Thy Kingdom come

Friday, March 16, 2007 by

I met Stephen Fry yesterday.

It was the press launch for his upcoming ITV1 drama, Kingdom. It’s a co-production between Parallel Film and Television Productions and Fry’s own company Sprout. In the show, he plays a Norfolk-based lawyer, Peter Kingdom, working in a small country town. A nice enough but slightly gooey programme, with choral theme music, Tony Slattery as a comedy yokel and Fry being profoundly lovely and loveable in the middle, it’ll probably be a huge series for Sunday nights. And, in fact, it’s already been recommissioned.

After the screening came the press conferences. We worked our way through stars Celia Imrie, Karl Davies and Hermione Norris. And then Fry came out. I’ve never been to a Q&A like it. It was a feeding frenzy. Every time the loquacious and hugely entertaining star drew breath, the room erupted with journos trying to chip in a question.

Anyway, here’s a bit from the man himself. 

“One of the things I was very excited about when Simon Wheeler [creator and executive producer] first brought the project to me was the fact that the country town is a much over-looked part of Britain. There are a lot of dramas that are set in the country, things that are rural, whether it’s Midsomer or Bollocks of the … Monarch of the Glen - I’m sorry. Or, whatever it might be. Something involving the adorable Martin Clunes looming in Cornwall. And there’s lots of urban things in Manchester or Liverpool or the Midlands or London. 

“But the market town, I’ve always believed – partly because I live near one, but I just think it’s true – they reflect Britain better than any other kind of, if you like, way of living. Better than a suburb, better than the countryside, Better than the city. For instance – not that Kingdom is issue-led, we hope it’s character-led – but all the things we talk about in abstract terms … you can say people talk about immigration with a capital I, or they talk about the environment with a capital E, or they talk about youth gangs and chavvy pikey hoodies. But, actually, you see more of all that in the market town then you ever would in Hammersmith or Hampstead.”

We got nearly 40 minutes of Fry, at which point his PR had to hustle him off to his next engagement. 

As I was leaving, I found myself sharing a lift with a couple of other journos, and the man himself. At these events there’s always the shared-delusion that everyone is a peer – cast, crew and reporters mingling together. It’s not true, of course, but it’s a nice idea. Thus, under these rules of engagement, I collared Stephen and explained how much I adored A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Not to get into too much detail, but I grew up in Scotland. As a profoundly English person, with a double-barrel surname and an equally lanky twin brother to boot, that series really helped, turning all those perceived negatives into positives. I’m in danger of overstating the case here, because I never felt ostracised by any means, but among my year group ABOFAL just – well – helped.

So I told him this. “Ah!” he exclaimed. “It helped to give you an identity!”. I thanked him. “Not at all!” he said, and we shook hands.

I’m not bowled over by Kingdom by any means. But Stephen Fry is still great.


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