Me and Ms Jones | The creators of BBC Three's new comedy © BBC

Me and Ms Jones

The creators of BBC Three's new comedy

Sarah Ward meets Ruth Jones and James Corden, the writers and stars of BBC Three's new comedy, Gavin & Stacey.

Chance encounters seem to have played a big part in Ruth Jones’s career.

Best known for playing barmaid Myfanwy in Little Britain’s Dafydd, she landed the role of Steve Coogan’s girlfriend in Saxondale after bumping into him at the British Comedy Awards.

And now BBC Three is about to air Gavin and Stacey, a comedy she wrote with James Corden after striking up a conversation on the set of the ITV drama Fat Friends

‘We became friends during filming,’ she said. ‘And when we were doing series three, James was talking about this idea he and his girlfriend had about a wedding between a guy from Essex and a girl from Barry Island, near Cardiff.

‘I thought it sounded brilliant, and we'd sit in the hotel bar where we were staying and look around. There was always a function going on, and we'd pick out characters that might be at this wedding and improvise what they might say.

‘I have ideas all the time and do nothing with them’, says Corden. ‘But Ruth was adamant we should try and write this.’

After putting pen to paper, James and Ruth sent their script of Gavin & Stacey to Stuart Murphy, the former controller of BBC Three, who loved their idea. But he didn’t have a slot for a one-off drama or comedy, so asked the pair if they could turn it into a series.

It was a scary prospect, but James received some encouragement from a high-profile source: Alan Bennett, writer of The History Boys, the National Theatre play Corden was starring in at the time.

‘Alan gave me such confidence, and said to me, “James, you should write some of these ideas down because they're really funny. There are lots of people who make people laugh now and again but you really have a chance, if you write these things down, to do something” And when Alan Bennett says that, you can't really argue.’

Within three months, five episodes of Gavin & Stacey had been written – the first episode taking them just 24 hours.

‘We wrote episode six in New York while I was doing The History Boys on Broadway,’ Corden says. ‘Ruth came out to join me. It was weird sitting in a lovely apartment in New York trying to write a show about a regular guy from Essex and a regular girl from Barry! Sometimes we'd do some writing in Central Park which was great.’

Corden and Jones play the couple's best friends, Nessa And Smith, while Gavin is played by Mathew Horne and Stacey by Joanna Page. The cast also includes Alison Steadman, Rob Brydon and features cameo appearances by Julia Davis and Matt Lucas.

Corden said: ‘We set out to write a great part for Alison, because we both knew her and idolise her as an actor. When she rang us and said she'd just read the script and loved it, we were over the moon.

‘Once we'd started writing the part of Bryn [a protective loner obsessed by technology] we thought Rob Brydon would be great. The minute he read the first two episodes, he rang Ruth and said, “'I really, really want to do it. I know exactly who he is; I know exactly what he wears; how he walks; how he speaks.”’

Jones, of course, had previously worked with Brydon’s sometime collaborator Steve Coogan, playing his character’s girlfriend Magz in Saxondale, after that chance comedy award meeting.

‘I was there with Julia Davis, and Steve was on the table in front of me,’ she said. ‘I'd only met him a couple of times to say hello to, but he turned round and said, “You scrub up well, don't you? Will you play my girlfriend in my next series.” And that was that! It was the easiest job interview I've ever had.’

The next trial she faces may be more nerve-racking: waiting for the public and critical response to Gavin & Stacey. And she admits to being nervous: ‘You show it to your family, and they may be critical, but you just don't know if it's any good…’ she said.

But Corden strikes a more positive note. ‘It's terrifying in one aspect and hugely exciting in another’, he said. ‘We certainly feel incredibly proud of what we've done. We've just got to wait now and find out what everyone else thinks.’

  • Gavin and Stacey starts on BBC Three on Sunday May 13.

Published: 27 Apr 2007

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.