In from the cold
Fans were devastated whenever Cold Feet ended, but the buzz for the new series proves they're as devoted as ever. The cast tells Gemma Dunn about getting reacquainted with their complicated but lovable alter egos
News of Cold Feet's comeback has truly reignited the nation's love affair with the Bafta-winning comedy-drama, which first aired back in 1998. Fans of the era-defining ITV classic can expect to rejoin the show's original gang - Adam (James Nesbitt), Pete (John Thomson), Jenny (Fay Ripley), Karen (Hermione Norris) and David (Robert Bathurst) - bar Helen Baxendale, whose character Rachel was killed off in the last series, as they navigate the minefield of middle age.
But don't expect them to have grown wiser. Packed with highs and lows, the eight-part series - written and conceived once again by creator Mike Bullen - follows the fivesome as they tackle friendships, relationships, parenthood and love in the 21st century, all of which is shaken by Adam's homecoming to Manchester after a stint working abroad.
Here, the show's stars reveal why the time was right for a reunion ...
"I never thought we would do it again," 51-year-old Nesbitt confides, having steered his character through the tragic loss of Adam's beloved wife in the last series.
"Then I opened the script and thought, 'Oh my God, there they are'. Enough time had gone by. Those familiar yet distant characters leapt off the page, and they still had something to say."
He admits "there was a bit of trepidation" about the idea of working with the gang again, but that quickly went out the window when it transpired everyone easily gelled - including newbie Ceallach Spellman, who he's "proud to have as his on-screen son" Matthew, who is 15 years old.
"It was amazing," Nesbitt adds. "We slipped right back into it and were surprised at how much we were enjoying it. "We all looked at each other in one of the very first scenes we filmed and just laughed, thinking, 'Here we are - we're back'."
"The demand for the show is quite incredible, really," says Lancashire-born Thomson (47). "For the last 13 years, on a weekly basis, complete strangers would stop me in the street - as this show is the thing I am most recognised for in my career - and ask me, 'When is it coming back?'
"As far as the timing being right, it's perfect, because the world isn't a great place at the moment and there's a great need for nostalgia - something feelgood and aspirational and positive like Cold Feet."
While in this series, viewers will see Pete back together with Jenny and bringing up her daughter, Chloe, as his own, Thomson warns that "it's down to us and the viewing public to imagine what has taken place in those 13 years and how those things have affected us".
"If we picked up where we left off, it would cost the production company a fortune in Botox!" he jokes.
Likening Cold Feet's return to putting on an old jumper ("Ohh, it's lovely that"), 50-year-old Ripley quips that playing Jenny once again was like "turning the pages and bumping into an old friend - a friend I was happy to see".
The glue that holds the Gifford family together, Jenny is juggling her job with childcare and looking after hapless Pete. But more importantly, she still hasn't found the right way to tell Chloe that Pete isn't her biological father.
"The characters, all of them, have been living their lives - they're not new," she says. "And that's Mike's skill - he knows how to pinpoint people. I was very relieved that I still recognised Jenny."
Her familiarity with the cast meant that there was a welcome shorthand on set, too.
"You didn't have to do any of the, 'I'm Fay Ripley off the telly', polite s***," she says. "You just go in and go, 'I've got a real headache, my menopause is giving me jip'. "It's like family - you just know. And the support system that goes with that, on a personal level, means you can hold hands much quicker."
Worried a new series could undo the show's previous success, Norris (49) admits she needed some persuading to take part.
"It's that thing in life - you think, 'Don't go back, just move forward', and it (Cold Feet) was so of its time and so loved I felt it was maybe best left alone," she explains, admitting that "the weight of expectation and responsibility to make something again that people will love" was a lot of pressure.
After her divorce from David, Norris' character, Karen, is wondering what's next, having made it out the other side as a successful career woman and single mum to their three kids.
In real life, however, the actress is feeling much more together in the last year of her 40s.
"I really, really appreciate that, being with my generation," she says. "There's a weight of experience that you just don't have as a 30-year-old, and I wouldn't trade that for anything. I love it - I find it a relief."
"We'd seen each other a bit, but not a great deal in the 13 years," 59-year-old Bathurst reveals of the cast's interaction prior to filming. "We were all full of apprehension really, not only about the project, but also personally about how we would be.
"We've all moved on and we're seeing life through a different prism as we get older. But we're essentially the same people and, on a personal level, it was really unexpectedly enjoyable."
Unhappily married to a divorce lawyer, David, Bathurst's character, still has "monumentally bad judgement" and misses Karen and the kids.
"It's not a reboot, it's not a remake - it's just seeing where they are now," he says of the show's premise.
"What's important and intriguing about this one is how people who haven't seen it before will take to it.
"I imagine it will take an episode or so for them to get it, and the story starts to run.
"It's important we don't only play to our previous constituency because it should be a series that stands alone - you shouldn't have to have done your homework."
The new series of Cold Feet starts on ITV on Monday, 9pm