Plebs star Tom Rosenthal on Roman orgies: “The naked scene with Danny Dyer is pure sex”

The Friday Night Dinner actor is revealing a lewder side in the new ITV2 comedy billed as 'The Inbetweeners meets Ancient Rome'

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Tom Rosenthal is been best known as Jonny, the argumentative estate agent in Friday Night Dinner. Now he’s revealing a ruder, cruder side (and a fair bit of flesh) in Plebs, a new ITV2 sitcom billed as The Inbetweeners meets Ancient Rome. 

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We made him tell us all about it…

Do you have anything in common with your character Marcus?

Too much! I’m definitely more of a ‘think before I do’ person, so his neuroticism and his tendency to over-rationalise. And it’s uncanny how alike we are in body, face and voice…

Did you watch a lot of I, Claudius as research?

I was very keen to read some Cicero but I was told not to. We’re not trying to place it in a certain time in Rome; we’re trying to mirror the style of today with a Roman aesthetic. I was always saying to the writers “who is the emperor? What’s happening historically?” – like I say, I’m a bit of an over-thinker – but they wanted to keep it very loose. 

My mum was very put out when she saw a photo of me on set and I wasn’t sporting an official Roman haircut. In fact, they tried to give me one but I looked too ugly and they thought it would put viewers off.

So ITV didn’t send you along to any orgies to research the first episode…

Oh yes, I went to a few orgies. Not that I needed to do any research, obviously. That’s the difference between Marcus and I: I’m very experienced at the old orgies.

In episode two, Marcus gets up, close and personal with Danny Dyer. How was that?

It was an honour to be in a naked scene with Danny Dyer. That scene is pure sex from my point of view; the girls are going to love it and love me because of it, I’m sure.

Does Marcus have any other “revealing” scenes?

There’s definitely worse to come, particularly from a personal pride perspective. I won’t ruin it for you by saying how or why, but it made the cast and crew laugh a lot – at me, rather than with me.

What do you make of the comparisons to Frankie Howerd’s comedy Up Pompeii!?

The only similarity that I can see is that we wear togas. But you never know what might happen if there’s a second series. I can do camp if that’s what’s required…Ooh, Spartacus!

Who’s your comedy hero?

I try not to have comedy heroes because I do stand up and the temptation is to think “that’s really funny, I want to be that”. But you have to try and be yourself. Having said that, I do like Ricky Gervais and I’d love to have a career similar to his.

Growing up, were you the funny kid at the back of the class?

Funnily enough, no. Because I went to a posh school, we had public speaking competitions and I’d do a funny speech and get a laugh. But I never really had a burning ambition to be a comedian. It started as a hobby at university and when I left there were no jobs, so I decided to try doing it professionally.

Do you prefer acting or stand-up?

Stand-up is very, very scary but that’s why you’re alive, right? To do things that scare you. I’ve been doing it a long time now and I can feel myself getting better, so it’s very rewarding in that sense. Though sometimes I do worry that people sit there going “he’s in Friday Night Dinner so we’ll put up with this stuff”.

And acting?

Acting is the best life ever: the jokes are written for you and people you fetch cups of tea and clothes to wear and constantly make your hair look nice. But it doesn’t last. You do it for six weeks and then you have to go back to being a normal person.

Will there be another series of Friday Night Dinner?

We don’t know. We all want to do another because it’s so much fun to do – I think of them as a second family. 

Have you considered penning your own sitcom?

At the moment I’m working on something in-house at the BBC, but I’m sure one in three comedians says that. It’s definitely an aspiration of mine but I’m very aware that I’m not good enough yet. One day maybe.

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Plebs begins with a double bill on Monday 25 March on ITV2 at 10pm