Exclusive: Interview with Sacha Dhawan star of BBC1 drama ‘Last Tango In Halifax’

Sacha Dhawan has high praise for his ‘Last Tango In Halifax‘ co-star – and his mum’s cooking!

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This Tuesday sees the long-awaited start of BBC1 comedy-drama ‘Last Tango In Halifax, with a stellar cast including Anne Reid and Derek Jacobi, as would-be childhood sweethearts reunited by Facebook after 60 years. ‘Spooks‘ star Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire play their respective daughter’s whose lives unwittingly provide obstacles for the couple.

Earlier in the year I caught up with actor Sacha Dhawan to talk about his role in the series as Paul, the younger love interest to Nicola Walker‘s character Gillian. At the time of interview I had seen the first two episodes, I’ve since seen the full series and can safely say it a warm-hearted must-watch.

Read the interview below…

What can you tell us about your role as Paul in ‘Last Tango in Halifax’?

Basically he’s a character that you’ll hate to love. He’s funny, but he’s got an edge about him but he doesn’t mean any harm by it. Sometimes he doesn’t think what he’s saying; it comes out horribly wrong.

There’s going to be something interesting that happens and he’s going to be more involved in Gillian’s life than she had anticipated; obviously he’s her bit on the side, but something will bring them slightly together – I’m not going to ruin it, but you’re gonna see a lot more of him.

Most of your scenes are with Nicola Walker, what was she like to work with?

Oh she’s great. I actually worked with Nicola on a series years ago in 1999 called ‘The Last Train‘, I think I was about 14 then. Obviously we cross paths but have never worked together since, apart from when we got ‘Last Tango In Halifax’. She’s such a joy to work with, she’s so generous when you do scenes with her; What I wanted to do with Paul is I wanted him to be able to try stuff out, and I can do that with Nicola and she will go along with it.

Did you both remember each other because of the time gap since you last worked together?

Oh yeah. In the industry strangely you always see the same faces again and again, you cross paths a lot, and I’d also bumped into her at the National Theatre I was doing a play there and so was she, so we’ve always kind of seen each other. We found out on the first day of rehearsals, we turned up and were like: “oh great yes”…I couldn’t think of a better actress to work with.

It must have been strange to go from acting with her as a teenager, to playing her younger love interest?

We were joking so much about it saying, “ooh this is a bit weird”. It was just because we knew each other so well, it made it much easier and hopefully as the series progresses we have a natural chemistry.

You must have had a lot of fun on the set, especially as you seem to spend the first two episodes staring at Nicola Walker’s bum?

[laughs] Yeah I know, I know, and it gets worse as it goes on – which is great because I can do that with Nicola; with the character of Paul he’s quite ‘out there’ , so you just have to go for it, otherwise it doesn’t work, you’ve got to look at the part and say what you need to – so it was good fun.

Did you do anything to prepare for the character of Paul?

We had a bit of rehearsal and talked through the scenes, Nicola is like me really, she doesn’t like to rehearse too much she’d just rather get on the set and do it, keeping it as natural and instinctive as possible; which made it easy to work with each other and because we knew each other as well, we were already quite comfortable with one another. Obviously we joked, “you’re my older love interest” but she’s a joy and it makes the job so much easier.

So how does Paul affect the dynamics and what’s his motive?

I can’t tell you otherwise it will ruin it… but he’s going to be a bigger part of not only Gillian’s life but the family as well. At the moment [in the first 2 episodes] he’s popping up on the side, but more will develop – Something is going to happen.

You’ve had quite a successful run especially last couple of years with success stateside with, ‘Outsourced‘ and parts in ‘Being Human‘, and ‘Edwin Drood‘. What was it like working on them?

It was great. Basically I did a film called the ‘History Boys‘,  I was moving from a teenager to an older actor, so after the ‘History Boys’ some really great projects came along like ‘Bradford Riots‘ (a film for channel 4), which won a Royal Television Society Award which also opened doors.

With regards to America every year they have pilot season and they’re casting from all around the world –  and casting British actors as well. So I put myself on tape, had an audition in London, thought, “there’s no way I’m gonna get this,” kept my agent happy and it came back and the pilot went to series and I moved out there. I won’t lie to you, I was quite happy I’d been lumbered and I moved to Los Angeles and started the series and loved it! I lived there just under 2 years and spent half the year here, and half in America.

It’s great for me I get to do so many different types of projects and not just Asian roles. Like Paul in ‘Last Tango In Halifax‘ he wasnt written as an ethnic character. That’s why I did it. Any project that shows me as an actor and not just an ethnic face is great. They’re the jobs you want to do; to show as much versatility as possible.

Is there much difference in filming style and attitudes?

The thing with America I’ve found it’s very much of a business. They create but at the same time they want to make a lot of money. They have bigger budgets which means more time and investment – for instance on ‘Last Tango’ we had one lighter, maybe a handful of writers, where as in LA on ‘Outsourced‘ we had eighteen – everything is a bigger scale.

Does more writers make it better or worse?

It has advantages and disadvantages. They invest in making the script as good as they can be, all those writers have a particular skill, whether it be specific in drama; comedy or stand-up. America has the writer on hand all the time, so if you want to change a line, or try something new the writers are on hand and can write it there and then for you, so you have a lot of creative input.

So would you move out there permanently?

I’m back in the UK – Yes we don’t have as much money and don’t produce as much stuff, but the projects we do put out there are amazing; they’re really good. For me I felt that in the UK I can get away with playing an array of different characters; at the same time I’d love to go back to America – I still do, but to be honest if I was in America I would rather be there to work, I don’t think I’d live there. I did find LA a great place to live if you’re not working as an actor, but there’s a life beyond.

The UK is always home?

Yeah Manchester,  I can have a pint with my mate in the local pub and go home to my mum and she can make me some food.

‘Last Tango in Halifax’ airs this Tuesday, 20th November at 9pm on BBC1.

Read my interview with Sacha Dhawan as he talks films and what it’s like to work with Hollywood actor Will Smith.