Robert Wilfort on 15 years of Gavin & Stacey, the fishing trip and reunion hopes
The actor, who plays Stacey's brother Jason, takes us on another RT Rewind.
This weekend marks 15 years since Gavin & Stacey made its glorious debut, which means that theories about what happened on a certain fishing trip have been living in our heads rent-free for almost just as long. You might think by now that actor Robert Wilfort, who plays Jason in the acclaimed sitcom, would be sick of fielding questions about the ill-fated staycation, yet the truth is quite the contrary.
"I'm fully prepared to have it on my gravestone: 'What happened on the fishing trip?'" he jokes(?), in conversation with RadioTimes.com as the show approaches its milestone anniversary. "I honestly don't mind people asking me the question and I always have to give them the same answer: ‘I can't tell you because Uncle Bryn would never forgive me.’"
What began as a minor plot point in Gavin & Stacey's fifth episode exploded into a conspiracy of epic proportions, as writers Ruth Jones and James Corden playfully dropped increasingly nonsensical hints across the show's three seasons and two specials. The enduring fascination with the fishing trip among fans has come as a total surprise to Wilfort, who now admits that it "defined that role for me", with the weight of the mystery even being felt on set.
"Sometimes when we were filming, me and Rob [Brydon] would feel like we were in a different series to everyone else," he explained. "Because the overall feeling of the show is this kind of warmth and happiness between the families most of the time – and I think that's why people love the show so much – but our scenes would be really serious and intense. Even though it's a funny subject, you still have to play it really straight."
As for what exactly happened between Uncle Bryn and Jason, Wilfort swears he's just as in the dark as we are, but that Jones and Corden do have a specific idea in mind as opposed to leading viewers on a wild goose chase. Nevertheless, fans shouldn't hold their breath for answers, even if the show does ever return.
"It's a mystery and I love that we're never gonna find out. Or are we? Who knows? Maybe one day we will. But as far as I know, I don't think the public will ever know what happened on that fateful trip," he continued. "I think it's much more fun to just sow lots of wild seeds in people's imaginations and [let them] try to figure out what on earth they think has happened."
The cast of Gavin & Stacey came together very quickly, with several characters written specifically for certain actors – including Bryn (Brydon), Pam (Alison Steadman) and Dawn (Julia Davis) – while the team wasted no time locking down Mathew Horne and Joanna Page in the title roles. Wilfort also had to audition and feels he wouldn't have "stood a chance" if not for his existing friendship with Corden, due to the lack of familial resemblance between himself and his on-screen sister.
"I’m about a foot taller than Jo Page and dark[-haired], whereas she’s small and blonde," he said. "So I think I may not have got a foot in the door if it hadn’t been for James, so I’m eternally grateful to [him] for getting me in. The other bonus card I had in my pocket was that I went to youth theatre and drama school with Jo, so I was very good friends with her. So I was able to schmooze them in the audition a bit and say ‘we’ve got this link, we're like brother and sister already!’ I was laying it on a bit thick."
Wilfort had no doubt the show would be great viewing based on the scripts and the cast attached, but didn't honestly expect to still be quizzed about it more than a decade later. Likewise, the local impact impresses him, with Gavin & Stacey's legacy still felt strongly during a recent leisurely visit to a certain seaside resort in South Wales.
"If somebody told me [15 years ago] there would be tours to Barry to see the locations, I’d have said ‘No, come off it!’ But here we are. We all thought we were doing something really good, but really good things come and go. I've been involved in a lot of things that have been really great, but just haven’t kind of captured the imagination like Gavin & Stacey did."
He continued: "It's just amazing what it's done for the town. Absolutely amazing. We went to see the [West family] house and we bumped into someone who'd come all the way from the other side of the country just to see it. I do love that it’s done that and I'd love to see more Welsh content on national screens, not just on BBC Wales."
Of course, the question on every fan's lips is whether there could be another chapter of Gavin & Stacey, following 2019's reunion special which drew a staggering 18.5 million viewers and ended on a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. Joanna Page, Larry Lamb and Melanie Walters are among the cast members to express interest in returning, with Wilfort singing from the same hymn sheet. However, he stresses the decision lies with the creators alone – and he'll happily accept their verdict, whatever it may be.
"I would love to do another one. If you ask any member of the cast, I think we'd all love to come back and do some more," he added. "But if Ruth and James feel like that's a great ending for them then I'll absolutely go along with that. I think it is a fun ending... it is great to leave people wanting more, but I think if everyone was available, I'm sure we'd all come back and do another one. I certainly would anyway, I'd be very happy to do one more or as many as they want."
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