Ray Coulthard plays James Schofield,
Food and Beverage Manager
Ray Coulthard often gets mistaken as an upper-class public school gent when, in fact, he is from a working-class estate in Liverpool.
"I tend to get over-looked for roles in which I can be working class, because directors automatically think I am posh – which is really frustrating. I would love to play a tough, working-class character for a change."
Ray's character, James Schofield, is a far cry from the laid-back Liverpudlian who likes nothing more than to take charge in the kitchen and cook up a feast of pasta for his long-term girlfriend.
"I love chilling out at home, in Whitstable, and being a vegetable," he laughs. "I do all the cooking at home and I make a mean Penne Arrabiata with a twist that includes chorizo sausage," he explains.
Though he loves cooking, Ray doesn't profess to be as knowledgeable about wine and food as his character, James, and doesn't have any particular chef that he is loyal to.
"I like to dip in and out of cook books and be experimental, but the chef I consult most is probably Rick Stein. Living in Whitstable we have fresh fish on our doorstep daily and since he specialises in seafood it's natural to veer towards him, I guess. I would love to do one of his cookery courses some day."
Ray often gets recognised when he goes out, and even found himself having to explain that he was not, in fact, an expert on wine like James.
"I was recently back in Liverpool having dinner with a friend at a lovely gastro pub when the waiter kept popping over with wines for us to taste. In the end, I had to confess that I knew nothing about wines and it was all part of the role."
Ray's character finds himself in a few sticky situations in this series, but always on hand to dig the knife in further is rival Gino, and real-life buddy, Martin Marquez.
"Gino and James share a lot of the comedy moments in the show and, despite being competitive, there is an almost begrudging respect for each other which underlies their relationship. They bicker and argue, but true friendship shines through when James gets stitched up by a waitress planted as a spy by a rival hotel."
Ray's first love will always be the theatre, and he enjoyed working with director Andy Hay on the first few episodes of series three of Hotel Babylon.
"Andy ran a theatre in Bristol, and then again in Bolton, but our paths never crossed so it was wonderful to finally meet and work with him – albeit on a parking lot in Aston Clinton," he laughs.
"I would certainly like to go back to theatre soon – it has been about five years since I performed on stage and I desperately miss it. I would love to direct some day and what I love about the theatre is the artistic control an actor has, whereas in television it is the editor who has that control."
The Babylon regulars have been together for three years and, during that time, have become great friends.
"It's really lovely to come back now in the third series. We know everybody so well and it's just like coming home – which is rather nice for us. They are a great bunch of people and we always make a big effort to welcome guests – so anyone coming in for a few days always has a good time," explains Ray.
One guest he would love to serve in the Babylon restaurant is actor/writer Stephen Fry.
"My girlfriend and I are always commenting that Stephen Fry would be your ultimate dinner guest, so I would love to see him walking through the doors of Hotel Babylon," says Ray.
"And Alan Davies says he has a brain the size of the planet. The only other person I have met with a brain like Stephen Fry is Tom Stoppard, when I worked on one of his plays at the National Theatre. They are both full of the most incredible knowledge, yet are great at doing gags – which is just a fantastic combination."
As well as having some disastrous romantic liaisons, James has a number of funny storylines this year, including a stunt which involves Ray diving across the hotel restaurant to prevent a sabotaged plate of lobster ravioli arriving at a restaurant critic's table – resulting in some on-screen Basil Fawlty moments.
"As well as being unlucky in love, his colleagues discover James used to be ten stone heavier, with a penchant for macaroni cheese.
Naturally slim Ray doesn't profess to being a regular at the gym, or having a regular fitness regime. "I'm one of those actors that become health conscious when I open a script and, on page 32, it says he gets his top off – then I get down to the gym!" he laughs.