Russell T Davies’ new drama, Years And Years, started three nights ago on the BBC and here is one of its cast, Rory Kinnear, talking about the show…
Tell us about your character and your role within the story.
Stephen is the eldest brother of the four Lyons siblings – their mum has died and their father left them when they were quite young. He’s the big brother and has moved to London, so he’s separated geographically but he remains very close to all his siblings and his grandma. The two of them have a bit of an alliance and they feel slightly responsible for the younger ones.
What attracted you to the role when you read the scripts?
Stephen’s dramatic trajectory doesn’t get going until episode two. I knew Russell wasn’t going to set someone up as stable, loving and happy without changing that dynamic, so I was always interested to see where he was going to take it. Also, the way that it is written and the skill and deftness with which he handles not only a family’s life over a period of years, but also a global vision over the next ten to 15 years. It was genuinely one of the most exciting scripts that I’d read.
How do you think Stephen feels being the most conventionally ‘successful’ of the Lyons family?
He and his wife Celeste have been successfully, working in the financial world and living a very comfortable London life, which isn’t something he shares with all his siblings. They use it as leverage against him and he feels a little bit guilty in the fact that it’s taken him away from them all, but I don’t think he’s lost inherently who he is or where he’s come from. But as a result of that there’s a bit of tension within himself.
What is family life like for Stephen at the start of the series?
When we first meet him he’s happily taken the professional back seat because Celeste is more successful financially and they’ve made the decision that he would stay at home and look after the girls. They’ve been together a long time and fundamentally they are happy, if not without their everyday stresses that most people confront. He certainly thinks he has a very good relationship with his daughters. His eldest Bethany is a bit more removed from not only them, but also society in general, and as a result he has anxieties over her, but fundamentally when we meet them they’re quite a steady, loving unit.
How is Stephen’s relationship with his siblings?
He is closest in age with Edith, but they are the most fractious. They are the most similar in terms of their background and outlook, but Edith acted on it far more radically and Stephen towed the line at life. He’s very fond of his brother Daniel, they’re best mates. Rosie is the youngest and leads a slightly wilder life than Stephen understands.
Why do you think this story differs from other family sagas?
Russell’s vision is of an oncoming time that isn’t too distant and the depiction of it feels quite real. It’s not all flying cars, it’s a very tangible future and that sense of a family saga being played out against global politics and national politics feels utterly plausible, but is fictitious. When I first read it it reminded me of a cross between Our Friends In The North and Black Mirror. I know certainly Our Friends In The North was a jumping off point in Russell’s mind, but going forward rather than going back.
How do you think Stephen will surprise viewers?
There’s a set of twists and turns that Stephen and his whole family go through, and the way that Stephen behaves, the way he reacts to pressure, loss and a change in his circumstances reveals both a lot about him and about how people can make the wrong choices in times of pressure. Fundamentally, despite the wrong choices he makes at times, you hope that [the audience] can continue to understand and empathise with his situation.
How was it working with the other members of the cast and Russell T Davies?
Russell wrote The Second Coming, which was my first ever TV job filmed up in Manchester too, so I have worked with him before.
Filming this was very funny. One of our first scenes was set around Rosie’s dinner table, and it was just me, Ruth, Jessica and Russell Tovey – the four of us siblings – and I’ve never felt anything click so easily and instantly. We all naturally brought our own personalities to not only the characters, but to our roles within the family. I’ve never worked on something where I thought, oh crikey this has been cast so well, I’m not going to have to work at these relationships, they already exist!