of the Trotters and all the geezer charm of Smithy.

The best Christmas TV in 2020 >

The cast of King Gary BBC

With a cast including Romesh Ranganathan, Simon Day and Neil Maskell, after only one series it already feels timeless, familiar and ready-made for a festive BBC One special.

We caught up with Tom Davis to get the lowdown on what Christmas 2020 is going to be like for King Gary…

1. We see Gary wearing some incredible Christmas pyjamas in the episode. Did you keep them?

Ha, ha. Do you know what. That’s about the only bit of costume I’ve had that I’ve swerved. Everything else Gary has on, I’m always trying to nick. But that’s the first bit of costume I’ve said, "Nah, you can keep that". They were a bit tight. They were a little bit snug.

They originally had flares, but Gary is a bootcut man so we had to get them cut off.

2. How does it feel to have King Gary in the Christmas schedules?

Man, it’s such an honour. It’s an incredible thing to be asked. Especially this year. What an honour.

I feel blessed just to be able to make the thing. Right up to the day of filming you were constantly worried if someone might get Covid, or will there be another lockdown and throughout the whole thing we were terrified the plug might get pulled. To be part of the BBC Christmas comedy slate along with Motherland and Ghosts, two of my favourite shows, is an amazing feeling.

3. You mention in the show that it’s been a rough year, but you never say the word 'Covid' – was that on purpose?

In earlier drafts I think we talked about it more. I think people watching this year may think, "Oh you didn’t talk about it", but people coming back to watch the show in the future I hope people will just look back at Covid as something from the past so it wouldn’t sit right.

To be honest, the ideas for the special came before Covid and it was for other reasons that we talk on the show about it being a tough year or a hard year. A lot of my friends and family work in the construction industry and before Covid, they were already gearing up for a tough year.

It has been a tough few years for everyone. I didn’t want to get bogged down in Covid this and Covid that. I think Covid has had enough f***ing air time.

4. Did you think about bringing social distancing into the show?

If we were going to make everyone in the show social distanced and wear face masks, when people came back to watch it they would just think, "Oh that was a horrible year" and have bad thoughts. We’re now talking about series 2 and we have no idea what will happen in the Spring.

If you get bogged down in making things too Covid-centric they can feel out of date very quickly. It’s been a f***ing awful year, me included. Family and loved ones have really suffered. The last thing people want when they sit down to watch a comedy is someone going, "Oh remember old Covid".

5. What is a normal Christmas for Gary and Terri?

I don’t think Gary and Terri can do low-key. For them, the only way to do Christmas is to go big and shout from the rooftops.

I think Gary and Terri would be the first people out clapping every Thursday on their doorstep and the last people in. Everything is big with them and that’s the joy of them as people. That’s why I love people like that.

I’ve got family and friends like Gary and Terri and more and more of them are coming out of the work asking, "Are they based on me?". I know who they are, but I’ll keep that to myself. They can’t do anything small and I think that’s quite joyous.

6. How would Gary and Terri have coped in lockdown?

I think they would have been unbearable. They would have been the people organising cocktail Zooms. I always think they’re like sharks, Gary and Terri, they’ve got to keep on swimming and keep on moving. I’ve got mates like that who never sit down and watch a film. They are constantly doing stuff.

Even in lockdown they’re saying their social life has never been better. They’ve got the quizzes, the poker games, the horses, the drinks night. They would be looking for new fads. The Kardashians are doing this on Zoom, let’s try it. And they would have been a nightmare for the clapping.

“A guy near me was genuinely out clapping for 2 to 3 hours... I just thought, come on pal, I’ve got another episode of Tiger King to watch”
- Tom Davis

There was a guy near me who was genuinely out clapping for two to three hours. At first I thought, "Go on brother, that’s amazing and incredible". And then I realised that it wasn’t for the NHS, it was for him. He just wanted to be out there dancing around, banging his pans. I just thought, "Come on pal, I’ve got another episode of Tiger King to watch".

After all this time in lockdown, I have to admit that I’m probably more Gary than I care to admit I’ve realised that I’ve got that thing inside me. So on VE Day, I’ve got the biggest barbecue outside my house. The loudest music. I just thought, "Oh God, I am Gary".

7. What’s your favourite Christmas special?

Only Fools and Horses cast in a Christmas special BBC

In my house Fools and Horses was a big thing. I went to school with John Sullivan’s son Jimmy. It was a really crap school and nobody had any idea that this kid’s dad was the guy making this show we were all watching. But I still watch it now and it resonates so much with me, the characters and feel of the show.

I also love Modern Family. Any of the Christmas or Thanksgiving Modern Family episodes, they are as perfect as you can get. I love all the repeats as well. I know people complain about the repeats, but I love an old Morecambe and Wise. I’ll hunt down The Snowman, wherever he may be. I love a bit of that.

Shane Allen at the BBC said to us, a good sitcom is like new neighbours. It will take some time to get used to them, but eventually you become friends who you spend more and more time with. Like Only Fools, Porridge, Vicar of Dibley, Gavin and Stacey, shows that resonate, you can go back and watch them at any time. When I watch Only Fools or Gavin and Stacey, it’s like a little bit of time travel. It captures a time in your life.

The King Gary Christmas special airs on Wednesday 23 December at 10pm on BBC One.

Catch up on the series 1 box set on BBC iPlayer.

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