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There's true love behind those Vicious barbs; Two knights of stage and screen reprieve their comedy hit.

AS friends for more than half a century, playing long-term partners on screen isn't much of a stretch for Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Ian McKellen.

The veteran actors met as students at Cambridge - where Lord Of The Rings star McKellen had an "undeclared and unrequited" crush on his pal - but had only worked together a couple of times before ITV sitcom Vicious came along in 2013.

The pair play sweet-natured Stuart (Jacobi) and acid-tongued jobbing actor Freddie (McKellen), who have been in a relationship for the past five decades, despite constant bickering.

"Vicious has been really wonderful, it's kind of neatly bookended the career," says Jacobi, 76, who is reprising his role for an equally acerbic, six-part second series.

Despite Freddie's constant barbed comments (a YouTube compilation lists some of the best lines, from, "You look smart, I see you're wearing an extra chin for the occasion", to, "What crime against nature will you be serving this evening?" at dinner time), the relationship is a loving one.

VICIOUS ITV, Monday, 9pm In fact, Jacobi reckons that former barman Stuart rather likes his partner's jibes.

"I think the cruelty indicator is still registering quite high this series," says the acclaimed stage and screen actor, who also stars in much-loved BBC1 drama Last Tango In Halifax. "Stuart does give it back. He should give it back more..."

The show, which is filmed in front of a live studio audience, also features a stellar supporting cast, with Stuart and Freddie's close friend Violet (played by Rising Damp's Frances de la Tour), hunky neighbour Ash (Game Of Thrones's Welsh star Iwan Rheon), and ditzy Penelope (Marcia Warren).

This series, it's all change among the couple's pals, with Violet married to a mystery man who now seems to have disappeared and Ash enjoying a new romance with Jess (Georgia King). There's also a spot of dancing, a trip to the gym, and the group's first taste of sushi.

This time around, episodes begin away from Stuart and Freddie's rather cramped flat. "It takes the pressure off the actual night of recording, and I like the idea that the characters live in the real world," says London-born Jacobi.

Episode one sees a guest appearance from Celia Imrie as Violet's sister Lillian. And the Calendar Girls star isn't the only well-known name who wants to join in the fun; Star Trek's Patrick Stewart and funny man Harry Enfield are also keen to make cameo appearances.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:May 30, 2015
Words:424
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