What’s your guilty pleasure?
I’m obsessed with The Only Way Is Essex because it’s comedy gold. It’s amazing observational viewing, especially when they forget the camera is on. Good research as an actor. Or so I pretend.
What brings a tear to your eye?
Good drama. I remember crying at the last series of Cold Feet when Adam (James Nesbitt) was in denial that Rachel (Helen Baxendale) was dead. He’s still talking to her and the moment he realises she isn’t there was just… oof! That stayed with me for years.
Did you always want to be a comic actor?
No, it’s just sort of happened that way. I choose my characters because they’re multi-layered and vulnerable as well as funny. There are moments of absolute heartache for Steve [Tovey’s character in Him & Her], which I thrive on playing.
Of all the characters you’ve played, who is most like you?
Probably Steve – I’m also a bit like a dirty puppy with too much wind.
Him & Her is set in a grubby flat. Are the cast and crew as open with each other as the two stars?
Completely. We are absolutely filthy. Everybody knows everybody’s bodily habits. Guest actors are a bit shocked but by the end of the week they’re discussing their favourite sexual position with the rest of us.
Do you ever cringe at the script?
Never. My gross-out threshold must be quite high. Even Embarrassing Bodies makes me laugh. I find it fascinating how people are willing to go on TV and show off their diseased genitalia.
What comedy would you resurrect?
Steptoe and Son or Rising Damp, which I think is slightly Him & Her-esque. I like comedies that allow for poignancy and tragedy.
Who was your first crush?
Lovejoy. I remember being quite fascinated by him as a little boy: by the leather jacket, the love of antiques, that bike.
Who’s left you starstuck?
I’m pathetically starstruck. If I met the person who won Big Brother six years ago, I’d be over the moon. When I went backstage at The X Factor I felt like I was eight years old and seeing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in Disneyland.
You said when you were young gay people on TV were two dimensional. Has that changed?
Recently I saw a poster for Hotel GB and alongside Gordon Ramsey and Kirstie Allsopp you had Gok Wan, Mary Portas and Dr Christian Jessen who are all gay. They weren’t there because of that but because they’re the best that Channel 4 have.
And in drama?
I think writing has to catch up. I don’t really get offered gay parts. I’d love to play one but I want it to make a difference in the way that dramas like Queer as Folk did. Antony Cotton in Coronation Street is making a huge difference: he’s getting gay into people’s living rooms and showing that it’s normal.
Who would play you in a biopic?
Someone with sticky-out ears.
EastEnders or Coronation Street? EastEnders
John Bishop or Michael McIntyre? John Bishop
HIGNFY or News at 10? News at 10
Antiques Roadshow or University Challenge? Antiques Roadshow all the way
The Killing or Homeland? Homeland
Russell Tovey stars in Him & Her. Series three starts tonight at 10:00pm on BBC3.