Thursday 20 Jun 2013
PA - Grace and Sid (Olivia Grant and Ruth Negga)
Texan-born Rock is something of a Fifties matinee idol and has very retro ideas on sexual politics in the workplace. He likes his women to be more Doris Day than Kerry Katona and very much sees his world as populated with the kind of perfection his PA Grace (Olivia Grant) carefully creates for him.
"Rock sees women in that wholesome, smiley and supportive Doris Day kind of role because that is the way he was raised. That's the picture in his head from his upbringing and the way his mother looked after his father," explains Robert.
"Grace fits the bill perfectly. She falls right into his old school notion of what it means to be a PA, a woman, everything.
"And then Sid comes along who couldn't be more the antithesis of that. She's the absolute opposite of Grace, from her physical demeanour and her sulky attitude, to the way she sees the world, yet bizarrely there's a connection between them."
Rock is Senior Vice President at Hartmann Payne investment bank, working in the private wealth management department.
He's exceptionally good at his job and, strangely, he's also a good manager – his team respect him and not just because it's expected of them.
Rock has a wide range of interests but his main passion is astronomy, which we later discover is shared with his new PA, Sid (Ruth Negga).
Robert says: "It is more than just their interest in astronomy that bonds them, in some strange way they are both outcasts of a sort. Astronomy is the tip of the iceberg of whole other realms of Rock's imagination that got covered over when he was young.
"As he recognises a kindred spirit something is awakened which is very surprising to him and, all of a sudden, he starts to question his choices in life.
"He's suddenly found himself in this corporate structure and the creative, free-spirited part of him has been hidden away under this very straight suit.
"But he starts to discover those feelings are still very much there, if slightly neglected."
For the Los Angeles-based actor – who played Professor Ben Bruckner in four series of the US version of Queer As Folk and has also made appearances in Friends, Nip/Tuck and CSI – the chance to come over to the UK to work was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"My last long term job was Queer As Folk and it was heavily dramatic and largely I had this whole HIV storyline. But I got my start doing more comedic stuff and I could see the role of Rock Van Gelder was almost tailor-made for me, so I was very excited to get it," he reveals.
"When my agent said it was going to be filming in Glasgow I got even more excited because I'd never been to Scotland before. I was thrilled to be able to do what I love as a performer, with a character that sounded like a hell of a lot of fun and to get to have this adventure in Scotland all along with it."
He admits he thoroughly enjoyed his Glasgow experience and even the dubious British summer didn't get him down.
"I am originally from Florida and had plenty of sunshine and heat growing up, so I'm a big fan of cooler weather and Glasgow has had plenty of that," he grins.
"To be honest it hasn't bothered me much. I like grey, overcast days and kind of enjoy them because they are such a change for me.
"The only slight downside about being in Scotland is that sometimes I really cannot understand what anyone is saying. I either have to ask them again to clarify it or I just let it go and hope it wasn't anything too important."
While Robert's own outlook may be a million miles away from repressed Rock's, the actor insists he can empathise with the change of mindset his character experiences within the series.
"I did my first national commercial as a kid aged ten, I loved tap dancing and was in a soft shoe routine with Bob Hope when I was 11.
"I wanted to be a performer from day one, but ended up going to law school because of conditioning I suppose. It was the way I was brought up.
"So I relate to Rock's journey a lot actually because I too was willing to put aside what I cared about and what I was really passionate about in order to conform.
"Looking back I'm glad I got the education I did, but, hell, I'm more glad I am where I am now. This is the best job in the world!"
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