The Greatest British TV Show Of The 90s Is Back

Photo: Courtesy of ITV.
Cold Feet was one of the great British TV shows of the late '90s. Created and written by Mike Bullen, it followed the intertwined lives of three couples living in Manchester in a way that felt fresh, funny and relatable. "It was a show about spectacularly flawed humanity," actress Hermione Norris (who plays Karen) reckons. "People connected with these characters because they do their best but still get it wrong sometimes."

Now, after a 13-year hiatus, Cold Feet is back for a new eight-episode series starring five members of its original core cast: Hermione Norris's Karen, Fay Ripley's Jenny, Robert Bathurst's David, John Thomson's Pete and James Nesbitt's Adam. As fans wait to see if Cold Feet has retained its warm and witty charm (the first episode, which we've seen, certainly suggests it has), Hermione Norris and Fay Ripley tell Refinery29 why reviving the show makes so much sense.

How much convincing did you need to make the new series?

Hermione: Quite a bit, honestly. I always think, 'Don't go back. Just keep going on.' And because it was so well-loved in its time, I didn't want to undo anything we'd done before. But then Mike Bullen rang me and persuaded me that it would be really interesting to revisit these characters in their late forties-early fifties, through their eyes. And I thought, yes, it probably would be actually. And then I got quite excited about it.

Fay: I mean, if these characters were interesting in their late twenties-early thirties, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue to be interesting in their late forties-early fifties. Otherwise, well, we’re all fucked. The world that Mike has set up is still there, they’re still living in it, it’s just some of the details that have changed.

When the new series begins, where are Jenny and Karen?

Hermione: I think Karen’s in quite a good place, actually. It was all a bit ugly when we last saw her. But now [her ex-husband] David is married to Robyn, the lawyer who handled their divorce, and Karen is on her own. Her focus over the last few years has been raising her family and work. I don’t know what I'm allowed to say, but basically she goes on a journey where she’s been in the same job for 10 years and decides she's had enough. She has a sort of moment of liberation and starts her own business.

Fay: The last series left Jenny eight and a half months pregnant with a child that wasn't [husband] Pete's, and they'd split up. When we come back, Pete and Jenny are back together and raising that child and their other, biological child together. The relationship's pretty strong, but life has kind of taken its toll – they've suffered some financial stress because of the recession. It picks up at a very believable point in their lives, I think.

Because you've played these characters for so long, can you say if there's something in the script that just doesn't feel right?

Fay: There is a dialogue. I think Mike wrote these characters originally because he knew the people – they're all based on real people. And I'm sure his relationship with those real people has changed over the years. But he was always up for us having a say. On several occasions I remember saying to him, 'I don’t think a woman of Jenny's age would say that,' and I didn’t end up saying those things when we came to shoot.

Hermione: That's the thing about Cold Feet: at this point, no one else could play Jenny. It’s not like any other job where you could re-cast.

Fay: Anita Dobson could have a go!

Hermione: Anita Dobson could never! Fay Ripley is Jenny, and that's unique to Cold Feet I think.

Obviously Jenny and Karen are pretty different characters. Why do you think their friendship's lasted so long?

Hermione: We've talked about this – they're friends because of shared life experiences over a long period of time.

Fay: One of the big experiences they've shared is the loss of their friend. OK, the grieving process happened in the years where the show wasn’t being aired, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that it must have brought them closer together. And Mike's written it that their friendship is a lot stronger as a result.

In the first episode, we see Karen kind of acting as mother figure to Adam and Rachel's son, Matthew, who's now a teenager at boarding school.

Hermione: Yes, she's his godmother and his legal guardian. She feels a sense of duty. And I really felt that in the read-through: when I looked at Cel Spellman, the gorgeous young actor who plays Matthew, and thought about Rachel and Adam, I just really felt that. Can you imagine if your friend died and you had to look after their son? The sense of duty you'd feel is immense.

Is there a bittersweet element to the fact that, for obvious reasons, Helen Baxendale isn't in the new series?

Hermione: No, not at all. We love Helen completely and we're sorry she’s not here, but we completely respect what happened in the series. Her character was killed in the series so there was no way for her to come back.

Fay: And I think that was all very much discussed with her at the time. It wasn't just thrown at her like, 'You’re going to die.' For her, I think this was a show she had said goodbye to anyway.

Finally, if the new series gets featured on Gogglebox, do you think you'd be able to watch what they all say?

Fay: I’m a massive fan of Gogglebox so that’s absolutely terrifying.

Hermione: I love it too!

Fay: But the thing is, it's not good telly to just have people saying, 'Oh I really like this show.' So they're going to have to use the bits where they say something less positive.

Hermione: 'Who’s that posh one? Oh I don’t like her…' That’s what I'm going to get. 'She's stuck up.'

Fay: 'And look at that fat old one! What’s she been up to? She’s been eating a lot of Bakewells!' I'm going to be getting a lot of that.

Fay: They won’t say that about you!

Hermione: They bloody will. So we're all fucked, aren’t we? But I sort of desperately want them to do it because I think it will be hilarious.

Cold Feet returns this Monday, 5th September, 9pm on ITV.

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