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I TALK TO Greg McHugh

I caught up with Greg McHugh earlier on today to find out all about Callum's episode of new Channel 4 drama Dates.

Before the first episode how Dates had even aired, the series has gone on to do great and wonderful things for Channel 4 with critics not shying away from praise.

Episode 6 sees the return of Erica, who we saw in episode 4 getting cosy with Kate (Katie McGrath) and we meet her again having come out to her brother. Her brother then sets her up to go on a date with a guy, Callum, played by Greg McHugh, who many of you will recognise from Fresh Meat.

Dates has been a great success and has got a lot of people talking. What do you think it is about the show that people have enjoyed so much?

I think Bryan Elsley is a very clever man and the team is very clever, and what they did is take a quite obvious concept, and do something very special with it. They're all two handers and having two people in one scene, the pressure that puts on the script, the writing - the acting as well - the script had to be very very well written, and I think that's what people have really responded to - the quality of the writing and the acting.

I think audience's aren't used to having two people talking in a room, and I think what they've made sure of, Balloon, Bryan and Jamie and the rest of the writers, is that the quality of the writing sustains that half hour and I think that's the genius of this.

What was that like for you then, filming a two-hander? A lot of long takes?

Very long takes! What that means is, often as an actor on television you get to have a lot of goes at things, and you might be doing a scene that's two or three pages long, but with this it means that when you go on set you absolutely need to know your lines and you need to know the journey your character's taking.

So we had lots of rehearsals, Philippa Langdale the director knew exactly what she wanted, and I knew what I wanted and so did Gemma.

So all it means is that you have to be really really prepared and I suppose you need to really concentrate if you're doing 14 pages of dialogue straight. Not only that, but the production, everybody has to be very very focused.

I mean in theatre you prepare and you know your lines and you get a long time to do it, but you're not filming it. So there's technical elements as well doing this that makes it, you know - challenging. But everybody was really really good.

You mentioned Gemma there, Gemma Chan. Obviously there's the Jack Whitehall connection, had you guys met before?

Yeah, I knew Gemma from before. I mean I worked with her briefly in Fresh Meat, but I knew her socially through Jack.

It was funny actually, the day after I got the part Gemma text me saying - "Oh my god Greg, there's this part, you should really read for it. I think you'd be great for it!" - and I said - "What is it? It's not Dates by any chance is it?". And she said - "Yeah I've just got it." - and I said - "Yeah, well I just got it yesterday!".

So it was really funny that she'd thought of me and we were just dead excited to be doing something together. It was very very good fun and we enjoy working together as well.

Tell us a bit about Callum then, what is he like?

Callum is a slightly naive, overly confident, misogynist racist. He's the kind of guy who has no distance from himself, he's not very objective, so he'll just say anything that comes to his head.

He's very certain about his opinions, he thinks he's right all the time basically. But actually - at the core of Callum, he's an insecure guy who hasn't been able to form any relationships. He does care about people he's just not very good at getting that across.

How do you think Callum fits in the series, and how does he compare with the other characters we've already seen?

Callum is, from the get-go of the episode, incredibly full on. I think Will Mellor's character is holding back, he's laid back, he has a family, he's being cautious. And because Callum doesn't really understand the process of dating, or women at all, he just goes hell for leather from the first second of the piece.

What you'll find is that he's probably quite annoying to watch, so I'm slightly concerned (laughs), because he's just so outrageous from the start.

I'm quite nervous of this actually. I just think, I've watched all the other episodes and the acting is just superb, very measured performances and stuff so hopefully people will adjust to Callum, who's just a much bigger character. He's very full on.

Do you think Callum wants a relationship with Erica? Does he like her?

You see Erica turn up and she's incredibly attractive and I think Callum sees an incredibly attractive girl and on a physical level would be very interested in going on a date with her. He doesn't listen enough to know what she's like.

I think in his ideal world, he would like to date someone like Erica, but he know she's out of his league by some distance!

How about yourself? Any dating disasters?

Well... I recently got married, but I think - yeah! - I mean along with everybody else there's bizarre dates. I didn't really date though, I used to go through friendship groups and stuff like that. Actually I remember when I was 11 I went on my first ever date and we never spoke to each other - we went ice-skating - that's probably the most disastrous one.

How would you describe yourself if you were on one of these dating websites?

GSOH! Well hopefully I have a good sense of humour. I'm a keen conversationalist, a non-intellectual keen conversationalist with a hit and miss sense of humour. How's about that?

You're filming Fresh Meat at the moment is that right? How's it all going?

Yeah I'm in Manchester at the moment doing the third series of that. It's great, it's lovely to see everybody again, it's a bit of a... (Family?) - oh god I hate everybody saying that, it's a really boring thing, but we're all good friends now.

They're long days and it's a really long shoot, but actually it's fun - for the most part! But I think the quality of the scripts, again Sam and Jesse have brought together a good team of people - the characters have all got a lot going on this series.

Anything you can tell us about Howard in series 3?

I think Howard, slowly but surely, is becoming more confident. Him and JP have become kind of better friends, but JP's still a bit of an arse. But there is a kind of friendship between the two so that's quite nice. And as the series progresses, although I've not seen all the scripts yet, I do believe Howard forms a kind of relationship with someone new. That's all I can say!

Aside from Dates and Fresh Meat, anything else we're likely to see you in?

I did a cameo in Bad Education for Jack (Whitehall). Although to be honest I'm in the Christmas special so that's a while off. And then it's just Dates and Fresh Meat and then I'm going to have a honeymoon in September so I don't know what I'm going to do the tail end of this year. There are a few things floating about, so we'll see what gets confirmed.

Dates continues Tuesdays at 10pm on Channel 4

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