Staged returning for another lockdown series

Staged returning for another lockdown series. Alongside Michael and David also returning for the new series are Simon Evans, Georgia Tennant, Anna Lundberg, Lucy Eaton and Nina Sosanya. The new series will also see Primetime Emmy winner Ben Schwartz, join the cast playing the assistant to Michael and David’s American agent.

Following on from the surprise appearances in series one of Judi Dench and Samuel L Jackson this series sees the regulars joined in their virtual hell by a whole host of unexpected guests.

Q&A with David Tennant and Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen, David Tennant returning with staged
Michael Sheen, David Tennant

What can you tell us about the new series of Staged?

Michael: David and I are still being ridiculous with and about each other – that’s still very much the tone of it. We have a lot of amazing surprise appearances which I hope people will enjoy as much as David and I enjoyed doing the scenes with them.

David: It’s the same set up as before. Michael Sheen and I talking rubbish to each other over the internet from our respective homes, with Georgia and Anna, our other halves, keeping us from becoming too self-indulgent, not always successfully. But there is a bit of a twist to it all, which I’m not going to reveal here…

In the show you play exaggerated versions of yourselves, are you anything like these characters in real life?

David: I imagine not at all, but probably… quite a lot.

Michael: I think David would say that he’s not at all like his character in the first series. Whereas I would say, I probably am quite like that. But I think between the two series, there’s a slightly more representative version of ourselves emerging, or at least that’s what I would say anyway.

Why do you think the first series was so popular?

Michael: We didn’t take ourselves too seriously and made fun of ourselves – I think people enjoyed that. I’m using the sort of format and medium that everyone is using. Having to do calls on Zoom and all that kind of stuff – so we’ve been able to tap into what’s funny and absurd about that as well. Also, having lovely surprises like Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson, we have lots more of those surprises in this new series.

David: People seemed to recognise what the characters were going through. Not the specifics of being an actor in lockdown as such, but the sense of helplessness, the frustrations and occasional joys of being stuck at home while the world trundled on. That and the fact that Simon wrote a really funny script – I mean without that we’d have been stuffed.

Did you think you’d be back for another series?

David: If you had told me a year ago that I’d end up making a series for BBC One from inside our house, without a crew, wearing my own clothes and being entirely responsible for turning the camera on and off I would have found it wholly implausible, so the idea that we would do it twice is just one of the many unpredictable eventualities that this weird, weird year has presented.

Michael: I certainly thought that if it went down quite well then there was no reason why we couldn’t do more, because it was such an innovative way to make a series – filming in my kitchen with just the laptop and a smartphone. It was very nice to come back and do more of it.

What was it like working with your partners?

David: The scenes between Georgia and myself had to be fitted in around school drop-offs, baby naps and unloading the dishwasher, so there is a certain urgency to getting them done but we have really enjoyed making Staged together and we do laugh a lot – perhaps it’s the sleep deprivation.

Michael: I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was great. The difficulty for Anna and I was that one of us had to go and look after the baby, so that presented a bit of a challenge and limited how much we could do together. But the positive side of this was that it meant Anna could do more scenes with other people. So, there’s more scenes between Anna and Georgia, Lucy and Simon as well. It was lovely not taking ourselves too seriously and to play around with it.

Will any of your children be making an appearance in the new series?

Michael: There’s that fantastic moment in the first series where you see David and Georgia’s daughter in the background coming down the stairs and then going back up the stairs – that’s very funny. I’m sure you can hear Lyra in the background of some scenes; you’ll have to be eagle-eyed and eagle-eared for that.

David: No, I think they find it slightly risible that mum and dad are making a TV show from the house and are mostly just annoyed when we tell them to be quiet for a take.

What can you tell us about working with the guest stars?

David: Well I think it’s out there that we have Ben Schwartz joining us this series, playing the assistant to Michael and my US agent. I’ve known Ben for a few years now, we both play the voices of ducks on Disney’s Duck Tales. Ben is very very funny and is a master at comic improvisation. Michael and I both had to sprint to keep up with him once he started going off script. Recording those scenes was a particular joy. But beyond that I’m saying nothing – that would spoil some nice surprises.

Michael: In the first series one of the most enjoyable things was being able to do a scene with Dame Judi and with Samuel L. Jackson. In this series we have plenty more where that came from and it was an absolute joy – a real thrill! We have some special guests this series who David and I both enjoy the work of. I hope the audience enjoy it half as much as we did and also see that it’s not just us who have difficulty with the technical stuff!

Q&A with Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg

Staged returning for another seriesGeorgia Tennant, Anna Lundberg
Georgia Tennant, Anna Lundberg

What can you tell us about the new series of Staged?

Georgia: We are all still in lockdown but things are starting to open up a little and everyone is trying to feel their way through their new normal. David’s hair is longer and my wine cellar (metaphorically speaking. We don’t actually have a wine cellar) is emptier.

How did you come up with the idea for the new series?

Georgia: We always said we would just do one and hope people didn’t hate it. Much to our amazement people really didn’t hate it and of course it’s much more tempting to visit something again if the reception has been good! When we filmed the first series I think we felt like it was a small window of time where the world had shifted and before long we’d all be back to normal and Staged would end up being this nice little time capsule. Simon Evans and Phin Glynn then came up with a brilliant little seed of a premise and we all took it from there.

In the show you play exaggerated versions of yourselves, are you anything like these characters in real life?

Anna: Well we’re all slightly different from the first season. I certainly don’t bring Michael charcuterie boards like I did in the first season, hah! I think in this season I have lost most of my patience with Michael and although that isn’t true in real life, it seems closer to how we would behave with each other if we were living through those exact circumstances. I’d tease him for being so serious and a bit of an arse but at the end of the day we got each other’s back. I’ve also gotten to know Georgia and Lucy a bit more since the first season, so those scenes seemed a bit closer to real life this time. Although I don’t think there’s a world that exists where I’d actually offer David Tennant advice on using Viking methods with an axe to deal with a conflict.

Georgia: This series ‘Georgia’ is slightly less tired and has gotten her fight back a little. The kids are back at school and she’s trying to get everyone else back to some sort of normality. She’s even less indulgent of ‘David’.

Why do you think the show was so popular?

Georgia: I think for the first time in probably ever the whole world was doing the same thing – sitting in their homes. To be able to watch a show where the actors are doing exactly as you and much less elegantly was probably the secret to its charm. To be able to laugh during this time has also certainly saved my sanity and having a comedy escape, albeit for 15 minutes, was probably very needed.

Anna: I think a lot of people around that time were happy to see something light and a bit silly as opposed to another heavy drama about what everyone was already going through, but without ignoring what was going on at the same time.

What was it like working with your partners?

Georgia: That was the best bit for me. He is my favourite person, actor and makes me laugh like no one else. I think I may struggle working with anyone else now!

Anna: The biggest challenge of filming with Michael is figuring out what to do with the baby when we do. Once we’ve managed to work that out around naps it’s great! He’s very encouraging and patient with me. Serious about the work though and likes to be in charge of all the technical stuff, even though I helped him to set it up in the first place. But I let him.

Will any of your children be making an appearance in the new series?

Anna: There’s always a chance you’ll hear Lyra’s voice in the background. She likes to get in on the action and has a great ability to project and be heard like her father. But no, not in vision.

Georgia: No. I cannot tell you how little they care about what we do. We were just annoying them by asking them to keep the noise down for takes.

Q&A with Simon Evans & Lucy Eaton

Lucy (Lucy Eaton), Simon Evans to appear in Staged
Lucy (Lucy Eaton), Simon Evans

What can you tell us about the new series of Staged?

Simon: It’s a natural progression of our story. David and Michael are still the same world we’re all in, still struggling to come to terms with what this ‘new way of doing things’ might be. They’ve still got Anna and Georgia with them, trying to both help them and keep them sane. Simon is still trying to get ahead in the world, with a few new tricks up his sleeve. There are some other surprises too, and we’re joined by some friends (both familiar and new), but I wouldn’t want to say too much about that yet.

Lucy: There was a real sense that to do a second series of Staged, we had to ‘go big or go home’, but when I first heard the premise for Staged Two, I was absolutely floored! It’s fabulous: super ambitious but without losing sight of everything that worked so well first time round. It’s got the same kind of smart silliness, understatedly empathetic storylines and star-packed guest appearances, but in a surprising new storyline.

How did you come up with the idea for the new series?

Simon: It was important for me and Phin Glynn (producer and co-creator) to find a different theme to work on. We went into Series One a little (dare I say) nervous about how audiences would respond to a Zoom-based show about boredom: surely everyone had enough of that in their day to day life. Thankfully, everyone responded very warmly to it (how can you not when you get to share the Zoom with David, Michael, Dame Judi Dench and Samuel L Jackson), but we didn’t want to take that for granted.

It seemed to me that the world was changing again: businesses were beginning to reopen, people were beginning to travel again, but it was all happening at different rates. People were making choices based on their own understanding of the benefits and risks of the world, and having choices made for them by an understandably fluid set of rules.

We thought it would be fun to explore that with David and Michael too. These are two hugely successful professionals, but that doesn’t mean mother nature (or the rule of law) makes exceptions for them. They get excited about going back to work, then get angry when they can’t… just like anyone else.

In the show you play exaggerated versions of yourselves, are you anything like these characters in real life?

Lucy: Except for the ‘blowing raspberries down Zoom’ scene, Staged One Lucy was thoroughly unlike myself. I’m nowhere near as serious, or as well-off! Simon and I are obviously brother and sister in real life, but our relationship is the polar opposite of the cold and awkward one audiences saw in the first series. My brother is my best friend and in the real world we are a constant support to each other (being cruel to him on a daily basis during filming always felt a little uncomfortable!) We’ve worked together professionally on many occasions and it’s always an absolute dream. He is hands-down one of the most talented directors of this generation and I love getting the opportunity to work together on any creative venture.

Having said all that, the Lucy that you see in Staged Two is basically me. It’s perhaps the easiest role I’ve ever played. Not one for showing my range!

Simon: How dare you. I think there are certain similarities between me and ‘Simon’. He’s ambitious, and nimble (he moves quite quickly in Series One to capitalise on the strange new situation); and I think I would respond exactly as ‘Simon’ did if Michael Sheen told me he didn’t like me and found me weaselly. But, I hope, I’m not quite that ineffectual. I also loathe warm-up games in real life.

Why do you think the show was so popular?

Lucy: I think what made it so popular was its goofy tenderness, because more than ever, in 2020, we needed escapism that was funny and silly and soft. David and Michael’s chemistry sat in the centre of that, added to which was their invaluable real-life chemistry with Georgia and Anna, and hopefully mine with Simon. I’ve heard from so many people that Staged really “cheered up their summer” or “saved their lockdown”. It’s all credit to Simon and Phin working incredibly quickly to respond to the situation that we as a country (and a world) had suddenly found ourselves in, and what they made was something relentlessly joyful. That’s why it captured people’s hearts I think.

Simon: I’d hoped people would find it funny, and that it might be a brief distraction from the madness we were living through, but it seemed to connect on other levels as well. This wasn’t really an upfront intention, we just wanted to amuse, but it proved a delightful surprise.

I think we were all (are all?) feeling a sense of helplessness in the face of what was happening outside of our doors, and the melancholy which began to infuse the script seemed to speak to people. David and Michael are so funny, but their brilliance is also in being able to keep sadness side by side with that, and that seemed (at least to me) to reflect the general mood: absurdity sitting hand in hand with tragedy.

I also think it helped that we didn’t mention Covid or virus… it’s not a show about the actual situation we’re living through; it’s a context whereby two friends have to spend time together through this new technology, and talk rubbish just to keep fear and madness at bay. I can certainly relate to that.

Then throw in Dame Judi Dench swearing, and you’ve got everything you need.

What was it like working with each other?

Lucy: This team has been wonderful, without exception. Filming was a joy from start to finish, and everyone in the cast gave so much in terms of energy and patience to help each other in our remote performances. We’ve become a little family despite being such separate entities throughout filming. I particularly enjoyed getting waves from the Tennant and Sheen newborns on my birthday during filming in May.

Simon: It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s not an easy show to make: both series have been quite time sensitive (and we had to shoot some of Series Two across LA/New York/UK time differences), the technology isn’t always the most reliable, and it’s not particularly sociable – David, Michael and me have actually yet to spend any time in the same room. 

But they are such a dream pairing. Writing for them is wonderful, and filming is such a joy: they make anything I’ve come up with 250 percent better just by showing up and reading it. Then we add in our returning faces, and some new guest stars, and I have to pinch myself.

Then our editor, Dan Gage, and composer, Alex Baranowski (both complete masters) get their hands on it, and suddenly we’ve got a thing. It’s an extraordinary process, and one I couldn’t have dreamt off back in February.

It would be lovely to actually meet one of these days, but until the world allows I couldn’t be happier.

Q&A with Ben Schwartz

Michael Sheen, Tom (Ben Schwartz), David Tennant all appearing in Staged
Michael Sheen, Tom (Ben Schwartz), David Tennant

How did you become involved with Staged?

I got a text from David Tennant on behalf of him and the talented Georgia Tennant asking if I would be interested in joining the cast for a few episodes. That was all it took, I was in.

Were you a fan of the first series?

I hadn’t seen the series before I got the text but afterwards watched a bunch of episodes and immediately loved the vibe of the show. It looked like so much fun and would allow me to perform with actors I absolutely adored.

What can you tell us about your character, Tom?

Tom is the assistant to David and Michael’s agent. He’s a hard worker and is an ENORMOUS David Tennant fan. The director, Simon Evans, did a great job of creating the character and keeping it loose to find fun little moments throughout to play.

What was it like working with Michael Sheen & David Tennant?

A dream. They are such talented actors and kind humans. I feel so fortunate to have acted virtually with them and created something to make people smile during these times.

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