My Almost Famous Family

For actor, comedian and writer Andrew Clover, playing Gary, dad of the Swann family, changed his life.

“One of the things I’ve got from the show is the excitement of music. It’s made me start having piano lessons and take a lot more interest,” reveals Andrew.

“Whenever I hear music I’m listening very carefully to what they’re doing with their guitar, what the rhythms are, when the music fades in and out and what the beat is. The show’s all about the love of music and I’ve got that from being in it.”

What does Andrew think of Gary?

“He’s essentially a loveable, intelligent and musical father. However, he’s also prone to getting extremely worried about the family being late or things going wrong,” he says.

“He’s the son of a famous rock star so his childhood was spent watching heavy metal freaks throwing TVs out of hotel room windows and being left behind in Germany halfway through a European tour!

“So he’s developed an absolute obsession with wanting to keep his family together. His family is everything.”

Is Andrew, who writes a column called Dad Rules in the Sunday Times Style Magazine, anything like Gary?

“I’m not at all a pushy parent but the one thing I do want my daughters to do is learn music. It’s so amazing when you watch someone playing, it’s like they’re fluent in a whole different language. They’re learning piano at the moment.”

Having three daughters, Andrew was also really excited about the prospect of having a ‘son’ in the show:

“I was interested in the idea of having a fictional family, particularly one including teenagers, step-children and a son,” he reveals.

“I’ve always wanted to have a son and it was very exciting to think that a casting director had scoured England to find someone who’s suitable. And there was Angus – he exceeded all my expectations and he’s a very plausible son.”

How did Andrew get on with the young cast?

“They were lovely. It’s strange how quickly we began to treat each other like a real family. I adored them all in different ways.

“Rachel is mischievous; Matt is an incredibly cool character; and Angus was probably my best mate on set.

“I was a bit scared of Dominique at first as she plays her character so brilliantly and I thought maybe she’d have that diva-esque quality of Aretha, but she doesn’t at all. She was the one who noticed I’d be working on Father’s Day and asked what we could do to celebrate. I told her a song would do it. It was just banter but two-and-a-half weeks later, on Father’s Day, she came up and sang a song she’d made up just for me. It slightly broke my heart.”

Established actress and ex-Holby City star Rakie Ayola couldn’t resist the opportunity to play glam mum Shalondra.

“The script made me laugh out loud when I read it,” she reveals. “I’d describe the show as a modern-day Partridge Family, to anyone old enough to know what that means. It’s really colourful, funky and so much fun.

“I also like the fact that there were a lot of politically-correct boxes being ticked, but the writers and producer haven’t been restrained by that,” she continues.

“So, instead of bowing to this altar, they’ve said, ‘Okay, we have this family that’s half-black, half-white, half-American, half-British. We have a mix of boys and girls, one character who’s mixed-raced and deaf – but we’re not going to be restrained by any of that. We’re not going to tiptoe around Martha’s disability or anything.’ I liked that. It wasn’t some sort of reverential hands-off approach to what we’re presenting.”

So what does Raki think of Shalondra?

“Shalondra Swann is glamorous and a great mum – and like all great mums she messes up sometimes. She doesn’t always get things right but she certainly tries to do what’s best for everybody,” she explains.

“She’s caring, very talented and always looks great – first thing in the morning and last thing at night Shalondra looks fantastic. I am not like that! She’s a mum with false nails who likes to bake cakes – they’re quite a rare breed.”

There must have been quite a lot of pressure singing, dancing and acting all in one show?

“I can sing. I’ve done a couple of Children In Needs – if anyone asks for someone to sing, I’ll put my hand up.

“So to play a character who can sing has been a joy. Whenever it looks like Shalondra singing, it is me,” reveals Raki.

“There was pressure though. In one episode I play Shalondra and her triplet sisters! On top of the usual costume changes I was getting dressed and becoming somebody else. My head was exploding.”

What was it like for Rakie working with a predominately young cast?

“They’re fantastic. They’re a hugely-talented group of people. You’ll hear so much about all of them because they’ve all got a funny bone, particularly Angus and Dominique – if they don’t appear in sitcom after sitcom I’ll be very surprised.”

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