Trying season four: Must-watch, heartfelt comedy that will make you laugh and cry returns

Nestled within one of the most opulent hotels London has to offer, I’m sitting across from two TV stars.

We’re all in tears.

If there’s one thing almost a decade in this job has taught me, it’s to separate actors from the characters they play. They’re almost always nothing alike.

But sitting here with Rafe Spall and Esther Smith – the two leads of AppleTV+’s critically acclaimed sitcom, Trying, and real-life couple – that lesson has flown right out the window.

Instead, I’m swapping parenting experiences with Jason and Nikki, the actors’ endlessly charming on-screen personas, whose heartwarming and hilarious relationship is the core of the show as they navigate the challenges of trying to build a family through adoption.

And it’s Spall, speaking of the emotionally stiff but deeply loving relationship between himself and his on-screen dad (played by Phil Davis) which has set us all off.

“They’re two sort of working class fellas, trying to relate and express their feelings, and they’re not necessarily able to do it. I don’t think men are given that language really, from an early age,” he explains.

“So when it comes to saying they love each other, the only way they can do that is by talking about football.”

Then comes the punch.

“I read this thing the other day, that as a man, there was a last time that you held your dad’s hand. There was a time when I was 10 or whatever, and that would have been the last time,” Spall says.

“Also there was a great line in Modern Family, that you don’t know when the last time you pick your kid up is, and then one day they’re too big to do it and you never think about it again. But there is a last time.”

I have a three-year-old son, and his words hit me like a tonne of bricks … which isn’t ideal in a professional setting.

It’s a misty-eyed Smith, in an uncanny encapsulation of her heart-on-her-sleeve Trying persona, Nikki, who perfectly cuts through the moment.

“When we next see your dad, we’re going to pick him up, get him to pick you up,” she jokes.

It’s not quite fair to suggest Trying is a hidden gem – after all, it’s attracted a solid audience for AppleTV+. But at a time of uncapped viewing options, it’s something of an underdog, with the world seemingly separated into two camps: those that have seen it and love it – and those that haven’t yet heard of it.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve brought enough of my own friends and family from the latter over to the former, with the kind of roaring success that only proves my theory.

So what makes this show so special? Days ahead of its season four premiere, that’s exactly what I’m discussing with Spall, 41, and Smith, 38.

“I think the show means lots to those people that have gone through the process [of adoption] or are going through the process. It’s a subject matter that’s not really touched upon, I think, in entertainment,” she tells me.

“And they just feel seen and represented.”

Smith adds that she had received a message just the other day from someone whose own adoption process was moving as slowly as Nikki and Jason’s does in the show.

“They were really thankful for [Trying] because it meant that their family could see it and understand exactly what they were going through,” she says.

“I think we have this idea that you decide that you want a kid, and because there are many children in the care system, that you’re just easily able to get a child. That’s just not the case at all.

“You have to go through so many hoops to be able to be matched with the right person and to prove that you are capable of parenting, so it’s great that this show gives people that perspective on it.”

Given that Trying covers the occasionally traumatic issues which can arise with infertility and the associated pathways, the fact it’s also laugh-out-loud funny is all the more remarkable.

It’s a perfect blend of sharp writing, and the incredible chemistry of its stars.

The series was actually built around Smith, and she’d had two auditions with potential male leads before her future castmate – and partner – came along.

“We had an immediate ease as people, we really got on, and it was just – most importantly – so easy to act with each other,” Spall says.

“She’s also from the same part of the world as my mother … so read into that what you will.”

The only issue? Actually getting through some of the more hilarious moments during filming.

“One particular scene, I think it was in season one, Nikki and Jason have this massive miscommunication and argument where Nikki thinks Jason is having an affair,” Smith recalls.

“That was genuinely one of the hardest scenes to film – and I feel like if you were to look at certain shots that are on Rafe, with the back of me, you can probably see my shoulders jiggling, just because it’s so funny.

“And that’s such a brilliant moment in life where you know, shouldn’t be laughing but you literally can’t help it.”

Spall jumps in: “It’s a good sign though – if you’re laughing, it means that generally other people will enjoy it, too.”

Given the subject matter of the series, it’s a PR gift straight from the heavens that the couple have also just announced they’re expecting their first child.

Spall is already father to three children with ex-wife, Elize du Toit, but this will be Smith’s entry into parenthood.

“I think Nikki and I, we have a lot of similarities, but the difference between us is that she’s a lot more organised … she’s fairly neurotic. I’m neurotic too, but without the organisation,” the actress muses.

“So what I would like to take from her is that organisation – but I don’t know whether that will actually kind of be infused into me.”

With four seasons under its belt, and a seemingly infinite well of family dynamics to draw on for its plot, where would Spall and Smith like to see Trying head in the future?

Simple.

“More of the same,” Smith says.

“These stories come so naturally. There’s so much scope with the children to kind of show parenting when [they become] teenagers.

“The next thing would be like when one of them has to fly the nest – and what that’s going to feel like.”

The fourth season of Trying returns May 22 on Apple TV+ with the first 2 episodes, followed by new episodes every Wednesday through July 3.

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