JACK Davenport might play brooding and aloof with aplomb on screen, but in the flesh he's very funny.

In between the many expletives and highbrow words that pepper his speech are lots of jokes.

In fact, Davenport confides, he listens to a lot of stand-up comedy. "Like an old person would listen to the radio," he laughs.

But would he ever do stand-up? The actor looks appalled. "No way." He makes it clear he believes they have far more courage in that regard than him.

Having said that, he admits he once did a one-man show which was a comedy. "At least it purported to be," he says.

"I remember before the first night thinking what kind of hubris made me think: 'An hour alone on stage, what on earth could go wrong?' I actually did enjoy it though."

Apart from one thing - the isolation. "What no-one tells you about a one-man show is that it's lonely. You come off stage and remove your sweaty clothes, then you just go home. It's slightly sad."

Perhaps the 40-year-old struggles with the lack of company as he's so used to being part of a team.

From This Life, in which he played heart-throb Miles Stewart, to Coupling, where he played Steve Taylor, the actor often finds himself part of an ensemble cast.

"I pick jobs on the basis of what I like to watch myself. The only show that has one continuous protagonist I'm obsessed with is Breaking Bad. But anything else I've really liked has had a huge cast. What [one] character is interesting enough?"

Davenport joins a large cast for his role in Breathless, a medical drama set in the early Sixties. He plays Otto Powell, a charismatic gynaecological surgeon.

Sitting in old BT offices made to look like a sixties hospital, Davenport is looking super-dapper - his old-school handsome looks matching the navy blue suit fashionable in 1961.

The year was chosen as it's when the Pill started to be made widely available but abortion was still illegal. As such, it is on the brink of the sexual revolution. For women, it was a time that would start to turn their lives around.

Otto is married to elegant Elizabeth (Natasha Little). They seem to be living the dream, but behind the shiny veneer they, like many others who work in the hospital, are concealing secrets and lies. "Initially I thought it was going to be a medical procedural, and I was like, 'No thanks'," says Davenport.

But he soon realised there was much more to it. "The context of the show makes a broader sociological point about women's health and their role in society," he says.

Davenport seems to have been on a voyage of discovery while filming. Just hours earlier he was talking to the producer's mother, a nurse in the 1960s, who is on set.

"In 1962 she was the first nurse in one of the big London hospitals who was allowed to get married and remain a nurse. That's nuts," he says.

Then there was the first day of filming when the cast and crew were located at the Royal College of Gynaecologists.

"There's a huge picture of the big hall that was painted in 1961 when the Queen came to open it up. You look at this crowd and the front two rows are all senior gynaecologists of the nation - there's one woman. Dame something. And she ain't the Queen's gynaecologist, oh no, that's the guy with the biggest hat," says Davenport.

He's adamant Breathless is not the kind of show that could be made in America because "they're still debating all of that stuff in presidential elections".

Davenport currently lives in the US and has been married for 13 years to Michelle Gomez, the Glasgow actress best known for her fantastic physical comedy in Green Wing. The couple have a son, Harry, aged three.

The actor's first major role was as arrogant trainee solicitor Miles in This Life, which quickly became a huge TV hit in the Nineties. After that he had a few parts here and there, including a role in The Talented Mr Ripley alongside Matt Damon and Jude Law, and a continuing role in Pirates Of The Caribbean. Coupling was his next big TV show, but it was axed after the fourth series.

Over in America, Davenport has appeared in a number of TV dramas and more recently won a role as a Broadway director in Steven Spielberg's TV drama Smash.

While his roots are in UK TV, he is clearly also a fan of US output, citing Game Of Thrones, Homeland and Curb Your Enthusiasm as some of his favourites. Of the last-named he says: "It's a real actor show. It's got a very improvisational vibe. I think we all wish we could do something like that, and then we realise we can't."

l Breathless begins on STV on Thursday, 9pm