How We Met

John Gordon-Sinclair And Ruthie Henshall
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The Independent Culture
The actor John Gordon-Sinclair was born in Glasgow in 1962. He first came to fame in 1980, when he took the lead role in Bill Forsyth's film 'Gregory's Girl'; since then he has headed several TV sitcoms (including 'An Actor's Life For Me', 'Nelson's Column' and this year's 'Loved By You') and won an Olivier Award for his perfomance in 1995's West End revival of 'She Loves You'. The actress Ruthie Henshall was born in Bromley in 1967, and has spent most of her professional life appearing in West End musicals, starting with 'Cats' 10 years ago. She starred in 'Crazy For You', won an Olivier for 'She Loves You' and currently plays Roxie Hart in 'Chicago'. They live together in Surrey and plan to marry

JOHN GORDON-SINCLAIR: Funnily enough, I used to go out with one of Ruthie's girlfriends - her best friend, in fact. So I've known Ruthie for 10 years. That my ex-girlfriend was Ruthie's best friend makes it sounds more complicated than it was, because actually she and I had split up two or three years before Ruthie and I started going out.

My first impression of Ruthie was that she was someone who liked to enjoy herself. My old girlfriend and I had gone over to her house for dinner; I remember it being a jolly evening with lots of laughing. I think that's one of the reasons we got together - because I always found her a good audience.

I didn't know her terribly well until we started working together on She Loves You. It wasn't love at first sight. I'd just come out of a long- term relationship and the last thing I wanted to do was get involved with an actress.

I held out for about three days. No, seriously, I held out for the rehearsal period - about five or six weeks - and then one day we had a bit of a snog and I thought: "This is getting too dangerous." I was happy to do the guy thing - ignore it and hope it'd go away. But then Ruthie took the initiative. She called me up and said, "Let's meet and talk about this", and so we did. There was a week when it was kind of a bit difficult between us - and then it just rocketed.

Ruthie's best quality is that she's very open. I'm quite a quiet, reserved kind of person, and I think that stems from a fear of being hurt. Ruthie's not like that at all. People give her a hard time for being blunt, because you'll always get an honest reaction from her. People find that difficult.

We still try to go out on dates. We like going out to eat together - we go to a few showbizzy places, but there's a couple of quiet places in Surrey where we like to go as well.

We like pub games like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, although it's swings and roundabouts who wins. We sit in the garden with a glass of wine and get the Triv out. That sounds just so suburban and awful, but it's nice to sit in the garden and while the evening away. The other game we've got is the Alien trilogy on Playstation. Now that gets quite competitive.

At the beginning of the year, we went to Antigua. It was a lying-on- the-beach- spoil-yourself kind of holiday. I'm not good at just lying around - I go demented - but Ruthie's so active the rest of the time that when she gets the chance she likes to be pampered. Who doesn't?

I remember we went sailing together. The holiday had been going very well, we had had a great time, and it was a beautiful day and the sun was splicing the main-beam or whatever, and we were just having a little moment when we thought: "Isn't this a great moment? Aren't we having a fantastic holiday? Aren't we having a good time?" Then we hit a reef. Perfect comic timing. I said: "I hope this isn't a indication of things to come."

It sounds twee, but we very rarely argue or fight with each other - I'm not really that type of person. We do have little niggles over stuff like the cleaning, though. If Ruthie decides to start cleaning the house, I just get out of the way. She's totally unreasonable about it - as she will admit - so the best thing is to get out and leave her to it.

When we finished She Loves You, we were very aware that although we'd like to work together again we didn't want to become a "showbiz couple" - you know: "Let's get those two in." We want to do different things, so we're trying to keep our work separate. But we do talk through each other's parts, and we watch each other's performances and give advice; although sometimes we don't always agree with that advice. I will always be 100 per cent honest, so I don't do that "That's fantastic, everything's fantastic" stuff. There's things I've been to see her in that I didn't like terribly much, but I think Chicago is great. I was bursting with pride on the opening night; the next day I was wandering around with a big smile on my face.

I don't think the fact that she's had such a success has caused problems in our relationship. On the opening night someone talked to me about my lack of jealousy and it hadn't crossed my mind.

Looking to the future, I want to have kids quite soon. Actually I think that's my main ambition. And hopefully we'll always keep the place in Surrey. Ruthie loves being in town and partying and being amongst people, but I'm the reverse of that. I think it's a question of getting the balance right.

RUTHIE HENSHALL: We met through a mutual friend, I think, about six years ago. I was sitting with my then boyfriend - and it's a strange thing to think when you're with another boyfriend - but I thought: "I hope I end up with someone as funny as that, someone who makes me laugh."

We met properly when we did She Loves You. It was quite a slow thing that just grew more apparent: I'd miss him when we weren't working, even though we only had one day off a week. Gordy says we fought shy of it because we had to work together, and if you're working with someone you can get very caught up in the emotions of the part, particularly if it's a romantic one. Your mind plays little games with you, and I was very aware I'd been a victim of that before.

It wasn't an instant, "phwooar, look at that", sexual kind of thing. It was very much a friendship. He was so easy to be with, I laughed through rehearsals. He has a natural knack for comedy, and he never stops trying to make me laugh. He will go out of his way to set up situations: things like when you were a little kid and your dad used to walk into doors.

Gordy's got a good sense of self and there's no side to him. In a situation where someone is criticising someone else, he won't join in the conversation - even to the point where he will choose somebody else to go and socialise with. You watch how uncomfortable other people become when they realise someone isn't joining in and making them feel good about what they're saying.

We don't really fall out. The only time I can remember when we weren't speaking to each other - I can't even remember what it was about - I was sitting watching Blind Date and was dying to talk to him and have a laugh over the programme. In the end I thought: "This is ridiculous." And I said so, and he agreed, and we had a laugh about it. I don't like arguing - it's so destructive, because you can say you forgive someone but you can't forget it.

He's right about cleaning. I do get vile. I always feel - this sounds very screwed up - that after I've cleaned, my life is in order. And I feel he makes the house messy by leaving his stuff everywhere - which is not true, because one time he said, "All right then, let's go round the house then and see what mess is whose", and we did and there was a lot of my stuff there.

We still go out together, because when you're out of the house, sitting down opposite each other with no TV, no distractions, no radio, you can talk. I'm not interested in parties or partying. I'm interested in sitting down and having a conversation. I'm not interested in having to stand and scream over music.

We do very sad things like going round garden centres; we like doing that now. On Sunday we'll go down to the local pub and take Trivial Pursuit or backgammon just to relax and unwind. He's got a Harley Davidson, so in the summer we often jump on that and take off. We call it having an adventure, and don't plan where we're going - we just drive. Once we just went out to do the shopping at 4pm - and didn't get back home until 1am, with the shopping still in the car.

Workwise, we admire each other greatly. I would work with him any time. He will come and give me notes - he'll say, "you could do that better" - and I do the same to him. If he always told me how great I was I wouldn't believe him.

In 20 years' time, I think we'll still be running off and having adventures, and I think we'll still be laughing. We want to squeeze every drop out of life. I don't see us sitting in watching the television every night, going nowhere and doing nothing.

'Chicago' is at the Adelphi Theatre, WC2 (0171 344 0055).