Graham Norton meets Sir Ian McKellen, Michael Sheen, Ambika Mod, Josh Widdicombe and Gabrielle

On this week’s show (9th February), Graham welcomes giant of stage and screen Sir Ian McKellen, award-winning actor and activist Michael Sheen, British actor Ambika Mod, top comic Josh Widdicombe, and singer songwriter Gabrielle

Sir Ian McKellen says he is still mistaken for Michael Gambon, Michael Sheen talks about directing in his hometown, Ambika Mod reveals she initially said no to One Day, Josh Widdicombe talks TV, and Gabrielle says she is having the time of her life.

Ian, talking about playing Falstaff in Player Kings, a new version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, says, “This play puts together Part I and Part II to make one big juicy evening.  Most people think of Falstaff as a jolly Toby Jug type character but I’m not playing him like that at all, I’m going more for the idea of Tony Soprano mixing with the wrong people and doing the wrong things but being a charmer at the same time.”

Reminded that he recently said he would stop doing Shakespeare, he says, “I had just done King Lear for the second time when I said that and thought it was the pinnacle and a great place to retire, but I was talked into doing this new play.  Until recently I did things that would help me get better in the job, now I just please myself and do what I want to do.  I’m having a lovely time.”

Asked about being recognised, Ian says, “Michael Gambon, who played the other wizard, and I were often mistaken for each other, and an odd thing happened last week.  I was waiting for a train and two women in their 20s said, ‘Are you Michael Gambon?’  I told them that he was dead, and they said, ‘Yes we know but are you him?’  I think they thought they had seen a ghost.”

Michael adds, “A lot of people think I am Andy Serkis from Lord of the Rings.  I was once followed out of a restaurant in LA by someone screaming Gollum! Gollum! Gollum!  I am not recognised as Andy, but just the hideous character he plays.  It’s terrible!”

Talking about directing the new BBC drama series The Way, Michael says, “I loved it.  Some people say the hardest thing about directing is being asked so many questions all the time, but that’s the bit I like.  I am a control freak and I want it to be my decision.  I really enjoyed it.”  Adding, “The difficulty of filming in my hometown (Port Talbot) was that while I was in the middle of directing so many people I know were coming up for a chat or asking me to fix things in the town like the state of the bins!”

Ambika, talking about starring in the new Netflix version of David Nicholls’s romantic bestseller One Day, and asked how it came about, she says, “I turned it down to begin with.  I was being an idiot thinking it wasn’t for me.  A month later I rang my agent to say I had made a terrible mistake.”

Revealing she had not been in a good place mentally in 2019 after her last comedy gig at the Edinburgh Fringe, she says, “I felt a bit lost and quite depressed and thought I wasn’t getting anywhere.  On the last day of the Fringe, we climbed Arthur’s Seat and I remember it as a terrible time.  I was not loving myself or my life.  Then cut to almost exactly three years later and I am filming in Edinburgh at Arthur’s Seat playing the lead in a Netflix series of my favourite book.  It felt very special.  A full circle moment.”

Josh, talking about new quiz show Rob Beckett’s Smart TV, in which he is a team captain alongside Alison Hammond, says, “People are taking it very seriously and I really care about winning.”  Joking about people’s tv choices on the show, he says, “It seems the higher brow the celebrity the lower brow their tv tastes!”

Gabrielle performs her current single A Place in Your Heart, before joining Graham for a chat about her new album and tour.

Talking about working with the likes of Adele and Stormzy, she says, “I’m in my 50s and having the time of my life.  It is so much fun.”

And finally, Graham pulls the lever on more foolhardy audience members brave enough sit in the world-famous red chair to tell their funniest stories.

The Graham Norton Show, BBC One, Friday 9th February 10.50pm. Also available on BBC iPlayer.

Notes to editors – All quotes in this release were made during the recording of the show but won’t necessarily appear in the final version.

Next week (16th February) Graham’s guests include Jodie Foster, Olivia Colman, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Wanda Sykes, Lorraine Kelly, and Calvin Harris & Rag ‘n’ Bone Man.

For further information please contact Mary Collins 07769 670516 or at 

9th February 2024