PLENTY of people who live in cities will relate to the concept of not having a clue who your neighbour is.
You live your lives separated by just a wall for years, or even decades, but you might never know anything about the person who lives right next to you apart from what they wear to put the bins out.
The reality is that life can be lonely, and sometimes the community and love you need is right next to you, in the last place you think you’d find it – as Sam and Anna discover in new ITVX comedy-drama Significant Other.
When Anna, played by The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson, and Sam, played by Home’s Youssef Kerkour, first meet, it’s in the most unlikely and tragic of situations.
“We see my character, Sam, wanting to kill himself in the beginning,” explains Kerkour.
“There’s a knock at the door and his neighbour’s having a heart attack and bang! That’s the introduction that they both have to each other.
“From that blossoms a friendship, a romance… will they, won’t they? The ambiguity is what’s very exciting about it.”
Let’s find out more from the series’ leading duo.
FIRST OF ALL, TELL US ABOUT SIGNIFICANT OTHER – WHAT DO WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO?
KP: Significant Other is a comedy-drama. It’s based on an Israeli show and it’s essentially about two very lonely people who have had quite fractured and difficult love lives.
They live in separate flats in the same block, and they are thrown together by unusual circumstances.
It’s essentially a ‘will they, won’t they?’ But it’s quite bleakly funny and it feels to me like a very original show, it feels very truthful.
WHAT ARE YOUR CHARACTERS LIKE?
KP: Anna lives in a flat that she’s made quite beautiful. She’s got eclectic tastes and likes art deco lamps, much like me. Her job is writing the subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, she works at home and lives quite a solitary life.
She’s been involved with a married man for about five years. Then three years ago she ended it and walked away. She lost both parents quite young, so she’s somebody who has found herself a bit adrift and more alone than perhaps she expected to be in life.
But she’s got a lot going for her – she likes her job, and she likes her own company.
YK: Sam is somebody who on the surface would appear to be having a midlife crisis, but it’s a bit more complex than that. He’s somebody who wants to reclaim his lost youth, but who doesn’t have the strength of character or generosity to stop at the age that he’s aiming for. So, he continues to regress to an age that is a lot more juvenile and needy than he thinks.
He’s left his wife and children because he wants to shake things up and he wants to feel that feeling that he remembers. But he’s walking away from something very great, and he regrets it and wants it back. Now he can’t have it back, and that’s where we meet him in the story.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THE SERIES?
YK: It’s a very interesting take on relationships and who we are. Are we an individual or are we the other people? Do we need other people to feel like ourselves?
KP: It feels very modern. It’s set in Manchester, but we were encouraged to use our own accents, which I think is great because often, in cities like Manchester, London and Liverpool, there are loads of people from all different sorts of places.
I also wanted to be a part of the show because of the casting. They have cast people from different backgrounds without having a conversation about it and making it part of the story – which I think is great.
YOUSSEF, WHAT DOES THAT DIVERSITY MEAN TO YOU?
YK: As an Arab Muslim, the day I’m cast as a Brit drinking beer and eating bacon sandwiches and no-one even mentions my ethnicity is the day I will start to see some progress. That’s very much what I was keen to do here.
I’m playing a guy who has his cultural origins, but you don’t need to mention it. We are a mixed-race family, and it doesn’t have to be the cultural family, it can just be a regular middle class family that doesn’t have to exist in some extreme place.
It’s been very wonderful to get to live in that for a bit. It feels like freedom, whereas in the past I have felt a bit more boxed in.
WHAT DID YOU ENJOY ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
YK: Katherine is somebody I’ve always wanted to work with. I think she is the most well-rounded performer I’ve ever met. She can do everything; comedy, drama, everything – she has a beautiful way of blending it all together. She’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever work with. It’s made for an amazing set and an incredible work experience.
KP: I love working with Youssef. You don’t always know whether you are going to have the required chemistry – you get cast and you just hope for the best. But I knew as soon as I met him that this was going to work.
WHY ARE PEOPLE GOING TO LOVE SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
KP: This feels like an original love story. Everybody loves a love story, but this feels like one that hasn’t been told. It’s also very good to see older love. Obviously, I’m not that old… but people who are in their mid forties often come with damage. But there’s a different type of love that can happen at that age and one that’s very interesting and more interesting than the young stuff.
YK: I think the reason why people would want to see the show and what they would get out of it is what I’ve always said: that the richest experience when you are viewing art of any kind is to be able to laugh at the comedy and cry at the truth.
I think that’s what this script has managed to capture so beautifully. It’s got some very funny moments… and it’s got some very deep, truthful moments…
I think people will enjoy it.
All episodes of Significant Other are available on ITVX from Thursday June 8.