Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special: Laura Aikman Tells All About Joining TV's Most Dysfunctional Family

The actress played Smithy's new girlfriend Sonia in the much-awaited reunion episode.

Warning: This article contains huge spoilers for the new Gavin & Stacey Christmas special.

The moment we’ve been waiting for since that surprise announcement in May has finally come – the BBC has now shown the Gavin & Stacey reunion special.

And wasn’t it a triumph?

The new hour-long Christmas episode delivered countless surprises – from Pam and Mick getting stoned with Dawn and Pete, to that shocking cliffhanger ending.

Among the surprises was the arrival of a new character, Smithy’s girlfriend Sonia, played by Laura Aikman.

A week before the episode aired, HuffPost UK spoke to Laura about joining TV’s most dysfunctional family, keeping the show’s many twists a secret and whether she thinks we’ve seen the last of Gavin & Stacey...

James Corden and Laura Aikman
James Corden and Laura Aikman

First of all, let’s go back to the very beginning, how did you come to be in the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special?

I auditioned for it, but when I went in, I couldn’t see the script. I think they had just called it “Untitled BBC Project… with James Corden”. So I was going in blind, basically.

They gave me two scenes with all of the characters’ names changed, but I’d seen on Twitter the day before that they were doing a Gavin & Stacey special, and obviously the characters talk in a certain way, and so part of me was like, “is this…?”. But you know, you don’t want to put all your eggs in that basket only for it to be something else. From then, it was pretty quick, I got a call the next morning – which never happens.

What was your reaction when you found that it was actually Gavin & Stacey that you’d got the part in?

Oh I was just absolutely delighted. So many of my friends in WhatsApp groups and whatever have said “oh my god can you believe [the Gavin & Stacey reunion] is happening?” – but I couldn’t tell anyone I was in it! It’s just really lovely to be in something that you would actually be watching anyway... and as a fan of the show, I think it just ticks all the boxes of what I would want to see.

As a fan of the show, what was your first reaction when you read about your character, Sonia, and what she was like?

I guess part of me was sort of disappointed! Because ideally, as a fan, I’d have wanted Smithy to be with Nessa! But the thing I was so excited about was that I got to be with everyone in those group scenes. When I got the part, I’d only seen the one scene, so I didn’t know if it was just going to be me and James Corden, but to actually be there with everyone, and to get to be in some of those big group scenes, I was so excited for that.

When I got it, I’d only seen one scene, so I thought I’d be filming just one day or two days, but I ended up being in Wales with everyone for, like, two weeks, and really just having the best experience. I was so excited that Sonia got to be a little part of the whole family’s day.

What was going through your head the night before you started filming on that first day?

I was kind of bricking it, to be honest. I’d worked with the make-up artist Alyn Waterman before on So Awkward, so I was like, “OK, at least the very first thing that I do in the day, I’ll know the person”.

I was totally prepped to spend the whole time in my trailer with no one talking to me, but from minute one, Joanna Page was so sweet to me, she couldn’t stop telling me how nervous she was, which made me feel slightly better, and everyone the whole time would be like, “we’re going here” or “we’re doing this – come and sit with us”, even in between scenes, there’s a scene where I’m in the hallway for most of it and then I come and join everyone in the living room, and they’re all eating dinner, and every time we’d cut, they’d say “Laura come and sit with us”. They were so inclusive with me, and I had been absolutely shitting my pants.

What was the experience of filming like, it sounds like things take a lot longer than people might expect?

Yeah, because those big group scenes, they just take a whole day, even if they’re three-minutes long, because there’s so many people around the scene to take reactions from, and everyone’s looking in different directions and unwrapping presents, so it’s not like you can just film from one angle, you’ve got to do their eyeline and all different ways.

They were quite long days, but everyone was keeping us entertained. Rob Brydon was hilarious, he was hosting gameshows in the green room and singing Tom Jones for us. So, it was definitely not a chore.

Sonia, perhaps understandably, was not thrilled to receive a tap for Christmas.
Sonia, perhaps understandably, was not thrilled to receive a tap for Christmas.

You obviously spent a lot of time sharing scenes with James Corden. How did working with him compare to your expectations?

It was the best thing I could have hoped for – he was really funny, he was really generous with me, he made a big effort with me. And there’s obviously been rumours about James over the years in the press and everything – and I think he, himself, has admitted to going through some things earlier in his career – but he is just as lovely as he comes across. I felt so lucky. And they really all were. I mean Larry Lamb, he had breakfast with me on the first morning. Really, everyone was just so lovely.

On that first day, how did it feel seeing the whole cast in full costume as their characters?

Yeah, that was wild. And we did shoot a lot of it in the actual houses, but some of it they built a studio for. So the first day when I was in the house, they pulled the car up, and they were like, “oh by the way, there’s maybe three or four hundred fans outside, standing at the cordons at each side of the road”. Every time any of us moved through the road, they were all screaming and shouting and trying to talk to us – and that was pretty intense.

Did you enjoy playing Sonia, or did any part of you find it difficult being so harsh to Smithy?

Obviously, I didn’t want to be harsh to James because he’s so open-hearted and he just looked at me full of hope and love the whole time, and I was just being such a bitch to him, which was tricky.

We definitely did much harsher versions when we were filming, but they’ve gone with the lighter side of where we could have taken it. The dialogue was always the same, but in some takes we played it with slightly more venom or more knowing. A lot of the things you see her say in the final cut it’s almost like she doesn’t realise that she’s being so harsh, whereas we did do some versions where it was more like, “I know what I’m saying”.

The best bit for me was getting that wardrobe. At first they gave me a few options with nice, sweet dresses and stuff, but I was like, “no no no, what is that with the horrible print all over it? That is what I need in my life”. As soon as I got the massive nail extensions and the hair and everything, I was like, “OK, I know this girl”.

Laura has revealed she contributed to Sonia's wardrobe choices.
Laura has revealed she contributed to Sonia's wardrobe choices.

Because they’ve gone with the lighter version of the character, you do end up sympathising with Sonia a little bit, don’t you?

I mean, it’s so easy to forget how nuts that family is, because we’re used to them. Even when Gavin was first meeting Bryn in series one, he was like, “this family is a bit weird”, but at this point we’ve watched them for so long and we know them so well from our TV screens. So what I had to do was erase any prior knowledge of who those people were, and go in and say “OK, if you did step into this on Christmas Day”, you would be a bit like, “what the fuck? Why has this woman bought me a tap for Christmas?”.

I mean, there are so many weird things that happen. So remembering that made it easier to look at everyone like they were completely mad.

Was there an atmosphere on set that everyone was on this top secret mission, and nothing could leak or get out to the press? Did that hang over everybody a bit?

Yeah. I feel like particularly towards me – that last scene where I leave, and we’re in the street, like I said, there were those fans that were waiting down at the bottom of the street, even at about two o’clock in the morning. We were filming really late, and they were all still there.

That day, we tried to have as few crew there as possible. Every day when you’re filming they print out an A5 version of the script pages that you’re filming that day, and everyone in the crew has that. And they didn’t print any out that day, just in case things would get left lying around in the street.

Also, we seemed to get papped quite a lot, and none of us ever saw any photographers, so there was that element to it, but really it just felt like everyone was so happy to be there and so happy to be back together, it was just really fun most of the time.

Sonia gets to know the Shipmans and Wests on Christmas Day
Sonia gets to know the Shipmans and Wests on Christmas Day

At the very end, we see Nessa get down on one knee – with all those fans being outside, how were they able to keep that a secret?

I think someone parked a truck across the top of the street while they were filming that bit. And obviously I had to drive down the road so they couldn’t completely barricade the bottom of the street, but because it’s a hill, you couldn’t see what was going on at the top of it. But that day was the most stressful for them, I think.

What was your reaction when you saw in the script how the episode was going to end?

Yeah… I guess, firstly as a fan of the show, I was like [gasps], oh my god, what’s he going to do? And it is complicated, because of the way that they decided to go with Sonia in the end, and make her a bit more likeable and more sympathetic, and I think the way that James plays it you really believe that Smithy loves Sonia… so I don’t know, it’s an absolute cliffhanger, isn’t it?

Since filming, how difficult have you found it to keep it secret that you’re in this special?

I’ve actually found that bit quite easy. A couple of times, I’ve thought… it’s just going to be one of those things that everyone watches, and I am really lucky that I move around without being recognised. If I’ve just been in something, then sometimes people, especially kids, will come up and say stuff… so I’m just enjoying this period because I know this is all anyone is going to want to ask me about in January.

Are you prepared for your phone to blow up on Christmas Day?

Yeah, maybe I’m just going to put my phone on airplane mode, because I’ll probably be really drunk by the time the episode’s on as well. At least it’s all going to be love, but I just don’t know how people are going to respond to the character, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like her if I watched it! I’m just hoping people don’t take the whole thing too literally.

Laura pictured at an event earlier this year
Laura pictured at an event earlier this year
David M. Benett via Getty Images

Did you get a sense on set that there might be more Gavin & Stacey to come?

I don’t know. I can only hope. I mean, I saw Mat Horne the other day, and he was like, “surely there’s going to be more”. He seemed very convinced that there’d be more, and that we’d all be back. But I don’t know. James sort of casually mentioned it at one point, but they’re so busy, I mean, Ruth is writing a novel, James is over in LA, so I don’t know. So I can’t imagine it’ll be any time soon with how much they’ve both got on. But saying that, everyone did enjoy it so much, so never say never.

After it cut to the credits, I just thought “surely this isn’t going to be where they leave this story?”...

You can’t leave it there! I think part of me just wants them to be together, but a bigger part of me wants to be in it, if there’s more [laughs]. So let’s hope that it’s more complicated than that. I’m like, “maybe she’s pregnant? Or something? How can I stay in this?”. #PrayForMe [laughs].

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. The Gavin & Stacey Christmas special is now available to stream on the BBC iPlayer.


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