As a father of three, Rafe Spall knows being a parent is one of the hardest things you can do.
“Having kids isn’t easy. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, but boy oh boy does it up the stakes,” admitted Spall.
The rocky road to parenting is explored in Apple TV+ series Trying, which is now in its third series. It tells the story of Jason (Rafe Spall) and Nikki (Esther Smith), a couple in their 30s who are desperate to become parents but are unable to conceive.
When the couple decides to turn to adoption to create their family, they are faced with a new list of challenges and surprises. Infertility and adoption are topics that are rarely talked about openly, and seldom explored on TV, despite many people going through the motions of the adoption process.
“By the time you get to the point of adoption, often you’ve been through the pain of not being able to conceive naturally, you’ve probably been through IVF, which is very invasive, and then you get to this really long process. I’m pleased to be part of a show that is representative of that,” said Spall.
One of the captivating elements of the show is the strong and tender relationship between Nikki and Jason.
“The success of the show lives and dies on the chemistry between us,” explained Spall. The chemistry was instant on and off screen, something he had never experienced so much and so easily during his career.
Spall believes that when a relationship is put under pressure, that is when a relationship bonds and thrives. “When shit is thrown at you, you really learn about yourself and each other and that relationship deepens.”
That doesn’t mean Jason and Nikki aren’t without their flaws. There are arguments and times when things don’t go right, but at the heart of it all they have a deep love for each other which only grows with the adversity and challenges of impending parenthood thrown at them, reflected Spall. “When I had my first kid, my dad said to me, ‘you’re now in a prison of love which is inescapable. You’ll never get out of it; you’ll always be in love with this thing.’”
Being a parent brings a lot of pressure to provide, not only physically, but also emotionally, and Spall believes that changes over time. “Being a father now is very different than it was 40 years ago. Each generation of parents is redefining what it is to be a parent.”
He added, “I’ve got two boys and a girl. I know that those boys’ ideas of what it is to be a man will come from me, and my daughter’s idea of what you should expect from men will come from me.”
With the responsibility of becoming parents to two children now on the shoulders of Jason and Nikki, the support of their family is more crucial than ever.
Spall laughed when he talked about Jason’s dad Vic, played by Phil Davis, who he described as a “typical English working-class man who’s not necessarily very loquacious when it comes to talking about love.”
“I love the way that Vic might not be able to say he loves you, but he’ll come over and fix your door.”
At the end of it all, Spall believes the love and support seen in the show reflects real life, as evident in the way people showed up and helped those going through tough times during the pandemic.
“It’s my belief humans are inherently good.” He paused before he added, “But maybe that’s because I’ve been playing Atticus Finch for five months, maybe I’m a bit too much like Finch at the moment.”
Spall has just finished his stint as Finch in the West End adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird, a character lauded as moralistic and virtuous. The play, set in 1930s Alabama, follows well-respected lawyer Finch as he defends a black man called Tom Robinson who is falsely accused of rape.
While the story explores themes of racial injustice, innocence and prejudice, Spall insists there are still lighter moments in the heavy material.
“I like to watch comedy and I only want to be in things that have laughs. Even now doing To Kill A Mockingbird, there’s jokes and we get big laughs even though you couldn’t get a more serious subject matter.”
When reflecting on what he does for a living, Spall laughed and said, “The thing that I feed my children with is getting dressed up in costumes and putting on foundation. It’s tenuous at best.”
After treading the boards for five months as Finch and starring in BBC's upcoming western, The English, alongside Emily Blunt, Spall is ready to take a well-earned break.
“I’ve not had more than three days in a row off since last June, it’s no way to live. So I’m going to have some time off.”
The third series of Trying is available to watch on Apple TV+ and The English will air later this year.