Why Jonathan's a hot Cake; TV heartthrob Jonathan Cake talks about being reunited with an old flame for his latest drama, The Swap.
He's played everything from the Milk Tray man to British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, but nothing could have prepared Jonathan Cake for his latest role.
Not because he has to get under the skin of a sinister baddie who plays warped mind games, in ITV1's two-part psychological thriller The Swap, but because it teams him with his former girlfriend, Jemma Redgrave.
The two played lovers in Mosley in 1998 and romance spilled over into real life. After filming ended, Jemma split from her husband, Jonathan broke off his engagement to actress Olivia Williams, and they later became an item. Although the relationship didn't last - Jemma was reunited with her barrister husband Tim Owen after 18 months apart - there was an undeniable chemistry between the pair, who are still on good terms.
"There was a spark between us," says Jonathan, 34. "But that spark was a professional one. It was great to be working with a woman I like and admire. Whatever happened between us in our private lives was done and sorted long ago.
"Working so closely with Jemma again made me realise how good she is as an actress. It was very rewarding and challenging because it made me feel as if I should raise my game."
Neither were prepared for the glare of public interest in their private lives almost four years ago, and Jonathan is bracing himself for another onslaught now that they are co-starring in The Swap. But the gossips will be sadly disappointed.
Jonathan is currently single and lives alone in Primrose Hill, North London. He had been with Olivia for eight years, but two weeks before they were due to wed he called the whole thing off. His friendship with Jemma was blamed, although they only got together much later. After that broke up, he romanced a girl called Madeleine. They even moved in together, but that ended late last year.
"There's no woman in my life at the moment," he says. "But I would like to get married and have kids one day."
Personal problems aside, life for Jonathan has been, well, a piece of cake. Born in Worthing, Sussex, the youngest of three sons, he graduated in English at Cambridge and then studied drama at Bristol Old Vic.
"I had an overdraft the size of a national debt," he recalls. "Luckily, my bank manager was a very sweet man, although I think he hoped that I'd become a stockbroker."
His fortunes changed when he was chosen by Cadbury's to play the new Milk Tray man. The fees from the TV commercial paid off his overdraft and got him noticed.
"I had to replace the all-action hero and be the emotionally committed '90s man," says Jonathan. "I had hoped it would involve leaping from helicopters and diving in shark-infested waters, but it was filmed in a poky studio in London. The twist was that when Milk Tray man returned from delivering his chocolate, you got to see his apartment - full of phallic-shaped sporting equipment. And waiting for him is a package - a chunky, Aran sweater."
After that he did a lot of theatre work and then played Mosley for the C4 TV series, which involved removing jumpers rather than putting them on.
"It was the middle of September and I had to swim nude in the sea," he recalls. "The cliff tops were packed with tourists with binoculars and the tide had gone out, but it was essential to the plot because Mosley was photographed in the nude by his mistress. This photo was then shown around the House of Commons and he was blackmailed by the husband of his mistress.
"It was the first time I'd taken all my kit off for a part. To make matters worse, I've got the body image of a chubby pre-pubescent because I was plump as a kid and scoffed loads of sweets. My appearance isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've got an S-shaped nose where it was broken twice playing rugby."
It's hard to believe that, at over 6ft and with his handsome, chiselled features, Jonathan doesn't rate his looks. Certainly his charisma makes him believable as the bogus Professor Charles Anderson in The Swap. He exchanges homes for a holiday with an English couple, played by Michael Maloney and Jemma Redgrave, but, menacingly, starts taking over their lives.
"I find characters like him compelling. It's interesting to watch people who live within the lies they have created. Sometimes I wish I could be swept into some 24-hour odyssey and get caught up in webs of intrigue.
"It happens to other people - a friend of mine was conned out of $500 in a scam in New York - but it never seems to happen to me. Playing a snake-like character is the next best thing, I suppose. Then again, good guys are harder to do."
l The Swap, Sunday, ITV1, 9.30pm (concludes Monday, 9pm).
SHOCKING: Jemma and Jonathan as lovers in Mosley; SINISTER: With Jemma and Michael Maloney in The Swap
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Feb 9, 2002|
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