HE LOOKS as fit as a butcher’s dog but Robson Green is feeling his age. Fifty-three, since you ask. During the PR rounds to chat about his role in new BBC1 drama Age Before Beauty, he asks the PR to leave him time for a good stretch between interviews.
‘In your mind you think you’re 18 and you can run around and do all the stuff you used to,’ he says, ruefully. But just as you think he’s setting you up for a horror story, he turns it humorously on its head.
Having been in what he reckons was the shape of his life in order to keep up with co-stars near half his age in action-packed series Strike Back, he came crashing down to earth not long after filming ended in 2015.
‘I was in the gym, pushing for a PB on the lat pulldown machine [which targets the upper back]. I didn’t really feel too much at the time, just that I’d pushed it a bit hard. Afterwards I got all togged up in my fancy dress suit because I was taking my uncle to Royal Ascot, as we love to go to the racing. Then I bent down to pick up my wallet and bang! My back popped and I passed out, can’t remember a thing.’
It turned out he had a prolapsed disc. ‘I woke up in A&E,’ he says. ‘And I thought I was in heaven. There was this really attractive Aussie nurse leaning over me and I thought she smelt really nice until I realised I was smelling my own vomit. But I still thought I was in heaven until…’ — he puts on an impressive Australian accent — ‘she whispers to me, “Robson, I just have to ask you… have you s*** your pants?” That’s when I knew I wasn’t in heaven… and not 18 any more!’
It says much about his positive approach to life that he’s turned a tough 18 months of rehab into a funny story. And now he’s bouncing back in Age Before Beauty, written by Debbie Horsfield, the screenwriter behind smash-hit Poldark, which tackles the current obsession with chasing youth head on, charting the lengths people will go to keep the illusion of staying young and beautiful. Lengths that stretch from plastic surgery and liposuction to ill-advised flings.
Which brings us to glam-heavy reality TV shows such as Love Island, a subject that makes the Geordie’s smile slip. ‘I don’t really watch that much of them but you can’t avoid them, can you? The kinds of people in them are so fit and attractive. What terrifies me is that people follow them and they are seen as role models when the situations that they are in, I think, makes them unstable.’
It might seem a bit of a leap from reality dating show to a drama about characters pushing 50 — with midlife crisis looming — but Age Before Beauty catches the narcissistic wave as its characters dabble with playing the adulterous field. Twice-divorced Green plays Teddy, an apparently happily married man who harbours hidden desires that lead him to play dangerous games with his nearest and dearest.
‘Debbie [Horsfield] told me how she got the idea from a story about how a man had married his wife in order to be close to her sister, who was the woman he really loved. I thought “that sounds a bit far-fetched”, but it really happened.’
Green is a man much in demand. Aside from Age Before Beauty he’s soon to return in ITV hit Grantchester while his career post-‘And Jerome’ has seen him indulge his love of extreme swimming and his beloved angling as a documentary presenter.
His adventures have furnished him with a font of stories and he recalls a night in a Borneo long hut for a travel film where he found himself sleeping with 20 families and their children.
‘I thought “I’m not going to get a wink of sleep here” — but you could have heard a pin drop. There was a sense of belonging, of knowing who you are. I feel privileged. I’ve got my mum and dad to thank for my own sense of place, of knowing who I am.’
Age Before Beauty is on BBC1, Tuesdays, 9pm. Catch up on iPlayer