As one popular series closes another opportunity opens for the former Footlights president, writes Julie McCaffrey
THE news that the forthcoming Cold Feet series is to be the last has left its nine million loyal viewers devastated.
But Robert Bathurst, who plays David Marsden, is surprisingly unemotional about the end of the ITV series that made him a household name and earned him 50,000 an episode.
"I feel fine about it ending," he says, indifferently. "The writers have created some really good scenes to finish, and I feel satisfied with that. So we didn’t have a group hug, a good cry or champagne. That sort of thing really only happens in the theatre - especially in amateur dramatics," he says pragmatically.
"The only time it struck home was when Hermione and I were doing our last scene in our house. We thought, ‘Oh. This set will be burned tomorrow."
But will the ending be happy for the character he plays, David? The pompous, cheating father-of-three has struggled with the guilt of having an affair that ruined his marriage, then battled to cope with the fact his estranged wife Karen - Hermione Norris - had fallen for her boss. Will the end of the series see him living happily ever after?
"The loose ends aren’t really tied up like that," reveals Bathurst. "Just like real life - it’s open ended. And I was hoping it would be like that - hoping they’d avoid too much cheese.
"So David’s ending isn’t definite. And I think you’ll be left with the feeling that life will just go on for him."
Bathurst’s relationship with his co-stars - James Nesbitt, Helen Baxendale, John Thomson and Norris - will also go on. But the actors don’t live in each other’s pockets.
"We shall always meet up at the jamborees that go on in this business," he says. "We are inextricably part of each other’s lives on one level. But on another level we have our own lives. I do like them, but we all have our own friends who we call up in times of crisis."
If playing so many scenes of marital disaster made 44-year-old Bathurst more appreciative of his own marriage to artist Victoria Threlfall he won’t say. "I could never comment on my marriage in case it became hostage to fortune," he says.
But Cold Feet has proved a catharsis for him personally: "It has served some purpose in my life in that I’ve been able to play out my mid-life crises," muses Bathurst.
"I always wanted a motorbike and suggested David got one. Granada paid for my motorbike test, hired a Harley Davidson and we did a couple of scenes on it. And now, thankfully, I have no desire to get on one again."
Fortunately following David’s lead by having an adulterous affair doesn’t appeal either. "David bunked up with someone for one afternoon - and after that his whole world fell apart," he says. "That’s a lesson for all of us."
The sex scenes were reportedly Bathurst’s least favourite part of the series. He was said to have been reluctant to strip off and hated doing the publicity shots which featured full frontals of the Cold Feet actors wearing nothing but a blanket.
But he seems to have come to terms with the fact that getting naked for sex scenes is part of the job.
"The important thing to remember is just to get on with it," he says. "It’s just basic humping - exactly what you see on The Life of Mammals. It doesn’t bother my wife at all."
Bathurst’s three children - Matilda 12, Clemency 10, Oriel, eight, and four-year-old Honour - aren’t allowed to watch Cold Feet. But they were immensely proud of their dad’s cameo role in Westlife’s Uptown Girl video.
However, they might have earned even more street-cred points had their dad been more successful in his audition to be James Bond.
"Oh, that was such a ludicrous audition," laughs Bathurst. "I could never have done it - Bond actors are always very different to me. But some casting director persuaded me to go.
"The thing was, they already had Timothy Dalton. But I think he hadn’t signed yet so they wanted to tell him, ‘They’re still seeing people, you know,’ to put pressure on him to sign. I was just an arm-twisting exercise."
Bathurst says he’s happy in his career, even though he feels it’s just started. He graduated with a law degree from Cambridge University but never practised as a barrister because he’d only ever wanted to be an actor. "I only did the degree because I had no idea how to become an actor," he says. "And I don’t regret it because it taught me a certain way of thinking - although it did make me terribly pedantic."
Bathurst was the president of the famous Footlights revue and after a long stretch of touring the country doing student shows, he landed an advertising contract to sell Guinness. Other early television work included presenting a feature about a smelly piggery in That’s Life! and roles in Blackadder and Joking Apart.
He is now rehearsing Chekhov’s The Three Sisters with Kristin Scott Thomas - whom he describes as "terribly nice and delightfully funny" - which opens in London’s West End in March. But before that he will star as the Premier in the new BBC comedy series My Father’s the Prime Minister, written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman.
But whatever direction Bathurst’s post-Cold Feet career takes him, he won’t look back.
"I never dwell on things," he says. "Never say, ‘What if I’d done that or hadn’t done this?’ We’re a nation of what ifs, but I never ask that - never ask what happens next."
The final series of Cold Feet begins on Scottish tomorrow, 9pm.
The show must not go on
During the past five years, fans just haven’t been able to get enough of Adam, Rachel, Peter, David, Karen and, before she left for New York, Jenny.
Those in the know claim this fifth series will tie up some of the loose plot ends, and regulars will be pleased to note that Fay Ripley returns for a special guest appearance in the last episode.
Regular viewers will no doubt be desperate to find out what has happened to the gang since the tear-jerking finale to the last run. Back then, Rachel gave birth to a baby boy following months of turmoil for her and Adam.
Meanwhile, Pete and Jo got married and David was shattered when Karen revealed she had been having an affair with her hunky boss Mark.
Six months later and the remaining quintet still aren’t settled. As Adam struggles to cope with fatherhood, Pete and Jo return from Australia to find living with his mother is far from ideal, while David and Karen discover that an amicable divorce is not as easy as it might seem.