I was on my honeymoon when the producers phoned me and said “we’re thinking of you for a part in Fat Pig”. I knew Neil LaBute for his film work, which I found a mixed bag, but I got ten pages into the play and told them I’d do any part – male or female! I had a suspicion they would offer me Carter, and was really pleased when they did. Me and Kris Marshall go back a long way, to when we worked on My Family together, and I know what a clever performer he is. I didn’t really want to see his interpretation because I know I’d be too influenced by it. One difference is assured, though, in that he’s well over six foot and I’m only five-nine!
I took a decision with my agent not to take on any more television work for the time being – it just gets annoying for the public if they see me popping up everywhere. I was actually planning to take a break for a while and enjoy married life, but when the offer came through we agreed it was a part I couldn’t turn down. There are only a handful of plays in the West End at the moment, and competition is pretty fierce. It’s a shame that having a TV profile seems to give you precedence when it comes to casting, but that’s just the way it is now - the producers have to get bums on seats somehow. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been offered Fat Pig if I didn’t have a show on Channel Four.
I’ve had a really parallel career. I’ve done everything from L’Auberge Espagnole and Les Poupées Russes to Star Stories, but I think people think of me more as an impressionist. This isn’t how I classify myself though – the stuff I do is more approximations than impressions. If you compare me to the likes of Rory Bremner and Alistair McGowan, I’m not really in that category – I’m just trying to be funny. However, accents do come quite easily to me, and this’ll definitely be an advantage doing Fat Pig, since it’s set in the States.
There’s something about the character of Carter that’s actually very likeable. Yes, he’s a bit of a bastard, but he’s pathologically honest, and I admire that about him. Halfway into the play, he starts talking about his overweight mum, and the way this affected his prejudices. He’s certainly not two-dimensional, and I find him intriguing. It’s a bit strange stepping into a role halfway through a run – it’s a first for me and I feel a bit like an understudy! But I’ve really been looking forward to working alongside Joanna (Page), Ella (Smith), Nick (Burns), and Kelly Brook when she joins later in the run.
Following its initial run at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, Fat Pig transfers to the Comedy Theatre from 11 September 2008, where Bishop and Nicholas Burns take over from original stars Kris Marshall and Robert Webb. In other cast changes, Kelly Brook succeeds Joanna Page from 13 October, and Ella Smith remains in the title role. The production, directed by author Neil LaBute, is currently booking until 22 November.