The Chase’s Bradley Walsh says Darling Buds of May reboot The Larkins has left him too fat for his suits
BRADLEY WALSH reckons he has finally found the “perfick” role after 28 years on telly.
The actor and quiz show host, who has lit up our screens in Coronation Street, Doctor Who and The Chase, says he was born to play Pop Larkin in a reboot of classic rural comedy drama The Darling Buds Of May.
The star is known for hosting The Chase[/caption]
Bradley is breathing new life into David Jason’s ‘perfick’ character[/caption]
Sir David Jason, 81, made the part of the wheeler-dealer dad and his “perfick” catchphrase famous in the 1991 series, which also set Catherine Zeta Jones on the path to Hollywood stardom as Pop’s daughter, Mariette.
Fast-forward 30 years and Bradley, 61, is breathing new life into the character, who returns with the rest of the family in The Larkins next week on ITV.
He said: “When I got asked to play Pop, I said yes immediately. I was born to play this part.
“I am a family man — it’s what drives me. But I am actually Pop Larkin. Whatever you want, I can get it!”
While the part might be a perfect fit, the same cannot be said about Bradley’s clothes, which are all a little tighter after he put on weight during filming.
The cast were shocked to discover the big family dinners at the heart of the show were all real — and Bradley wasted no time getting stuck into the spreads served up by Ma Larkin, played by Joanna Scanlan.
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He says: “I ended up putting on eight pounds.
“Jo brought some food to the table and I ended up having that as my lunch as well. I just stayed at the table eating. It’s a tricky old show, it really is.”
Now that Bradley is back filming a new series of The Chase for ITV, has his wardrobe team got some extra work to do?
“I’ve got to get bigger suits,” he confessed. “They’ve literally just come to take my new measurements to have stuff fitted.”
LOVE AND LAUGHTER
The Larkins — adapted by Men Behaving Badly writer Simon Nye, who also penned The Durrells for ITV — is a new take on the novel by H.E. Bates.
Set in the Fifties, it tells the story of a close-knit family living a life full of love and laughter in the Kent countryside.
Big-hearted Pop isn’t afraid to break a few rules to provide for his clan and protect his neighbours.
His love for his family is only matched by his talent for sniffing out a good deal.
When Bradley took on the role, it would have been tempting to try to copy the charisma that Only Fools And Horses legend Sir David brought to the part.
But the actor confesses he did not know much about the show when he started filming and based his version of Pop on two old friends.
He explained: “I didn’t know the books and I’d maybe watched one episode of the show back in the day, so it wasn’t really my area of expertise.
“The way I based Pop is on two people that I know really well. They will be thrilled to know it’s them, but I’m not going to tell them.
“When it’s all over and we’re done and dusted, then I’ll tell them. But if they can’t guess it, they’re not living on the same planet.”
There are naturally going to be comparisons between this series and its predecessor, and although the new cast say they are bringing a fresh take to The Larkins, there are still parallels between both versions.
When The Darling Buds Of May launched in 1991 it was against a backdrop of social unease, recession, rising oil prices and high unemployment which had left communities across the country desperate for some TV escapism.
Now, 30 years later, history is repeating itself with everyone in need of a cosy community story to dive into.
I based Po on two people that I know really well, but I’m not going to tell them.
And that’s why Bradley thinks the timing of The Larkins could not be more perfect. He explained: “The whole show is based around family, love, giving and having people around you.
“I think that we’re now in unprecedented times where that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“The term we use — ‘bathtime television’ — is exactly how I’d describe this show. This couldn’t be any more of a perfect time, really.
“I just hope and pray that the British public take it to their hearts. I’m sure they will because the cast are just lovely.”
Comparisons will also be drawn with the show’s sexy star, Sabrina Bartlett, who has some big shoes to fill taking on the role of Mariette Larkin, made famous by Catherine Zeta Jones, 52.
But the 30-year-old Bridgerton actress took a similar approach to Bradley by resisting the temptation to follow in Catherine’s footsteps.
She explained: “Obviously it’s something I had heard of, but I must confess I hadn’t seen The Darling Buds Of May.
“I wouldn’t look at the series or any photos. I just wanted to read the script and have my own interpretation of the character and the way she comes across.
“I found it really useful not having that view of someone else’s character in my head when we were on set.”
So how would she describe her version of Mariette?
Sabrina says: “She’s very relatable to today’s audience. She absolutely has a mind of her own. She’s so empowered and independent. She sort of reminds me of a modern-day cowboy in the sense that she’s got her territory, and there’s Pauline — the other cowboy in the village — who’s her nemesis.
“She rides a Vespa and I ride a horse. We sort of come together and there’s a bit of a stand-off.”
For Sabrina, the role came as a welcome change after months spent filming the hit Netflix period drama Bridgerton, in which she played opera singer Siena.
She says: “It was such a joy going from wearing a corset and having this very tightly fixed world to being able to get mucky, ride a horse in the rain, wear wellington boots every day and having roast puddings.
“It was such a different world and a different atmosphere. You know — burping, farting, piglets outside. Honestly, it was pure joy.
“Inheriting this wild family which, after such a hard year for everybody . . . even just being on a set at all was such a privilege.
“I felt so lucky to be there and having this wonderful Ma and Pop, all our siblings and animals. I did feel like I’d bumped my head and fallen down the rabbit hole.
“It was wild but absolutely wonderful. So much fun.”
The show has already been given the green light for a Christmas special — and The Thick of It star Joanna says it is going to be the perfect festive treat.
She said: “It genuinely reminds you what Christmas is about as well as giving you a lot of laughs and pleasure along the way. And it’s got a twist, to say the least.”
In the opening episode, Pop Larkin says: “I’d like to think I’m everyone’s darling.”
And it’s safe to say fans across the country will agree when the show returns.
All the cast are keen to get back to Kent for more countryside capers. But Bradley has one request.
He said: “It would be great to carry on but I can’t keep going out and buying new clothes that are bigger. I’ve got to calm down on the eating.
“What the Larkins have got to do now is go and live by the sea and have a Mediterranean diet.”
- The Larkins begins on ITV at 8pm on Sunday, October 10.
Sabrina Bartlett takes on the role of Mariette Larkin[/caption]
Based in Johannesburg, Brian Derenberger is a Senior Editor at Healthy Organic Lifestyle.