Les Dennis has moved on since his tearful turn in a certain celebrity reality show. With his acting career in full swing, he told Emma Pinch how he had realised a dream by appearing at the Birmingham Rep
Welcome to Neville's Island. Four middle-aged middle managers marooned during a team-building exercise in the Lakes.
It's the soggy patch of land where Les Dennis is going to be spending the next two weeks. A strange choice perhaps for a man whose acting career is gathering momentum, with string of West End plays behind him and a new Ricky Gervais series in the pipeline.
But for Les it's the realisation of a long-held dream - acting at the Birmingham Rep after vowing to do so 30 years earlier.
He's still best known to the masses perhaps as the chirpy Family Fortunes host, and the comic who went on Celebrity Big Brother, had a bit of a emotional wobble while he was there, then a very public split with his glamorous actress wife afterwards.
Predictably he was splashed all over the papers as Les ' the tearful comic' and everyone's favourite, 'Les Mis', with hang-dog mug shots plastered over the tabloids.
But a veil has been firmly pulled over that now, and securely tacked down. He is all fired up by his new project and is resolutely looking forward instead of back.
Les was bitten by the acting bug as a teenager when he joined a drama group. He's been scratching the mark it left ever since.
He said he didn't know whether he was going to drama school or go down the stand up route when he left school, but in the end he created his 'act' and went on the working men's clubs circuit. He always had a yearning to go back to acting and in particular the Rep. He's looking forward with excitement and trepidation to the opening of the play on Friday.
"I came to the Rep to watch a play on my 21st birthday. There used to be a restaurant here and I was sitting having lunch and I said, 'I'd love to work here someday'. It took me 30 years to achieve it. Even when I was doing Family Fortunes, I had that with me."
His first steps towards his goal were Me and My Girl and Don't Dress for Dinner.
"The great luxury of Family Fortunes was that it only took two weeks to do the whole series, so you could do other things."
Everything seems rosy for Les at the moment. He's really enjoying his work and has a great relationship with his son, Philip. So how does he feel about that tedious Les Mis thing trailing around after him still?
"I don't really want to talk about that. It's been done."
Mention Celebrity Big Brother and there's an equally
terse silence. He's said all he wanted to on the matter before.
It must have given a boost to his acting career? Does he regret it entirely?
"The Big Brother experience has elements of what happens in Neville's Island," he says after a pause. "In that experience there is no contact with the outside world and you have to pull together as a team, and obviously mind games are played by Big Brother. That has helped in a weird way."
As he's on the subject, he swiftly deals with that Les Mis thing. "If you are on a game show and presenting yourself as the chirpy presenter, that's what people say. Obviously in Big Brother I was hoping to come across as a rounded person - everyone is - but the press wanted to pick up on that and run with it for a while."
After Neville's Island, Les is to embark on an eagerlyawaited series starring Ricky Gervais, entitled Extras. He joins the exalted company of Samuel L Jackson, Ben Stiller and Kate Winslett.
"It's really funny and an honour to be part of it. There are huge expectations because of The Office but this really is a very funny situation comedy," he said.
"I had never met Ricky Gervais before, he called me last year. I thought it was somebody winding me up at first. He said 'I'm writing you a part and are you interested?' Everybody is basically playing themselves. I'm kind of like a twisted, demented version of Les Dennis."
Twisted or demented, Les is definitely not. But to anyone in charge of sending out the invites for the next reality shlockfest - Les Dennis is all booked up.