'I'm just in the background trying not to laugh' | Tom Rosenthal on playing Pike in the Dad's Army remake © UKTV

'I'm just in the background trying not to laugh'

Tom Rosenthal on playing Pike in the Dad's Army remake

On Sunday, Gold airs the first of its remake of three lost episodes of Dad’s Army. In the run-up to that broadcast we present an Q&A with a different cast member each day. Today it’s Tom Rosenthal, who plays Private Pike.

What interested you in The Lost Episodes project?

Well I think, personally, as soon as I was offered the chance to be in an episode of Dad’s Army I couldn’t really say no. Mainly because, growing up, when I was stupid my dad used to call me ‘stupid boy Pike’ and so the fact that I could really be stupid boy Pike, it just felt like an opportunity that you don’t normally get. 

Actually doing it is like going into your memories, it’s quite odd. It feels like you’re in the middle of a dream. So yeah, I suppose I wanted the opportunity to live my dreams. 

What is this series hoping to achieve?

We’ve got an amazing remit to replace episodes that have been lost. Normally you’re creating something out of nothing, or whatever, so we have a whole resource that we can establish what we are doing against. 

It’s a  privilege and honour. There are so many Dad’s Army fans out there and there’s these episodes that they don’t get to enjoy like the other ones over Christmas and constantly on the re-runs on Gold and the BBC and stuff. 

As actors and directors and everyone involved in set and costume, we see it as our job to kind of complete the story for those fans. So they get to enjoy these lost episodes like they can enjoy all the other ones. 

We can’t replace what’s gone, we’re not the same people as it’s a different time, but what we’re doing is surely better than having no episodes at all and we’re trying so hard to faithfully create those stories that have unfortunately, to time, been lost. 

How did you approach the character of Pike?

I mean obviously I’ve just watched a lot of Dad’s Army, which you can’t really complain about. It’s just a privilege. I’m not an impressionist, I mean my encapsulation of his performance is not really on a par with some of the other actors, but I think we’re bringing a sense of the characters as originally written. We’re understudies, you know, we’re just trying to give an account of Dad’s Army as best we can. 

How has it been working with the director, Ben Kellett?
Well, as far as I understand it, it’s been Ben Kellet’s passion project for the last three or four years. He knew there were these episodes out there and that there was a will to produce them and he has studied, meticulously, every scrap of evidence. 

They’ve got scripts with camera reports and we have photos from rehearsals. He’s doing a weird  Sherlock-esque attempt at trying to put it back without actually being able to copy. 

When you see the cuts and the camera style, it really does look a lot like Dad’s Army, the only difference is that it’s in widescreen and slightly higher definition. Yeah, it’s all him. 

Ben’s put a lot of thought and a lot of time into it and, from my perspective, the people who’ve made the sets and the people who’ve studied the costumes, they’ve not got anything wrong. I mean it seems to me to be as faithful recreation as one could hope to muster and after the first record, the Dad’s Army Appreciation Society agreed! And I’d imagine they’ve got quite high standards! 

How has it been working with the cast?

It’s quite intimidating working with the rest of the cast because they’re very good ...it’s like you’re on a weird acid trip. I mean, you’re in a show that you like! It’s just a very odd experience. 

I know as an actor you should be professional, but a lot of the time Pike just stood in the background and I’m just trying not to laugh basically because I’m listening to this episode of Dad’s Army that I’m really enjoying. 

But in a way I can laugh though, because in some of the Dad’s Army episodes Lavender cracks up. So, if you see me laughing that is fine and consistent with the old ones!

Why do Croft and Perry’s scripts still work over 50 years later?

I guess you could say that everyone knows what the Second World War is, everyone understands the quintessentially British thing of a group of people squabbling. We’re very obsessed with class and hierarchies and we really like jokes and slapstick. 

So, if you put all of them together you get a show that probably will last 50 years. I think it’s  multi-layered, it’s got that Simpsons thing of appealing to six-year- olds because you’ve got Jones with a silly voice falling over and you’ve got Mainwaring and Wilson with their witty class-based repartee. 

I think there’s something in it for the whole family and I think that is probably why it’s stood the test of time. 

What would you say to the viewers before they watch The Lost Episodes?

I don’t know, don’t go thinking it’s going to be exactly the same, because of course they’re not going to be exactly the same, but I think if you give it ten minutes you’ll start to see the effort that the actors have put into the rhythms. I mean, sometimes you close your eyes and it could be an episode of Dad’s Army, but I’m not going to say that! But just watch it, what else are you doing with your life! 

• Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes airs on Gold on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday next week at 8pm Tomorrow: Kevin Eldon who plays Lance Corporal Jones.

Published: 22 Aug 2019

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