Lenny Rush, the breakout star of the BBC's Am I Being Unreasonable?, has spoken about the importance of children's drama as his series Dodger returns to CBBC.
Rush plays Morgan, a mischievous scamp with a keen ear who picks up all sorts of useful gossip, in the Oliver Twist prequel series starring Billy Jenkins as Dodger.
"He's just like me – we're so similar," Rush said of his character. "To be honest, we're both a bit cheeky!"
Earlier this year, BBC Director-General Tim Davie announced that CBBC would be moving online as a "cost-saving measure", in a move that would "embrace the huge shifts in the market around us".
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Rush said that series like Dodger that can be enjoyed by the whole family are "so important" – particularly at this time of year.
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"I think it's so important – especially the Christmas special, because it brings everyone together. A few weeks ago, I did the ADR – basically just voiceover for the show – and you get to see certain clips of it and I walked out the studio feeling Christmassy, y’know?
"It's that time of the year, isn't it, when everyone comes together and has a laugh."
Rush added that he saw "so much" positive buzz around the first season of Dodger, which aired 10 episodes earlier this year and is now returning for a trilogy of specials.
"I saw a lot on social media – and I’ve got a younger brother and I had a lot of his friends come over to me and say, 'I saw Dodger and binge-watched the whole series.' It's just great to hear."
In the previous season, Rush didn't get an opportunity to work with Christopher Eccleston, who plays Fagin in Dodger, but the pair finally shared some scenes in the new specials.
"He's the loveliest guy. He’s great at acting – and he stays in character as well. Even when they say cut, he keeps that strong Cockney accent!"
The only downside for Rush when it came to reprising his Dodger role was the challenge of filming a Christmas special at the height of summer. "When we were filming, you've got the Christmas episode and we're outside in the boiling hot sun in all these scarves and these big jackets and you're like... oof!"
Since the first season of Dodger aired, Rush has become known to a wider audience for his scene-stealing role in the BBC comedy-thriller Am I Being Unreasonable?, starring and co-written by Daisy May Cooper. That series allowed the young actor to show off his improvisational skills, which he was again able to utilise on Dodger.
"[Series writers] Rhys [Thomas] and Lucy [Montgomery], they both said, 'Go off a little bit' – you just want to make it realistic. I think that's what draws people in. I like it when the script is there as a guide and you can go off on your own tangent – you've just got to know where to end it, you’ve got to follow the story!"
Previously, Rush tackled the dramatic role of Tiny Tim in Steven Knight's 2019 miniseries A Christmas Carol, but says he's keen to take on more comedic roles in the future, having shown off his comedic chops again in a recent sketch for Children in Need.
"It was a mockumentary and I love things like that – before Am I Being Unreasonable?, I watched Daisy in This Country, and obviously you've got The Office with Ricky Gervais. I'd love to do something like that.
"I like the variety but If I had to choose one, it would be comedy. There's no better feeling than knowing that you've made someone laugh. Yeah, I love it!"
The first of three new Dodger specials is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer, with the show's Christmas special airing on Sunday 4th December at 5:35pm on CBBC.