SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, how the great Benny Goodman broke barriers in jazz. But first, British actor Anthony Head has played at least two iconic figures: the smooth-talking neighbor with the mysterious smile in soap opera-style instant coffee commercials, and of course Rupert Giles in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

Now, with coffee and crucifixes in his past, Anthony Head is cracking safes in the BBC TV series "The Invisibles." He plays a criminal who comes out of retirement just to discover that his knees, if not his nerves, are not always up to the job. Here's a clip from "The Invisibles," after his first heist out of retirement.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Invisibles")

Mr. ANTHONY HEAD (Actor): (as Maurice) How it went? Aside from us demolishing your front room and becoming involved in a near-fatal car chase with the police, and then one of our select band signing his name at the scene of the crime, not to mention leaving fingerprints of a quality that a forensics expert would struggle to muck up! Aside from that, A-1, I should say.

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Oh, come on, Maurice, it wasn't all that bad.

SIMON: "The Invisibles" has just become available on DVD in the United States. Anthony Head joins us from the studios of the BBC in London. Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. HEAD: Well, thank you for having me.

SIMON: This is a very funny series.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HEAD: Thank you. Yeah, I'm fond of it, I must admit. I liked Maurice, even though he was a grumpy old man, as they say, and he was difficult for my family to live with. Because you do as an actor, you do bring the characters home with you, and they've had to put up with some fairly annoying people in their lives.

SIMON: Does that make it particularly complicated? Because one of your co-stars is actually your daughter, Emily.

Mr. HEAD: No, that was quite nice. Because...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HEAD: ...because she got to see what Maurice was like on set. When your own child is playing your child, you've got all the emotions of a father are already there, they're already in place. And so it was lovely. And she's a crackin' actress.

SIMON: I've got to ask about, even after all these years, the coffee commercials. Taster's Choice, here in the United States and you and - forgive me for not knowing the name of the actress...

Mr. HEAD: Sharon Moon.

SIMON: They're flirtatious neighbors and this sort of developed as a soap opera storyline over the years. Let's just hear a clip.

(Soundbite of Taster's Choice commercial)

Ms. SHARON MOON (Actress): (As character) You saved my life the other night.

Mr. HEAD: (as character) The dinner party.

Ms. MOON: (as character) The coffee. Very successful.

Mr. HEAD: (as character) How can you ever thank me?

Ms. MOON: (as character) I'll try and think of something. In the meantime, at least I can return your Gold Blend.

Mr. HEAD: (as character) Look, I'm in the middle of something right now, but perhaps...

Ms. MOON: (as character) Perhaps.

Unidentified Man #2: Now golden roasted. Richer, smoother, Nescafe Gold Blend.

SIMON: Now, you did this initially in the U.K. and then you and your co-star were hired to do the similar set of commercials in the U.S. And of course you switched accents.

Mr. HEAD: Well, I did.

SIMON: Could you do an American accent for us now?

Mr. HEAD: Things to remember: Always log on to the backup PC first. Is your home database correct? E.g. Europe, Eurasia, etc. Do you want me to go on?

SIMON: It's a little soft, Mr. Head.

Mr. HEAD: I'm sorry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: To try and be absolutely fair about this, I'm going to ask my next question in a British accent, okay?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Anthony, do tell us about your singing career.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HEAD: That was amazing. I was...my.

SIMON: Do you like it, do you like it?

Mr. HEAD: That was fantastic.

SIMON: I might, I just might keep it for a while, you know?

Mr. HEAD: My singing career: my first gig was - out of drama school was "Godspell." I've done "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." And so I can flip between comedy and drama and musicals and stage and film and TV. And it's, I mean - I love singing, so it's, you know, when I get a chance to sing every now and again, it's great fun.

SIMON: I have to ask you about what it's like to play a romantic scene. And I'm thinking, for those of us who love the comedy series "Little Britain."

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: That was quite a kiss.

Mr. HEAD: Oh, well, he kissed me.

SIMON: Don't pretend like you didn't enjoy it, or at least had to act like you enjoyed it. Set the scene for us, if you could, please.

Mr. HEAD: At the end of a party celebration, when we've just won an electoral victory and...

SIMON: You're the prime minister.

Mr. HEAD: I am the prime minister. And my personal assistant has a crush on me and I'm dancing with my wife. And suddenly Sebastian cuts in and starts dancing with me and it becomes a slow dance. And I sort of try and avoid any kind of clinch and I duck away. I see that he's upset. So I go over and I say, look, I'm terribly sorry. Am I right in thinking - I have this faintest inclination that he might have a crush on me. And he laughs it off.

(Soundbite of TV show "Little Britain")

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DAVID WALLIAMS (Actor): (as Sebastian) Whatever gave you that idea? No, no, no. I just wanted to say well done.

Mr. HEAD: (as Prime Minister) Oh, oh, thank you.

You know, I puckered up and he puckered up and we kissed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HEAD: It was like a limpet. I mean had, you know, no clue it was going to happen. And in fact, the first take, which is the one that they used, you can actually see me smiling underneath.

SIMON: Well, that's why I thought you enjoyed it so much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Mr. Head, it's been so nice to talk to you.

Mr. HEAD: Well, it's been nice to talk to you.

SIMON: Anthony Head, joining us from our studios in London. You can see him in "The Invisibles," which is out now on DVD. And to see Anthony Head in his Taster's Choice commercials - what do they call it in Britain again?

Mr. HEAD: Gold Blend.

SIMON: Gold Blend - perhaps we can put one of each - come to our Web site, NPR.org/SoapBox.

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