Episodes returns for second series on BBC Two

James Purefoy plays Rob

James Purefoy has become best known for gritty, swashbuckling, all-action dramas, so it was a treat to play Beverly’s nice guy boyfriend Rob.

Rob first starts chatting her up when he brings his sister Morning into work and before long he’s become Sean’s love rival.

James says: “It’s been nice to play totty again. I used to be cast as totty all the time and complained about it, then suddenly it stopped about 10 years ago. Now of course I’m desperate to play totty again.”

Not only is Rob totty, he’s also the kind of genuine bloke that would be perfect to help Beverly get over her marriage woes with Sean.

“Rob’s a house painter, so he’s not in the entertainment industry and he’s not at all impressed by the industry – he thinks they are all nutty, which of course they are. He’s a lovely character, funny and gentle and kind, not quite Michelangelo, but more than an ordinary painter and decorator.”

Ironically, he landed the role just after he had decided to approach Tamsin Greig to play opposite him in a romantic comedy he had been working on.

“I went to see her in a play and fell in love with her. I thought she was just breathtaking, a grown-up woman with a big heart and funny and tender. On the red carpet someone asked me who I wanted to star opposite me in this romantic comedy I had been working on and I said, ‘I heart Tamsin Greig’, and the next day I got the call about Episodes.”

The HBO series Rome, along with the movie Ironclad, have helped to cement his gritty hardcore reputation, but James admits Episodes has given him a taste for light comedy.

“This is a very different role, I’ve become quite comfortable chopping people’s heads off recently,” he says.

“People mistake me for someone who is rather dour, but it has been such a pleasure doing this and I’ve learnt a great deal watching Matt and Stephen. I was a big fan of the first series of Episodes. Having spent quite a lot of time in America, it’s a very accurate piece of satire on the entertainment industry over there.”

Despite this, he is planning to go back to LA for more work this year after getting permission from his son.

“I have always been wary of going over there because my boy was here, but now he is 15 and he’s given me his blessing. You take on different challenges at different times of life and now I want to crack this one properly.”