St Albans actor talks about bringing hit Channel 4 drama Cucumber to life

Vincent Franklin as Henry

Vincent Franklin as Henry - Credit: Archant

Brutal honesty and moments that will make you laugh or cry are what should be expected from Channel 4’s new drama, Cucumber.

That’s the verdict from St Albans-based star of the eight-part drama, Vincent Franklin, who plays gay 40-something Henry Best in writer-producer Russell T Davies’ latest creation.

Henry is a middle-aged man who has been living with his partner Lance for nine years in Manchester but when Lance proposes at dinner on one disastrous date night, he says no.

“He has all the trappings of happiness but there is a little niggle inside of him that thinks what would happen if I could do that, he likes setting little fires off and seeing what will happen,” said Vincent, who is originally from Bradford but has lived in St Albans for 13 years.

Even though viewers might have cringed at the way Henry mercilessly trampled over Lance’s heart in the sitcom’s first episode, Vincent thinks there’s a lot in Henry that the average viewer can identify with.

“He goes and says the things that a lot of us think. If they’re unhappy a lot of people will go and buy a chocolate bar or a nice shirt or a new car but Henry knows that life could be better.

“He’s got an itch and isn’t prepared to not do anything about it. He is a grumpy curmudgeon, a dreadful man, a great comic and destroys everything in his wake.

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“It is a life crisis more than a midlife crisis as such in the sense that if you are unhappy with your lot when you are in your 20s, you can make lots of mistakes but if you are in your late 40s and unhappy, it doesn’t mean you are going to run off with your secretary, but you reach that uncertainty.

“It explores the difference between how young and old people build relationships so I think it will appeal to people of all generations and remind people that middle aged folk can be on the telly.

“I’m carrying the torch for bald middle-aged men!”

And although Cucumber has been pinned as the modern-day version of Davies’ nineties hit, Queer as Folk, Vincent is quick to make clear that the programme will appeal to a far wider reaching audience than the gay community.

“It is only a gay drama in the sense that it has gay characters but the themes are universal. In the same way that if you watch Casualty you don’t have to be a medical professional and you don’t have to be a member of the Danish royal family to like Hamlet.

“I think what is great is that it is a drama about life, what is brilliant about it is gay relationships aren’t quite as codified as straight relationships are.

“When you watch a drama about gay people the rules aren’t quite as clear. Because until 1967 being gay was illegal, homosexual relationships aren’t codified in the same way.”

As far as Vincent is concerned, Cucumber is very different to anything else on the televeision.

“What the programme does really well is that is really honest about how the world is in 2015. We have the most ethnically and sexually diverse cast on the TV.

“It’s hysterically funny and deeply touching and sweet and can be shocking at times but it’s not just a programme that fills that 9 o’clock slot or made to that television formula.

“It was written by Russell over 10 years ago and is a story that he has been wanting to tell for a long time, it’s very much his and you really get the sense of a writer at the top of his game.”

Some scenes may shock but Vincent believes that the programme wasn’t “made for the value of shocking.”

“There’s definitely sexual content and some naughty words but I think people will be surprised by how much it just reflects the world that we live in. It wasn’t made for the value of shocking.

“It is hysterically funny, brutally honest, it will make you laugh and make you cry.”

When asked how the programme would be received in St Albans, Vincent was quick to say he doesn’t think it would be any different to anywhere else.

“I don’t think the viewers here are any different but the city does have a reputation as a comfortable middle class town so it would definitely appeal to them.

“They can watch it and think I recognise these people or even think, I’m one of them.

“You see a lot of people with their fancy gadgets, but you wonder whether that makes them happy.”

Cucumber is on at 9pm on Thursdays on Channel 4, followed by Banana at 10pm on E4 and Tofu at 10.30pm on 4oD.