Openly gay actors and long-time friends Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi found something of themselves when they played Freddie and Stuart in ITV's new sitcom Vicious. This preview by Steve Rogerson gives a few hints of what to expect and looks back at the careers of the two knights. The six-part show starts on Monday 29th April 2013.
Vicious: ITV sitcom about an ageing gay couple
Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi play a bickering gay couple in Vicious, due to start on ITV on Monday 29 April 2013.
Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen in Vicious
Photo from ITV and Brown Eyed Boy
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Two of Britain’s top actors – Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi – partner in a new ITV sitcom, Vicious, the first of the six episodes due to be broadcast on Monday 29 April 2013. Sir Ian and Sir Derek play, respectively, Freddie and Stuart, two gay men who have shared a London flat for half a century.
They first met when Freddie was a young actor and Stuart worked behind a bar. Now their careers are over, they spend most of their time arguing with each other, walking their dogs and reading.
“They have fallen into the habit of being horrid to each other,” said Sir Ian. “Although they’ve got into this habit, they clearly still love each other in the way that people who have been together for nearly 50 years do. They’ve survived. Anyone who was gay in the 1970s was rather heroic – when Freddie and Stuart first knew each other, it was actually illegal. But they’ve come through thick and thin together, and are still incredibly close.”
The two actors found it easy to slip into the roles of two people who had known each other for that long, because they had. “Some people will be delighted that Derek and I are making fun of ourselves,” said Sir Ian. Both actors are openly gay.
Doctor Who fans will like episode two, when the couple go out shopping to buy Freddie a new coat for a Doctor Who fan club event. Doctor Who fandom in the 1970s and 1980s attracted a lot of young gay men. Both actors have appeared in Doctor Who. Sir Derek was Professor Yana in the 2007 episode “Utopia” and The Master in 2003’s “Scream of the Shalka” animated adventure. Sir Ian played the voice of the Great Intelligence in 2012 Christmas special “The Snowmen”.
Actors in Vicious
Sir Ian McKellen received Oscar nominations for playing James Whale in Gods and Monsters and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which also earned him one of three Bafta nominations, the other two being for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and the leading role in 1995’s Richard III. He won a Golden Globe for playing Tsar Nicholas II in Rasputin and had nominations for Gods and Monsters and Richard III. He has also had five Primetime Emmy nominations, one for Rasputin and the others for Number Two in The Prisoner, King Lear in Great Performances, himself in Extras and Bill Kraus in And the Band Played On. He is also well known for playing Magneto in the X-Men movies. He was knighted in 1991.
Sir Derek Jacobi won a Bafta in 1977 for playing Claudius in I, Claudius and has three Bafta nominations, for Gary Burgess in Philby, Burgess and Maclean, Franklyn Madson in Dead Again and Alan Turing in Breaking the Code. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for Hallmark Hall of Fame, which also won him one of his two Primetime Emmys, the other being for playing Jackson Riley in Frasier. He also has a Primetime Emmy nomination for playing Adolf Hitler in Inside the Third Reich. He was knighted in 1994.
Frances de la Tour plays the couple’s best friend Violet, Marcia Warren plays nutty Penelope and miserable Mason is played by Phillip Voss. Iwan Rheon plays their upstairs neighbour Ash.
Team behind Vicious
Written by Gary Janetti, Vicious is a Brown Eyed Boy production in association with Kudos Film & TV. It was directed by Ed Bye. The show was co-created by playwright Mark Ravenhill. Co-producers were Gary Reich from Brown Eyed Boy and Gary Janetti. The executive producer was Jemma Rodgers. It was commissioned for ITV by Elaine Bedell, ITV’s director of comedy and entertainment, and Myfanwy Moore, comedy commissioning editor.
The programme was shot in front of a studio audience, something of which Sir Derek was glad. “You have this great feeling of being on stage,” he said. “It gives you a huge adrenaline rush which you might not get otherwise. I get nervous beforehand, but once you’re on stage, the studio audience really gives you a buzz. It’s a wonderful thrill.”
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