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Esther Smith & Rafe Spall – Trying

Was that six-year time jump to start season four a big acting challenge?

ESTHER: It’s given us an opportunity to explore parenthood with teenagers, and all those hurdles that come up. I’ve only seen it as a positive . . . And obviously, the prosthetics helped [laughs].
RAFE: Yeah, the heavy prosthetics we had in order to make us look older. I’ve actually got mine on now, still . . . You know, what’s funny is there was never even a chat about aging us up.
ESTHER: There wasn’t! Not even to just humour us . . . “Yeah, they look like they could be older.”

Trying on Apple TV+. Pictured (left to right): Cooper Turner, Esther Smith, Rafe Spall, and Scarlett Rayner.
Apple TV+

Nikki and Jason didn’t get their kids till the very end of season two. Do you think that’s made the big parenting moments in seasons three and four much more emotional for viewers — as opposed to if they got the kids earlier on?

RAFE: Absolutely. Andy Wolton, the writer, himself was adopted. I think that’s one of the reasons why it resonates with audiences — and is so important to the adoption community — is because it feels true. The adoption process is arduous and onerous. The journey of the show needs to reflect that. And you’re absolutely right — by the time you get to the “wins,” they’re really earned. You know how much it means to them. To finally have a destination for their love is really beautiful.

Trying on Apple TV+. Pictured (left to right): Rafe Spall and Esther Smith.
Apple TV+

Just what is the key to this show’s deft balance of comedy and drama?

ESTHER: [Wolton] is so good at noticing the subtleties within the everyday, and the humour within the mundane — and just feeding that in under something quite heavy to then bring a lightness.
RAFE: A lot of it is to do with the fact that his comedy is never too broad and his sentimentality never too saccharine. No matter how far-fetched the japes or capers that we get up to, they’re always rooted in reality, and the moments of pathos are never too cloying. They’re just beautifully pitched. It’s not an easy thing to do . . .

Spending so much time on a show about family struggles, have you been able to glean any tips or tricks for real life?

ESTHER: [Laughs] In a sense, I feel like I have two families in my life . . . I think what I’ve learnt is: Everyone has their flaws, everyone is going through something, you never truly know what that other person is going through, so the best thing is to be patient and kind.
RAFE: We live in this Instagram, pop-psychology world of going, “All of my ills are because of my parents” — we probably all need to go through that stage of our life. I’ve fully gone through it and I’m absolutely through the other side of just being so grateful I’ve still got my parents . . . I found this note that my mom wrote me when I was 12 years old. The last line was: “Be bold, because the world is not for the meek.” It’s only now that I’m realizing my approach to life is because I am a product of my parents. My dad won a BAFTA the other day, and it was one of the most moving, beautiful experiences of my life. Really, this show is about family and it’s just made me so grateful that I’ve got my mom and dad.

You two are about to have a baby. Is it an asset as actors to be experiencing something so similar to your characters?

RAFE: Yeah, it’s gorgeous. New life — what a blessing. This will be my fourth kid, Esther’s first. And in life, you’ve got to balance those things — being a present father whilst at the same time providing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other skills to exchange for cash. Only acting . . .
ESTHER: Apart from your stripping . . .
RAFE: The stripping’s dried up. I think it’s our six-year time jump. It really hit me hard.

Trying, streaming Wednesdays on Apple TV+


Rafe Spall, son of revered British character actor Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), has built up an enviable career of his own of late. His CV includes such films as Prometheus and The Big Short; on TV, he’s appeared in rock ’n’ roll drama Roadies, true crime thriller The Salisbury Poisonings and hit western The English. Esther Smith, meanwhile, has starred in cult TV comedies Uncle and Cuckoo, as well as the original West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.


This Wednesday, the duo wraps season four of their poignant family dramedy Trying — about one London couple who must brave the highs, lows, calamities and hilarities of the adoption process. In a case of life imitating art (or perhaps art facilitating life), Smith and Spall are now a couple for real, soon expecting their first child together.

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