Best of 2020: Tom Payne on The Great British Baking Show

For the rising British actor, currently starring in Fox’s Prodigal Son, one show in particular lifted his spirits during lockdown last year.

When I started lockdown in March, I’d just finished filming in New York for eight months. My wife Jennifer and I first watched Tiger King and then we started to get into the Oscar movies, because I hadn’t seen everything, so we caught up on Jojo Rabbit, Parasite and 1917.

After that, we wanted to watch something completely unrelated to the pandemic, so we moved on to the most recent season of The Great British Baking Show. The funny thing was, the show was actually very connected to the pandemic, because the contestants, presenters and judges were all being quarantined and shot the whole thing together in a COVID bubble. It was just really nice to watch something simple which was taking place in the situation that we were all in, but actually kept a sense of normality, going back to simple things and being lighthearted. It was pleasant to be able to take your mind off things and laugh and have a bit of fun. Because I’m British, it was nice for me to have a little dive back into British culture and British people, who can be quite particular. Jennifer is always laughing at British people! And because the show came out weekly, we couldn’t binge it, like we had with previous seasons. Watching one episode at a time, week by week, was also a way to mark time, because during that period each day seemed the same as every other day.

I’m not baking myself at the moment, as our oven isn’t precise enough and it would bum me out, because it’s so much about measurements and getting it exactly right. I follow a recipe very well, so I will get into it, but probably not until we have a better oven. Last year, we bought a pizza oven and I was making pizza for a while, but it ended up being incredibly frustrating. The worst part of it was just kneading the dough out and making sure that it didn’t spring back. That was pretty hard! I could make the sauce and do all the other stuff, and I liked making the crust really thin, like a Neapolitan pizza. The oven we bought gets up to 800 degrees, and it’s amazing. But kneading the dough is the hard part of it, so I think I just need more practice.

Tom Payne is an English-born, U.S.-based actor. He came to international prominence playing Paul “Jesus” Rovia on AMC’s The Walking Dead and is currently starring in Fox’s crime drama Prodigal Son with Michael Sheen and Lou Diamond Phillips. (Photo courtesy Eric Liebowitz/FOX.)