“Last Tango in Halifax” is probably the only family drama that revolves around two seniors: Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) who reconnect after liking one another 60 years ago and they get a second chance at love. Season 1 is based on the two elderly characters rediscovering one another at a new chapter of their lives, but each season, viewers watch two families growing with one another, the secrets in their closet and differences between Alan and Celia who really only knew one another as teenagers.
Available to stream from Season 1 on KLCS Passport, it’s the perfect show to tuck into for a weekend escape to another life in the beautiful green pastures of Yorkshire. Set on a farm in Halifax, Alan’s family includes his grown up daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker) and her son Raff (Josh Bolt). KLCS talks exclusively to Josh Bolt, who shares what it’s like filming on a real Yorkshire farm, what his favorite scenes are, how he has a second mum now, what the most common question is that he gets as viewers worldwide have watched him grow up on the show, and what he did when he was in Los Angeles last year.
“Last Tango in Halifax” is perhaps the only show that’s based on the oldest generation, the grandparents and the unique love story of them finding each other again. Do you often get recognized for being in such a delightful show, and are those the kind of comments people say?
Yes, totally. It’s such, as you say, a one-off show. It’s so bizarre because the focus is the older generation, which is so lovely and people do often stop me. The main thing people say, is because there’s such gap in between seasons, people say “When‘s it coming back?” more than anything (laughs). Which is so nice.
I agree. And that was my other question – what’s the most common question you get?
People also say, “Is Celia as bad as that in real life?” I’m like, “God no!”. Anne Reid is such a wonderful, sweet lady. And people go, “Celia is so inappropriate and inept.” She’s just a brilliant actress; she’s just great at playing that.
I love the conversations between Celia and her daughter Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Gillian and her father. You grew up on this show in a way. Being on the show must be such a blessing to have Derek as your TV grandfather too.
Oh, 1000 percent. I never trained, which as a British actor is quite a rarity, because a lot of us just go to drama school. So I was lucky to just start when I was 12 and I’ve been very blessed to just learn on the job and continue to work. The first season of “Last Tango” was January 2012, so I was 17, and just to be in the presence of Derek, Anne, Sarah and Nicola. These four heavy weights, it was just phenomenal. I always say, “Money couldn’t buy the experiences and the lessons I’ve had off those actors.” It’s been such a blessing and an education.
My favorite is the chemistry between Gillian and her father, you can see the love and bond and it’s a very different relationship between Caroline and Celia, you can really tell the difference of the two families.
Oh, totally. That was quite nice. When I first got the script, I thought it was just a drama, but then you forget how funny it actually is and that comes totally from the juxtaposition of – our family is so rough and ready and lives on a farm and (laughs) Caroline lives in this beautiful house and she’s a head mistress of this massive school. But I completely agree, the intimacy that those four bring to each other in those scenes, it’s just incredible how easy they do it.
I love this gem of a show, I wish it came back every year and I wish it was eight episodes, and I assume you miss the show a lot too when people ask you about the large gap between seasons.
I think it’s more selfishly as well, because I would just do it all the time because it’s such a rarity to be part of that. People say that about working with other actors and being part of along running show, but it really is the nicest group of people you could ever meet. Every one of them are so prepared and professional yet just so generous, especially to me and the other youngsters in it who’ve grown up on it. Any sort of advice, nothing’s too much. I’m really lucky that I’ve continued to have a relationship with a lot of those actors off set over the years. Not just even in the acting industry, in life. If I’ve got issues with anything, I can ring Nicola Walker and we have a chat about relationships, or this. She sort of has become like [my] second mum, it’s hysterical. So it’s more selfishly, that’s the annoyance of having such a big gap, but Sally is a genius. There aren’t enough words to put her on a big enough pedestal; she’s just incredible, I don’t know how she does it. Obviously, now she’s busy with “Happy Valley” and “Gentleman Jack” and all of the other things she’s writing. A lot of people have said, “Why can’t they just get a team of writers in?” I just don’t think it works. That’s the reason it’s as good as it is. It’s because Sally is so good at it. In another respect, it’s quite nice, especially from Season 3 to the Christmas special, to the last season. It was sort of nice to let the characters breathe, because obviously you can have too much of a good thing. And it was nice to let them develop a little bit, because it was in real time, so I got my act together taking on the role of a father and got a good job and me and Katherine (Rose Morley) who plays my wife Ellie, it was nice for us two to be more settled rather than just teenagers who didn’t know what they were doing. So it’s nice in that respect, but selfishly, as an actor and as a human being, it’s really frustrating because I would just do this every day of my life. (laughs)
I love these characters so much, I watch it over and over again, especially the latest season. Like you said it’s such a rarity, the kind of family and storyline that created this show – two people coming together after 60 years. What I love is this show values and respects age, and people look real too. What’s your favorite thing about this show? Is it because of that storyline, that it revolves around an oldest generation, where age is respected?
Totally and it humanizes them as well. There’s no sort of glitz and glamour. Every single character on the show is flawed somehow, but in an endearing way, that it’s so beautifully done. Even Derek, Alan’s character, he’s such a gentleman and in Season 3 he made a mistake and had this bastard son. Even Alan has got a flaw. I think what I love about it is how funny it is, and how when you’re not expecting it you think, “Should I laugh at that?”; because it’s not your typical comedy.
But if you watch Anne’s nuanced looks, like in the car in the latest season. One of my favorite scenes in the latest season is Celia and Caroline in the car.
Is that the one with the two New Zealand girls?
Yes, her nuanced looks are funny.
And I think that’s the thing as well. A lot of this show, there’s no big explosions, there’s no big action scenes; it’s just literally people talking. That last scene of the first episode of the last season when we’re having Caroline and Gillian’s joint birthday, set around the table, that was 15 pages of a script. Obviously there’s a lot of subtext going on with Celia and Gillian, but it’s basically 15 minutes of people talking around the dinner table and Sally makes it interesting and brilliant. (laughs)
As someone who watches this show over and over again, as an escape, like you said, there’s no explosions, I always love the conversations at the dinner table at Gillian’s farm, over tea like in this last season where Raff talks about being a new teacher, these are a slice of life. What are some of your favorite scenes?
Anytime I get to work wit Nicola Walker is just a joy. So for me that first scene that re-establishes us all on the farm, when it was me and Ellie, Alan, Gillian and we were talking about my job as a teacher as you say, that was just a joy, because you’re acting with Derek and Nicola for all afternoon. (laughs) I really love, I think it’s just so brilliant – Tony Gardner who plays John. Anytime he comes on screen I can’t help but laugh. I think my favorite scene of the last season was the very end of the last episode when he’s having that scene with Lawrence (Louis Greatorex), “Are you and mum going to get back together?” He’s like, “Maybe. No. Who knows? We’ll see. Yeah.”
I love John and the sneaky, funny theme music that comes on when he’s on-screen is funny.
I think that’s the measure of Tony Gardner as an actor, because John is such a pathetic man, but somehow you feel sorry for him and rooting for him. He is just pathetic, but does it so well. Also as well, I love any scenes we get to do with the farm because it’s this beautiful Yorkshire scenery and you’re outside, it’s a real working farm. So there’s chickens, sheep, so it does feel very real and it comes to life so easily when you’re up there.
I notice the trees that line the road to Gillian’s farm this latest season and the wind turbines. Is Gillian’s farm someone’s house in York that you guys film inside whenever the show is in production?
The farm is owned by this guy called Bill and he was about 111 years of age 10 years go when we did the first season, so God knows how old he is now. The production designers took stills and turned it into a set. The exterior is a completely real, huge farm, but the inside, Gillian farm is a set, which they did a great job of.
I assume since you’re on the show, you don’t find escapism in it, like we do.
Do you know what was so comforting for me?
It’s comforting. That’s a good word for this show.
For me last year, I signed with a manager in L.A. which was very exciting. I went out for the month of August last year. Obviously L.A. is crazy, it was quite lonely. So I had this month in L.A., it was sort of crazy meetings, meetings 9 to 5, Ubers, meeting hundreds of casting directors, producers. And as soon as I got in, I went on Netflix one night and there was “Last Tango in Halifax” and I hadn’t seen this show for years and it tied in nicely because when I got back from L.A. at the end of August, we started shooting Season 5 the beginning of September. So I thought “Well, I’ll watch it all to put myself back in the world to see it.” And it was just this overwhelming comfort of watching the show in the middle of L.A., being like, “Oh, everything’s better now.” (laughs) Which is nice.
It must be such a gift to be on a show where everyone is perfectly cast, the actors are all so lovely. I love how your character and Ellie grow through the years, especially in the latest season. It must be such a blessing, like you said as a person, because you have these friendships now.
And working with Katherine who plays Ellie, it’s just sheer joy, we get on so well and it’s so easy to have that intimate relationship of husband and wife. And we actually knew each other. We went to the same drama group when we were 10 and I hadn’t seen her for eight years and then she came in to audition for Ellie and I was reading with potential Ellies and she walked in and I was immediately like, “Oh my God, it’s Katherine!” So that’s been lovely. Honestly, I cannot speak highly enough of this show, and Sally, and the production, the directors we’ve had over the years. There’s been some fantastic supporting actors who’ve come in, like Season 3 we had Rupert Graves. He’s just a genius; I love him to death. The first season we had Sacha (Dhawan) who played Paul Jatri, who went on to do incredible stuff. You’re able to take something away from each actor as a person and as a young actor, which is just a joy.
Even your daughter in the latest season is so perfectly cast. Her accent is just like Ellie’s and she has that spunk.
It was interesting at first because when we did the first season, we all came in because obviously Derek’s from London, so is Nicola, and I’m from Liverpool. So we came in and all had to sit in rehearsals and try and come up with a Yorkshire accent that all three of us sounded like each other but then it’s a generational thing because Alan at the time was in his 70s, and how I speak is completely different from how my granddad would speak or how my mum would speak. But the young girl we got to play Calamity in the last season, she was just incredible and is scary good as well because I think, because speaking from experience as a child actor, when you’re a kid, you have no fear, so there’s no inhibitions that you’re going to do something wrong because you don’t know any different.
On PBS they teased this is the “last dance,” like it was the last season, so I asked the publicist and heard it’s not true. So my only complaint is there are never enough episodes and we wait years between seasons and the characters just get older, but I’m just grateful there is this show and I love watching them and I would love to see their lives unfold more.
Totally. I can’t agree more. If I could do this job, as I said, every day of the year. When we did the first season, it was just six episodes and we didn’t expect it to go on. And it has and it’s amazing. I know Sally’s just started Season 2 of “Gentleman Jack,” it’s like an eight-month shoot and who knows what’s going to happen with Covid.
But Anne and Alan are just getting older and I love them so much.
They’re both incredible. I think Anne’s now 85 or 86. I think it would be great to try and get one more, to just wrap it up. For me, selfishly as well, I’m really intrigued and excited to find out what would happen if Raff found out that Gillian did kill his dad.
( SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the most recent seasons of the show the following section may contain plot spoilers.)
Oh, right, he doesn’t know the truth yet.
Because Ellie and I had that scene last season in the car when PC Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac) came to work and said to Ellie, “That mad bitch killed his dad.” Me and Ellie had that scene in the car and Ellie’s like, “That’s a really weird thing to say,” and we shot three different versions of my reaction to that because – does deep down Raff know? So I’d love to find out. I think that would be a way to end it. I’d love to find out if he would ever find out and what would his reaction be.