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3 November 2020, 16:51 | Updated: 3 November 2020, 17:18
Stephen Fry is a true British national treasure, and in Smooth's latest Virtual Coffee Break, the actor speaks to Jenni Falconer about 30 years since Jeeves and Wooster, gives a positive health update and reveals his love of ABBA.
Stephen Fry is back with his brand new book Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold, the latest in his Greek Myth series, and he's been as busy as ever despite the upheaval brought on for many in 2020.
Watch the full interview above.
Looking back on the past year, Stephen told Jenni: "I’ve got plenty to keep me going, I’m very fortunate. Much luckier than so many other actors, especially.
"I’ve got friends who were in musicals and things in the West End and based their mortgages on the fact that they were in for a fair old time in these shows, and suddenly they’re absolutely stranded like a beached dolphin, suddenly gasping for sustenance and for life. It’s a grim business.
"And of course, over the years people mock actors, 'Luvvies, so full of themselves', but they have a right to earn a living as much as everyone else does. And I’m not saying that their tragedy’s any greater than anybody else’s tragedy who’s lost a job, but it’s a real issue."
He continued: "I don’t know about you, but every morning I lean over for a phone or a tablet or something and I look at the headlines while I’ve been asleep and I wish I hadn’t! Why do I keep doing it?
"Every morning I wake up with a feeling like hot lead leaking into my stomach as I think that it’s even worse today than it was yesterday! And it’ll be even worse tomorrow. And where’s an end to it?
"It's one of the things that makes the myths endure is that the human spirit has never changed, really, not since we were able to communicate, not for 50,000 years at least, and probably much, much longer.
"We’ve been the same species, with the same hopes, and the same yearnings, and the same mixed need to be social, to be part of a group, and a tribe, and a clan, and a society, but also to be individual and it’s that sort of mixture that is so essential to who we are."
Explaining his love of music and how it has helped him over the years, he said: "Music’s so important. Its healing power has been written about and thought about a lot.
"And it’s a mysterious thing, music, it speaks to deeps within one that nothing else can quite address. It’s partly because music is about nothing, it means it can be about everything. It’s not like a picture where you say, 'That’s a house', it’s abstract in the sound and the effect it has on you and yet that somehow makes it all the deeper.
"And it doesn’t have to be a symphony by Shostakovich or an opera by Verdi, it can be a pop song."
After confirming his love of ABBA, Jenni asked whether we could ever see him pop up in Mamma Mia 3, with Stephen jokingly replying: "You haven’t heard me sing, you think Pierce Brosnan had trouble, woah!"
Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie first starred in their adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster in 1990, and there have been rumours in recent years of a new reunion project.
Speaking about his old pal, Stephen said: "He’s my best friend really and he’s a great man and we had such a wonderful time from university onwards really, we were very lucky to have met each other, I think, and certainly we had such joy doing comedy together and the PG Wodehouse."
On the chances of a reunion with Hugh on screen, he said: "We talk about it. I think the thing about the comedy side of things is that when you do sketch comedy, it’s kind of like being at school doing impressions of your teachers.
"And so for things like Blackadder or sketch shows, if you play a general and you’re in your 20s as I was, it’s kind of funny because you’re like a child putting on whiskers and pretending to be a grown-up.
"But when you’re actually an age that a general could be, or a judge, or a bishop, or a figure of authority, then it’s a different sort of comedy, then it’s kind of character acting. It loses some of that cheekiness that you get from young person’s comedy and so I think that sort of thing is very much a young performer’s game.
"But yeah, we talk about it a lot but we also enjoy doing our own things."
Stephen also gave fantastic news about his health, after revealing in 2018 that he had an operation to treat prostate cancer.
He said: "The prostate cancer that I had was dealt with. Well, the prostate was taken out which is one way of dealing with it.
"But you also have to hope there’s nothing left behind, so I had a course earlier in this year of radiotherapy to clear up any lingering cells, but you have to keep getting tested for quite a few years to check that nothing’s come back. But so far, touch wood, I’ve been very healthy and very lucky."
Troy: Our Greatest Story Retold is out now.