'It Is a Challenge to Do Something as Myself' Ruth Jones Is Used to Hiding Behind Characters, like the Larger-Than-Life Nessa in Gavin and Stacey. but in Her New Radio Show, She's Going to Have to Play Her Hardest Role to Date - Herself. Abbie Wightwick Tries to Get Up Close and Personal with a Reluctant Icon

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

'It Is a Challenge to Do Something as Myself' Ruth Jones Is Used to Hiding Behind Characters, like the Larger-Than-Life Nessa in Gavin and Stacey. but in Her New Radio Show, She's Going to Have to Play Her Hardest Role to Date - Herself. Abbie Wightwick Tries to Get Up Close and Personal with a Reluctant Icon


RUTH Jones is running late. Her tortoise Tom proved a bit of a prima donna filming a promo for her new radio show and he's had to be taken home to rest.

When she arrives for our interview she says hello and then asks if I mind if she has lunch in the BBC canteen first.

That's fine by me. I've been stuck in traffic and I need a breather before entering the fray.

The truth is, I'm slightly nervous about speaking to the co-writer and star of the Bafta award-winning BBC3 comedy, Gavin and Stacey.

She's said previously that she's not keen on interviews or the whole celebrity exposure thing.

It would be nice to come away with a bit more than the promotion for her new BBC Radio Wales chat show - important though that is. But that may prove to be tricky.

There is certainly plenty of protection around the Porthcawl-born actress who has now become one of the biggest names in British comedy.

Her husband David Peet is there, as is her London publicist Katie and no less than two BBC publicity people.

I'm feeling slightly under siege and fear the interview is going to be more like a meeting than an intimate tete a tete.

My guess is that Ruth herself is feeling a bit the same way.

When she returns from lunch we manage to make a pretence of feeling relaxed, surrounded by a posse of minders and a photographer.

We're sitting in the studio from which she'll present her new show at the BBC Wales headquarters in Llandaff. There's been much to-ing and fro-ing and re-hanging of promotional BBC posters while she was away at lunch.

Ruth is obviously a heavy hitter in terms of BBC talent and marketing. I hope she'd laugh if she'd overhead the PR person who said she wished they had logos on the headphones.

I'm also hoping she'll be so geed up by the corporation's canteen nosh that she'll drop in a few hitherto unknown facts.

I'm just getting out my notebook when Dewi Griffiths, presenter of the popular Sunday morning BBC Wales show A String of Pearls, appears.

He asks to record a trailer with Ruth to promote her show on his.

He's got a voice that fills the room - deep and sonorous. Off they go. I put my notebook away. Again.

Ruth tells him her show will be "relaxed, like Sunday morning" and Dewi promises everyone will love her.

She's just getting into her stride when she suddenly halts and asks if the photographer can stop snapping away and can they start again.

"Can you stop? I'm rambling," she says firmly.

They start again only to be halted when someone comes in and asks if they can speak directly into the microphones.

Eventually, tortoises, meals, pictures and trails dealt with, I pull up a chair next to Ruth.

She is pretty, far prettier than she appears on screen or in photographs.

And, unless it's acting, she gives me a genuinely warm and open smile. Phew.

"Sorry about that," she says.

She doesn't seem at ease with the photographer who's still in the room and she's said she doesn't like playing the media game. I wonder whether she's deliberately facing her fears by taking on a radio show very much as herself.

Ruth Jones' Sunday Brunch, which starts tomorrow, will be a two-hour chat and music show with guests and phone-ins.

It will be very definitely Ruth's show as herself, even if she will call on Gavin and Stacey's Nessa, Myfanwy (from Little Britain) and other of her screen characters to drop in for a gossip.

Is this our chance to see the woman behind the actress at last, I ask her.

Ruth smiles. "It is a challenge to do something as myself," she admits.

"The thing is I have always loved hiding behind characters and now I'm having to be myself.

"In this environment, with Radio Wales on a Sunday morning, I think it will be nice and easy and a gentle way in. …

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'It Is a Challenge to Do Something as Myself' Ruth Jones Is Used to Hiding Behind Characters, like the Larger-Than-Life Nessa in Gavin and Stacey. but in Her New Radio Show, She's Going to Have to Play Her Hardest Role to Date - Herself. Abbie Wightwick Tries to Get Up Close and Personal with a Reluctant Icon
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