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Interviews: Gbemisola Ikumelo (Dom)

Photo of Gbemisola Ikumelo in Black Ops

How did you come up with the idea for the show?

AK [Akemnji Ndifornyen] got it into his head that off the back of doing the BBC sketch-show Famalam that it’d be really great to do a show with me as a sort of vehicle piece. So, he called me and said, “Look, we’re going get into a room with the Beeb and pitch some ideas.” So, I went away and thought about the kinds of things I’d like to do, and one of the things I was just really excited about was the notion of putting myself in a show or scenario that I wouldn’t get cast for ordinarily. You can hide a multitude of sins behind comedy, so I just went, “I’d love to be in a cop show. I’d love to be in a show where it’s running, guns, car chases and it’s fun and funny as well.” Also, grounding it in a world and a language we understand. So, the idea of PCSOs became a really interesting way in – and that’s how the show was born.

It feels grounded in reality and really authentic.

Absolutely. Hammed is such a beautiful scene partner to work with and, I guess, us really connecting and having great chemistry was the crux of all that. Also, just realising that a lot of the stuff that’s going on in the show is very real-world stuff. Some of the stuff is inspired by things in the news that we’ve heard and seen, we’ve done our research. So, I do think it should feel grounded and real, as well as being incredibly silly and fun. And we kept going, “We don’t want it to stay in the estate.” That was a big key thing and it was kind of figuring out where it goes to. I think Joe [Tucker] and Lloyd [Woolf] really sort of expanded on that kind of world and that was really great.

What was it like writing an episode with AK?

We wrote episode two together, and all four of us [Gbemisola, AK, Joe and Lloyd] effectively developed the show together. We kind of wrote it in a room together, coming up with what the show is going to be, and then AK and I also collaborated on scripts. I’m not a great writing collaborator, I take my stuff and go into a hole and I emerge – it’s a thing. And, so, I didn’t know how it would be working with AK, but the synergy was quite surreal. To the point where I’d be writing something and it was like, “Pass a laptop over” and he’d sort of finish off the sentence. A lot of it as well was just us having a chat for like two hours and then write for half an hour and get some lunch, and then something we gisted or joked about found its way into the script. So it was such a beautiful process.. I think AK’s opened my eyes to the world of writing collaboration. He’s a great collaborator, I would definitely work on a longer form thing with AK, for sure.

How would you describe your character of Dom?

I think she’s very cynical. She’s the kind of person who, if she was a teenager, doesn’t want to make out that she cares too much, you know, because I think there’s a vulnerability in that. So, she’s a bit like a surly teen with maybe an arrested development of like 15 or 16 years old, bit spoilt, bit middle class, her parents do a lot for her. When we meet her, I think she had this image that she was going to go to cop school, become a great detective, and that would be her life. But she just kept getting overlooked for promotion and that sort of led to her being a bit cynical and a bit, “Okay, well, I’m just going to do this job and just get paid and go home and eat.” And then through the show, and all the things that go on, and through Kay, I think she starts to learn to sort of embrace the faith that he has and sort of protect that a bit more. She grows up through the course of this.

She’s also very funny, like when she calls DI Clinton a budget Idris Elba. That was an improvised line! I’m not sure Ariyon [Bakare who plays DI Clinton] actually really appreciated that. I blurted it out and instantly felt really guilty, but he’s a great sport.

What is Kay like?

By contrast, he is all hope and faith. If she’s arrested development at 15 years, he’s 11 or 12 and is kind of like this annoying little brother. He’s also a man of faith, so he plays keyboards in the church band and he runs a youth Bible study. He’s coming at it with a real earnest heart, “I want to be a voice in the community, I want to build bridges in the community, and I really want to be here.” And I think through the course of this his faith is tested, and he has to do some things that really contradict who he is as a person. So, I think he has this real inner struggle with that ¬– but he also wants medals. But he’s a sweetheart, and I think in less intelligent hands he could have come across as, “Oh, he’s just a bit dumb”, but Hammed does a really beautiful job of kind of nuancing him, and there’s these really sharp moments of just a wit and savant-esqueness in him, which I think Hammed nails.

What about their relationship?

The thing I love about this show is there’s no ‘will-they-won’t-they’ built into the mix, as there tends to be when there’s a man and woman working side by side. It’s a brotherly sisterly thing, a real, genuine friendship. I don’t really see that much, in terms of a man and a woman working alongside each other and the chemistry being a different kind of chemistry. So that’s the first thing that I love about their relationship, and also, they are both missing things that the other person needs. So as much as sometimes they get on each other’s nerves – and there’s many times I think where Dom just doesn’t want to be in this partnership with him – they keep coming back to each other, because they need each other to get out of this mess. There’s something lovely about having a real buddy cop show feel that we all recognise, but also subverting it and doing different things with it, which I think would be great for audiences to see.

Why is Dom so dismissive of him?

I genuinely think that she underestimates him right from the get-go. There is a sense in what I think is a jaded world that we live in, that the sort of people who do have faith or a pure and kind of way of looking at things, who aren’t cynical about the world, can be seen as dumb because they don’t see the darker things. But actually there’s something quite maybe protected about people like that, and something we can maybe learn from people like that. So, I think she’s very dismissive because Kay’s first assumption isn’t to blame people or to assume this or that, but it’s to help and support them – and sometimes his assumptions are very wrong, but also there’s something really great about it that I think Dom slowly begins to appreciate. So, I think that’s why because he’s not like her and not like many people. I don’t think there are many uncynical people left, especially in that kind of job.

Dom has some personal issues going on too, doesn’t she?

I think this is another thing Kay helps with this sort of understanding and growing up, is that up until a certain point, her family are there to support her dreams and do all the things she needs them to do. She needs money, so they give it, and I think that’s how she sort of moved through the world. As we go deeper into the series, we start to realise that she has to give something back to other people. She has to learn to accept her step-mum who is nothing but lovely to her the whole time, and there’s no reason for her to get so much vitriol from Dom. And, so, I think slowly, she’s just learning to accept people more. This horrible, horrible situation that she finds herself in, this life-or-death situation, puts some things into perspective.

What’s it like working with Hammed?

Hammed is a goofball, and highly, highly annoying. No, like genuinely, it was like a brother sister relationship. He likes to get on your nerves. He’s that guy who sings, “I know a song that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves….” He’ll revel in it. So, we had a little code afterwards like if it was too early in the morning for singing, you know, I’d say, “beep beep” and he’d know. But genuinely, it was a joy, it really was, and I had sort of been stalking Hammed secretly for a number of years, from theatre, and just everything he’s done. He always lights up the room, as an actor, in all the work that he does. So, I was really keen to see if we’d work well together in this and the chemistry was just sort of instant.

What were the most fun, memorable moments from filming?

There were a lot of silly moments. One moment, it wasn’t particularly funny, but it was just sort of watching Hammed and how he worked. Towards the end he wasn’t very well and he was a little bit low. So, we put him in a little shaded area because it was very hot and fanned him, and I’ve not really seen him that quiet and subdued – he’s very bubbly. And then they’d be like, “Okay, we’re about to turn over” and then he’s sort of get up and slowly wobble over and they’d say “action!” and he’d be like [mimes being super alert and full of energy]. I was just in awe of how ‘on’ he could be, and then they’d go, “Cut!” and he would be like [makes a groaning sound.] I can laugh about it now, at the time I was very serious, I was like, “Are you OK?” But now I think it’s quite hilarious how he was really just squeezing that last bit of energy to do the show.

Do you have a favourite scene or episode?

I mean, I love a lot of it. I think there’s a lot of stuff in episode two that I really enjoyed like the digging scene. We had very little time because it was like summer solstice, so we had two hours of dark before it got light, and we had to shoot so much. It was effectively me jumping into a ditch doing my own stunts and then hacking off a finger. It was so much fun to just play and to be able to do it and to catch it. I think everyone was quite shocked that we didn’t need to do it that many takes. Because I was like, “Yeah, I’ll go down the hole. Yeah, I’ll hack his finger off. Yeah, I’ll vomit in a ditch!” And then I came out and looked at my face at the end of it and it was just covered in dust. It was one of those moments you kind of envisage you would do when you sort of think about being an actor when you’re younger.

Finally, where would you like to take these characters next? What’s the future for Team Day?

I mean, AK is basically like, “Let’s just go abroad, do an Adam Sandler and just go to a really hot location – paid for – and hire some really great actors and just have some fun in Jamaica or something.” But no, I don’t know, right now. I mean, there’s some ideas that we’re tinkering with, but I won’t ruin them. But I think there’s no limit to where these characters can go really. The way it’s been written is that it could go and go because, like I said, by the end of it, you really want to see where they end up.

Hammed Animashaun (Kay)

Image of Hammed Animashaun as Kay in Black Ops

How did you get involved in this project?

It’s quite a funny one. Just before the pandemic I met AK at an event and I’ve always been a big fan of AK’s for the longest time, and Gbemi’s – I would just watch from afar. Anyway, we met for the first time and exchanged contact details, and then quite soon afterwards he messaged me, “There’s a script I want you to read. Do you want to read it?” And I was like, “Yeah sure, I’ll read it.” So, he sends me a script, I thought it was hilarious and I text him going, “Thanks for the script, I think it’s really funny.” And he was like, “I’m really glad, there’s a read through I would like you to be a part of, could you attend?” And I was like, “Yeah, I can attend, like maybe as an audience member or whatever.” And he replied, “No, as Kay.” I was like, “Okay, sure, sure” thinking that I was helping out somebody who I admired.

What at the read through?

When I turned up, there was all these really important people – I didn’t realise how big it was because he played it down really well. He was just like, “It’s just a small thing” but it really wasn’t, it was this huge deal. And I did the read through and then a couple of weeks later, he was like, “Oh, are you free to shoot the pilot?” And I was like, “Oh, yep, sure, I’m free.” Again, not thinking anything of it. So, we shot the pilot in six days and then I went about my business. I was doing other projects and then called me in to do ADR for the pilot, and then he was like, “Yeah so the show’s been commissioned.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, congratulations! That’s so huge for you and Gbemi.” And then he said, “So, do you want to do it?”

Were you shocked?

Yeah! I mean there was not one point where I thought I’m a part of this thing. I just hoped that somebody who I really admired, down the line, we would work together. It didn’t really compute in my head that I was actually working with him or collaborating with him during all those moments. So, I was really taken aback.

How would you describe your character, Kay?

He’s the nicest guy you would ever meet, but also the most naive and gullible. He can’t help it, he just sees the good in everyone but that gets him in trouble throughout the series. He’s a very God-fearing man and that helps him a lot in the series as well. It also kind of hinders him, but he is who he is, and he never shies away from that.

Why did he become a PCSO?

I think he just wants to help people. You know coming from the church and being like, “Help yourself by helping other people.” If there’s some way he can be at one with the community, this is the perfect job for him to do it. So, it was a no brainer for Kay to become a PCSO.

What attracted you to the role?

The prospect of working with Gbemisola and AK, because I’m such huge fans of them. And, also, the authenticity of it, I was able to play somebody who was like a version of me – you know, Kay’s Nigerian-ness, and being able to play that and be true to that part of him. Also, you don’t really see a buddy cop comedy thriller with two black leads on TV, that was very appealing to me as well – the idea that that was a possibility, that it could happen. I was like, “Yeah, I definitely want to be a part of that” especially on a platform like the BBC. I just thought, you don’t you see that very often and to be in that conversation, or to be a part of that world, I was definitely intrigued by that. I think as a show, even though it’s really funny and dark at times, I think it will get people talking.

Are there any similarities between you and Kay?

I think Kay is very similar to the younger me. In a sense that he chooses to see the good in people and wants everyone to be happy. But I feel like if you cross Kay the first time, then he will give you another chance. With me, you’ve got one chance and then I’m walking!

What’s the dynamic like between him and Dom?

Gbemi gave it a name, a ‘bro-sis-mance’. It’s a very tumultuous sibling relationship. And I think that’s another thing we’ve touched upon in the show, it’s not a romance. You see a duo together and you always have that thing of will-they-won’t-they, whereas in this show it’s definitely, absolutely not!

They’re definitely more like brother and sister.

Yeah, they are like siblings, they bicker, and they don’t get on, but there is love there – a platonic love that can’t be broken, especially on the journey they go through in the show. So, yes, the dynamics between Dom and Kay are very interesting because it’s Dom very much beating him down and Kay is like, “No, but, but, but…” It’s just really cool. And working with Gbemi, that’s definitely something I can tick off the bucket list because I think she’s one of the best out there. Not just an actor, writer, creator, but an all-round creative. To be able to spend time with her and work with her and be on set with her, I learned so much. I hope you can see the chemistry on screen as well, because we had a really good time, and we couldn’t stop laughing.

Kay just wants to be Dom’s friend, but she constantly rejects him, doesn’t she?

100%. He wants them to be a partnership but she’s only working with him because she’s forced to. It’s those two opposing forces. It’s really funny to watch on screen because she’s just trying to palm him off all the time.

At one point she calls him a chocolate teapot, which is unkind, but also untrue. It hurts him to think that someone he cares about thinks of him that way. It does bother him, and it sits with him for a long time because he wants to be helpful, and he wants to make a difference. But when someone he truly admires and cares about says something like that about him, it eats away at him a little bit. It comes out early on in the series and he says, “I’m not a chocolate teapot, I can do stuff” and evidently, he can’t… until he does.

Is he excited to go undercover?

He’s excited to go undercover with Dom and he’s excited about the accolades that he could probably get at the end. I don’t think he really understands what he’s getting himself into. I think as long as he’s working with his best friend and he gets some sort of prize at the end for his work, then he’s in – but I don’t think he really gauges what’s happening.

There’s a conflict between his job and his faith, which he begins to question because of his pastor, doesn’t he?

Yeah, again, it comes back to his naivety, but like I said he’s a very God-fearing man and nothing can shake his faith. But then when he starts to question his pastor, everything starts to flip, and he starts to question things more. Things are not as simple as they used to be, things are more complicated. For Kay things are very much black and white and when you start to add a bit of grey, he starts to get really confused.

What can you tell us about the situation with his pastor?

It starts to rear its head in episode three. He doesn’t feel like he’s been manipulated or used or anything like that. He feels like he’s doing good because there’s a man of God who’s telling him to do these things, and he’s like, “Well, I have to do these things in order to stay a good person.” And, so, when he realises that those things are not necessarily true, I think he starts to see the world in a different way. As the series goes on, he starts to question things that he never used to question before. I think it’s funny, but it also changes Kay, in a way. It makes him a better officer in some ways as before he never questioned anything, and now he asks a couple of questions. So, yeah, episode three is definitely a turning point for Kay.

In the first episode, there’s a funny scene where Kay gets his bum out. Did you have a stunt bum double, or was that you?

So, when I read that in the script, I was like, “I’m doing it. I’m doing that stunt.” And then they were like, “Okay, okay, sure Hammed, we can do that if you want to do it.” And I was like, “Great, I’m in!” And then we actually shot that in Luton Town Centre and there was like a crowd of people. I was ready to do it, I was so on it, and then they turned and said “For health and safety reasons we can’t allow you to do it. So, we’re going to get you a stunt double.”

What health and safety?

I don’t know, but because there is a police car doing donuts in the street at high speed, I completely understood that for health and safety reasons maybe I shouldn’t be in that car. So, I did have a bum stunt double but I want everyone to know I was willing to get my bum out. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again!

Filming seemed a lot of fun, were there any other stand out moments?

All the stuff on the estate was really fun to do, me and Gbemi improvised a lot. But there was one day in particular on the estate, we’re shooting a scene and we had some supporting artists with us, and they’re all great on the show, really cool. But there was one day when we had a couple of supporting artists who were really good at their job – maybe too good. Me and Gbemi were doing a scene and in the background all we heard was [makes groaning noise] and we were like, “What?” We carried on and we just kept hearing these like groaning sounds and I couldn’t help it, I had to turn around. And these supporting artists who were acting as drug addicts were looking like they were coming out of The Walking Dead. And it was just, like, the wildest thing I’ve ever seen. They were really going for it, really like dragging their foot along. I just burst out laughing, I couldn’t hold it in. Hopefully they’ll keep those as bloopers because it was hilarious. But yeah, there were so many great moments, it was good fun. We just didn’t stop laughing.

Who’s the first to corpse?

Me, because the majority of the time I’m trying to get Gbemi to laugh, but she just doesn’t crack. There was a couple of times I got her to a laugh. A couple.

Finally, do you think there could be a second series?

I don’t know, no one’s told me anything. I would love to do another series; I would say yes in a heartbeat.

Akemnji Ndifornyen (Tevin)

Image of Akemnji Ndifornyen as Tevin in Black Ops

How did Black Ops come about?

We made a BBC Three show about five years ago called Famalam, which I co-created and produced – and that was the second time I worked with Gbemi. I’d worked with her on [Dane Baptiste’s show] Sunny D, where I played her cousin in an episode, and I sort of earmarked Gbemi and said, “I’ve got to work with her on something.” So, when Famalam came about, she was the first person that I thought of and I kind of built the show around her. And so, the first week of the Famalam shoot, which was January 2018, I had been doing some bits with Gbemi and watching her on the monitors and I said to the execs, “We need a show for Gbemi. She’s brilliant, we have to get a show for her.” And they were all like, “Yeah, it’s a brilliant idea. Put her in a room and throw some things around and see what happens.” And then she pitched this idea about two community support officers who go undercover, and off we went.

Was it a fast process?

It did take a while to get up and running, just because of availability, everyone was so busy. We were doing further series of Famalam, I was acting in America – I was doing Shrill for Hulu and I was also filming The Queen’s Gambit in Berlin for Netflix, and Gbemi was super busy with other things. And then just before the pandemic, we had time to sit down and kind of put it together. Initially it was just a pilot, but I think the BBC had big ambitions for it because they felt like this will have legs.

How did Hammed come on board?

We were wondering, “Who’s gonna play Kay?” “Do you want to play Kay, AK?” and I was like, “No, I’m going to be producing so I don’t want to be doing too much.” And I remember I was running one day in Victoria Park and I just thought, “Hammed. Hammed’s the guy.” So, I rang him out of the blue and he was just like, “Yeah, sure, send me a script.” And then we had a table read and we went from there. I directed the pilot, and then they asked for five more episodes.

Did you and Gbemi write the whole series together?

Gbemi and I wrote a couple of episodes together, Racheal Ofori wrote episode four, and then Joe Tucker and Lloyd Woolf wrote the other episodes – but Gbemi and I were across everything as creators. We actually wrote episode two before any of the other episodes had been commissioned. We were in lockdown during COVID and I said, “Let’s just write episode two just for the hell of it.” And we did, we knocked that out really quickly, and most of the elements that we’d come up with remain in the final version of it, so it was really fun doing that.

What was the writing process like for you?

It was great. We were kind of still in the throes of COVID, so we had a few writers’ rooms with everyone sitting apart because of COVID protocol. But they were really good, and we had some really good folks come in to help generate ideas. We’d initially done a session just before the pilot was filmed, and then when we were commissioned for a series we went into a few sessions where we just threw ideas around and then we structured the story. Using episode one as a jumping off point, we worked out how we get into Dom and Kay’s adventure. For instance, episode three, came out of me throwing in a conversation about Pastor Tobi from SPAC Nation. And the pastor in episode three is an analogue for Pastor Tobi effectively, and it nicely becomes a moral story for Kay and his journey. So, the writing process was great, and to be fair, we were very ably supported by BBC Studios, who just sort of left us to do what we needed to do. But it was fun, and a lot of good ideas were created.

Episode one gets off to a really strong start.

First episodes are so important, mainly because that’s the one that’s going to be reviewed and the one that is entered for awards and stuff! So, you want to make it bang. I think episode one hits it out of the park. With that, I wanted the audience to be like, “Well, where can we go from here?” I wanted to have a feeling at the end of “Oh shit!”

It also features some great cameos.

In terms of casting, episode one is a veritable feast of a comedy and drama who’s who. You know, we have BAFTA Award winner Joanna Scanlon [as Chief Inspector Garner], Rufus Jones [as Inspector Scholes], Kerry Howard [as Jen], Holli Dempsey [as a senior nurse], and we have KG The Comedian [as a security guard]. It’s a really subtle constellation of stars that we’ve thrown into our show. And these are just people who I called up and said, “Look, are you up for doing a day?” And they were like, “Yeah, cool.” Jason Barnett is a dear friend and I said, “Jase you around for a day, do you want to come play a parking attendant?” He’s like, “Yeah, sure.” So that just sets a real template for what the show is, and throughout the series, there’s similar levels of comedic and dramatic talent that pop in. It is a feast of talent in the show.

Episode two acts as a real turning point for Dom and Kay’s relationship, doesn’t it?

Yes, and actually that to me is a special episode because you kind of assume that Dom and Kay have known each other the whole time but, actually, you realise that they’ve been thrown together and don’t know each other that well. And, so, the fact that they’ve come together under these extreme circumstances makes their journey that more entertaining.

What can you tell us about your character Tevin?

Tevin is one of the leaders of the infamous Brightmarsh Gang, which Dom and Kay initially have been sent to infiltrate by DI Clinton Blair [Ariyon Bakare]. Not to spoil anything but the gang, far from being just regular run-of-the-mill drug pushers, is quite a sophisticated operation.

In what way?

As time goes on, we learn that their drug dealing is sanctioned by a higher power. So, they’re dealing with some degree of impunity on the estate, which makes them that much more sinister – because it’s not just guys operating on their own fiefdom, they’ve been sanctioned by higher ups.

What role does Tevin play in Dom and Kay’s predicament?

Tevin is the guy at the end of episode one who shows up at Dom’s house with a task for her to do and collars her and brings her out to the marshes. He is part of the inciting incident for the real danger of the rest of the story.

How would you describe him?

He’s very organised. He does have a temper, but he’s very calculated. Tevin – and Breeze [Jaz Hutchins] by extension – are thinkers, they’re not doing anything by accident, they make very few mistakes. And they are also not people to be messed with. But they’re not necessarily just 2D cookie cutter villains, Tevin has a family life. We see in episode two he has a young daughter and when you see that you go, “Oh, okay. So, you have a purpose, you have a need.” His criminal activity is not just for chains and a fancy G-Wagon, it’s actually to provide.

Tell us about the location of their drug business.

Their operation is run out of a very innocuous HQ – from a launderette, which I actually really like, that was a little touch I insisted on throwing in. I was like, “We need to give them a cool HQ.” There’s a lot of fact-based stuff because in the pursuit of whatever they’re doing, they have to be sophisticated and clever with making sure that what they’re doing isn’t seen. And, also, it’s hiding in plain sight, because you wouldn’t expect that this place of business also hides an elaborate import-export operation.

Is Tevin suspicious about Dom and Kay?

He is, Tevin’s not a slouch. And that’s highlighted by the fact that in their first few encounters, he’s the one really who is reticent to increase their supply. Breeze is very much like, “Yeah, cool. You’re in now, we’ll give you another package.” Tevin’s the one who’s just like, “Really, like these guys?” He doesn’t trust them. I think that’s what’s probably kept Tevin and the gang at large in business for so long, that “we don’t trust you” mentality. He doesn’t trust Dom and Kay so he keeps them on a very short leash, but it’s like a game of cat and mouse. He’s always coming up and questioning their whereabouts, why they were short with their supply and other things. He’s very suspicious of those two.

Just when you relax and enjoy the comedy of their situation, he pops up as a menacing reminder of the danger they’re in.

Exactly, and I think that’s the brilliance of the show, that balance. At its core you’ve got Dom and Kay as real amazing comic engines, and then you have this kind of layered story where Tevin and Breeze pop up as reminders that there is an overarching threat. The fact that you show up at someone’s house in the middle of the night with a body to dispose of – that was nothing, that’s just par for the course. And it’s also heightened by the fact that Dom and Kay know that they are protected –there’s a great line from DI Clinton: “I’m protected so you’re protected” – but conversely, the Brightmarsh gang are protected too.

Where was the show filmed?

We used a few parts. Some elements were in North London, but a lot of it was done in Bethnal Green and the estate itself was in Thamesmead. East London and Hackney is a strong feature. It’s quite nice because I’m from Hackney, so having Homerton mentioned, Walthamstow Marshes, and things that we grew up in proximity to us, is really, really cool.

What was it like filming on the estate?

The estate that we use for Brightmarsh was pretty cool and 100% welcoming. From a producer perspective, you want to make sure that you go into these places and you’re not just taking from the resource. Our base was a Community Centre, so you want to make sure that you’re ingratiating yourself with people and you’re not being obstructive, especially post COVID, because we’re just getting back to filming normally and without loads of restrictions.

This is a comedy, but it delivers a deeper message too, doesn’t it?

Absolutely. Dom and Kay are community support, and community support was designed as auxiliary of the Met to reach out to local neighbourhoods, and for people to see a familiar face, people that look like them, patrolling the beat, which is really necessary. Dom and Kay being young black faces from the area and going beyond just community support, and actually getting into some really high-level undercover work – you need that, because you need that kind of representation within the police. Whatever our reservations with policing all over the world, you do need people policing the communities that they live in, and I think Dom and Kay represent that.

What do you hope people will take from the show?

I hope they take away that at its core this is a fun, thrilling ride. You’ve got the fun of Dom and Kay’s relationship and their fish out of water hi-jinx, and then you have the thrill element of you don’t know what’s going to happen next. And while you can come into each episode expecting to see Dom and Kay, you’re going to be taken on an adventure because there are quite a few twists and turns.

Was it a fun set?

I talk to Gbemi almost every day but we as characters weren’t interacting as much. But I worked with Jaz Hutchins as Breeze a lot, and he’s an actor I’d never worked with before, and that was a real joy because he just very talented and really funny. Also working with Hammed who, apart from the pilot I hadn’t really worked with him – so just to sort of have those energies on set. It was a good set and a lot of that good nature filters onto the screen. So, a lot of Dom and Kay’s good vibes is a credit to the atmosphere on set.

Is there scope for a second series?

100%! I think the joy of this show is that once you crack the nut of episode one, and you kind of build a rapport with the audience – which Dom and Kay have, and Tevin as well as an overhanging threat by the end of episode six – you kind of can take this wherever. Some of the writers suggested the end of Back to the Future as a reference for that idea of setting up the next adventure, and I think it holds true. You could plop Dom and Kay anywhere and they’d find high jinks to get involved in, and furthermore, they need one another. They are stronger together than in isolation.

Joe Tucker and Lloyd Woolf (Executive Producers)

How did you both get involved in the show?

Joe: Basically, BBC Studios essentially approached us and said, “We’ve got this idea from the people behind Famalam” and our ears pricked up. I think they just gave us a couple of lines, this idea, and it was good. We could sort of see it, and then I think we went to meet Gbemi and AK to chat about it. We’d made a similar-ish show called Witless, in a similar sort of comedy thriller territory. So yeah, we were fans of Famalam, we thought this was a really good idea, so we signed up.

What was the idea in a nutshell?

Lloyd: Originally, Dom and Kay probably weren’t PCSOs, but it was two young, under qualified officers who for whatever reason, they’ve got no choice but to use these guys as the undercover officers.

Joe: They get into this mission and lose their handler. So, the whole setup was there and we were sort of like, “Yeah, I’d watch that. That’s interesting. That’s funny.”

What was it like working with Gbemi and AK?

Joe: It was great. At the start, when we did the pilot, we met them a few times and chatted about what we might do, then we just kind of got on with writing the pilot. And then when we did the series, the difference was that obviously Gbemi and AK wrote an episode, so we got together as a team first to spit ball ideas and we ran with stuff that people suggested.

Lloyd: I think a huge part of the pleasure of working with them was their ideas being so rooted in their experiences and their worldview. It was really great to get together and share and jumble things up. It was a lot of fun.

So, you had a writers’ room?

Joe: We basically did a kind of writers’ room early on where we were just like, “Let’s just say anything we can think of and get it in the mix.” Do you remember, there was lots of quite mad stuff that we didn’t manage to get in?

Lloyd: There was a lot of focus on visiting the Isle of Wight. None of that made it.

Joe: Yeah, at some point we thought it was going to involve the Isle of Wight and then reality hit. But I think Gbemi and AK were always going to write, sort of subject to Gbemi, who was filming A League of Their Own. So, subject to availability, it was always going to be that she was going to write some of it. And I think they’d already started the second episode, they’d done a draft. After the writers’ room, Lloyd and I took it away and were like, “Okay, this is what we think the loose shape of the series would be.” And then it’s just a case of assigning who who’s going to do what episode.

Was it fun to write?

Joe: We wanted it to be fun, right? I mean, obviously, we want it to be funny, but we wanted it to be a fun ride to go on. A lot of the writing of it was fun, but there’s definitely stuff that’s not fun because there’s a thriller aspect that’s like a complex chess game. You’re sort of like, “Oh, if we do that, then you’ve got to do this.” But once you figure out that stuff, we kind of knew that a lot of the humour would be Dom and Kay squabbling. So, it’s almost like once you know how it’s going to work, then you’ve got the kind of pleasure of just writing.

Lloyd: Yeah, we sort of wanted them to feel like a brother and sister – maybe like a 14 year old sister and a 12 year old brother annoying each other. And that’s always fun.

You’ve got a great cast, haven’t you?

Lloyd: In the first place Gbemi and Hammed are just a great pairing. They’re both brilliant individually but put together on set, you felt like you could just wind them up and let them go. They’re so funny together. And beyond that there’s people like Zoë Wanamaker and Alex Macqueen and Alan Ford who to even just briefly meet these people and have a chat is lovely. Also, Felicity Montagu, there’s so many really fantastic comic actors who were involved and it’s just really exciting.

Joe: There’s a lot of nice cameos in it. We didn’t set out for there to be several, but it’s sort of ended up with all these great actors.

What do you hope that viewers get from this?

Lloyd: Like Joe was saying, we want it to be fun. You know, in quite an old-fashioned way we want people to be looking forward to Friday night, so they can find out what happens next. The show is, hopefully, an explicitly Black British centred show. One thing I sort of hope is that a broad audience can watch it and almost forget that, and it just takes its rightful place at the table – it becomes part of the landscape in a way that it should be. As you’ll notice, neither Joe or I are black, and obviously there was a lot of sensitivity and a lot of conscious effort to make sure that we were always following Gbemi and AK’s lead, especially once it gets into cultural stuff. And for BBC One to be saying, “This is one of our main comedy shows for this year”, that’s a great feeling. And hopefully it doesn’t feel like, “And now the token Black show”, hopefully it feels like, “This is brilliant. 2023, this is what we watch and who we are.”

Joe: I think that’s maybe worth saying as well. The original idea we were given was a really great idea, and that kind of tone felt exactly that, a fairly mainstream – in the best sense – kind of show that could sit on BBC One in 2023 on a Friday night.

Finally, is there enough mileage in these characters for a second series?

Lloyd: 100%. I mean, in some of our early conversations with Gbemi and AK they said the ambition for them was to take it into spy territory. That was always clear from the outset, that the drug dealing on an estate could be a jumping off point. AK kept on coming back to this vision he had in his head of them like dancing in a ballroom with little earpieces on, like in Mission Impossible. And we said, “Okay, that’s a long way to go but we absolutely can get there.” So, I think it’s just a case of putting it on a bigger and bigger stage and expanding it as you go on. I think it could absolutely run and run, and I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface. So, if this is a kind of riff on Line of Duty, then the next series could be a riff on Spooks, and you can riff on James Bond.

Joe: We’ll essentially just work our way through the BBC back catalogue.

Josh Cole (Head of Comedy, BBC Studios/Executive Producer)

What attracted you this?

I think it’s just a combination of people that are extremely talented and a smart idea really. It was people we want to work with and people we already were working with and wanted to do something else. So, with Gbemi and AK having come through the Famalam stable and wanting to progress what we’re doing with them and take it into a serialised show rather than a sketch show – so they can stretch themselves, comedically and dramatically. It just all felt very irresistible, talent wise.

Was it an easy process to get it made?

The BBC were always super enthusiastic about the prospect of it, but we just needed to get the script right – and that sounds a lot easier than it actually is. But that’s where the combination of AK, Gbemi, Joe [Tucker] and Lloyd [Woolf] came in, because Joe and Lloyd are experienced script writers, so they brought a sort of more experienced head, I guess, and then combining with AK and Gbemi who then wrote other episodes, it just all worked really, really well.

What makes this show special?

I don’t really think there’s anything else like this. In terms of the tone, I’d say that it occupies that space in between comedy and drama very naturally, which I think is probably more of a tone associated with American film and television than over here in the UK. I think it manages to be both a page turner of a series as well as being very naturally funny. And I think it just feels very fresh. It’s hard to pigeonhole. It doesn’t take itself seriously but it’s also doing something which I like a lot, which is organic representation, where it doesn’t feel contrived in a way that TV shows often do when they try and do that. It’s the sort of thing that there should be more of. And I’m so grateful that the BBC have properly supported brilliant talent. I wouldn’t call them a new talent because they’re not, but this is the first time that they’ve held their own show on BBC One. They’re not quite household names yet and it still requires a lot of belief from the BBC, so I think that needs to be acknowledged.

It’s a comedy but it also tackles more serious issues as well.

There’s a depth to it and there are nods towards more serious themes. It’s unapologetically comedic in parts and there’s poignancy and meaningful themes under there, which I’m really happy is part of the offering. So, I think hopefully there’s something for everyone – as long as you’ve got a sense of humour. And if you haven’t, you could theoretically watch it as a drama.

Gbemi and Hammed have a great on-screen chemistry. Were you impressed by that?

Yeah, I mean I’ve worked with Gbemi and I know she is brilliant, but I think she just kind of went to a whole other level with [her character] Dom, and it’s that combination with Hammed who, again, has got a great reputation, but actually to see him across the canvas of six episodes bring so much to Kay, was a real joy. Their chemistry is very, very good, it’s very natural. I’m excited for people to watch and hopefully fall in love with them.

What do you hope viewers will take from this?

I think just to fall in love with the characters and find it as entertaining as it is designed to be.

Is there scope for a second series?

Definitely. It’s all set up. I think there’s a lot of optimism around season two, but people need to watch it first.

The last episode tees it up nicely for another series.

Yeah, we want to do more, it’s been so fun. I see a lot of projects but they’re rarely as undeniable as this. A lot of projects require a huge amount of heavy lifting, with this you’ve got all these talented elements, it was just putting them in the right order. It was quite unusual in that respect. And Joe and Lloyd have been really, really good as well, that combination has worked incredibly well. And Gbemi, who we’re doing another series with, is such a great writer. I mean, she was so busy. I’d like her on series two, and on this one, to write more. I think that writer-performer element and AK having directed on the series as well, it’s a real showcase for its creators’ varying talents.

How many episodes did Gbemi do?

She’s full writer on one and she’s like additional material on the other five. She’s across the full series and then Racheal Ofori ended up writing episode four and did a great job, so there’s a lot of talent in the mix really.

Interview with Gemma Arterton star of Funny Woman

Greg Davies returns to the scene of the crime

The Cleaner,Early Release,Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (GREG DAVIES);Karl (ASIM CHAUDHRY),Studio Hamburg,Jonathan Browning

Following the so-so Christmas Special, The Cleaner is back for a second series, with a new cast guest stars, including: Zoë Wanamaker (Britannia), Asim Chaudhry (People Just Do Nothing), Harriet Walter (This Is Going to Hurt), Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral), John MacMillan (House of the Dragon), Alex Lawther (The End of the World), Susannah Fielding (This Time With Alan Partridge) Roisin Conaty (After Life and Zita Sattar returning in her role as PS Ruth Edwards.

The Cleaner follows Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead on more of his eventful cleaning jobs. Armed again with his chemicals, scrubbing brushes and cleaning rags, Wicky removes more gruesome remains at the scenes of new crimes, including in a theatre, an electrical goods store, and a stately home. It is here he meets some more unusual characters and gets sucked into their worlds as he can’t help but gossip as he cleans, all the while trying to get down to the pub.

Co-written by Greg Davies along with Paul Allen, Barry Castagnola, Meg Salter and Mike Wozniak. The series is directed by Tom Marshall and Dominic Brigstocke

Greg Davies says: “I’m so thrilled that Wicky is back for another round of clean ups and delighted that he is doing so on BBC One. The cast for this series is brilliant and there are so many distinguished actors that it leads me to believe that the BBC have secrets that they are using as leverage. Me, the writing and production teams are very grateful for this support.”

Ben Caudell, Commissioning Editor for BBC says: “It’s fantastic to see such a compelling line-up of guest stars in this new second series of The Cleaner, each creating a unique comic character to lock horns and spar with Greg as Wicky. Every episode is a terrific TV treat.”

The Cleaner,Early Release,Cuddle (CHARLIE RAWES);Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (GREG DAVIES);Lisa (HARRIET WALTER),Studio Hamburg,Jonathan Browning

Vivien Muller-Rommel, SHUK, says: “We’re delighted that our beloved Wicky is back for a series 2, together with an ensemble of guest stars that we still can’t quite believe said yes to watching Greg scrub blood off the floor. Hold onto your mops, everyone”

The Cleaner series two (6×30′) is produced by SHUK, and was commissioned by Jon Petrie, Director of Comedy for BBC. From SHUK the Executive Producer is Vivien Muller-Rommel and the Producer is Sam Ward. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Ben Caudell.

The Cleaner is based on the multi award winning long-running German comedy series Der Tatortreiniger created by Mizzi Meyer.

Jon & Lucy’s Odd Couples – Interview with Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont

First up are Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev, and Richard Herring and Catie Wilkins who are made to tackle an impossibly dirty bathroom, have a nightmare makeover and discover that Rachel Riley pees in the shower during our alarming lie detector test…

Here, Jon and Lucy tell us about their new show, how they found presenting together and about the oddest couple they know…

Tell us about Jon & Lucy’s Odd Couples and what we can expect from it…
Jon: It’s a panel show for couples. As well as the games in the studio we’ve had a day with each couple at a retreat where we put them through various tasks to test their relationship, in the hope their relationships are even weaker than ours, so we come away feeling better about ourselves.

This isn’t your usual panel show or Mr & Mrs competition, what attracted you to the idea?
Lucy: We like working together and enjoy Meet the Richardsons and we really wanted to make something that people could relate to. Even though we have celebrity couples on the show, it’s universal themes and you don’t even really need to be in a relationship to relate to it. Some of the things we talk about apply to families, it’s all about human interactions. Jon’s done topical panel shows and things and it felt really nice to do something a bit silly and light entertainment. We’re laughing about who wees in the shower and things like that. It was so much fun.

This is your first co-presenting gig. How have you found it?
J: Meet the Richardsons felt like it came naturally from the first episode because it’s so based in reality. This is more of a work job, links to camera are something that has taken a bit longer to get used to. Channel 4 has been amazing because it has given us time from the initial pilot to first episodes with lots of run throughs in-betweens. We’ve had time to get it right. But equally, we’re at our best when those bits down the camera are funny so we don’t want to get too good at them. We don’t want to lose Lucy getting it wrong and me laughing at her, or I suddenly go into slick mode and she takes the piss out of me for thinking I’m Mr Saturday Night.

Which couples will we see on the series and what can we expect from them?
J: We’ve got a really good mix of ages and backgrounds and it’s been genuinely fascinating to see how each couples’ relationship becomes the third guest. We’ve got couples where we know both know people, like Rachel Riley and Pascha Kovalev and we know them as individuals but then the way they interact is like a third element.
L: And we’ve never seen that before. You’ve seen me and Jon but we haven’t seen the other couples together before. Like Duncan James from Blue and his partner, Rodrigo, it’s a fairly new relationship and they don’t even live in the same country. And filming together was one of their date nights.
J: It’s Rodrigo’s first TV appearance.
L: He’s so sweet. Everyone should get a Rodrigo for Christmas.
J: It was amazing to see the interplay between everyone. We know Bobby Mair and Harriet Kemsley from the comedy circuit and seeing them together as a couple, I think they’ve got what we’ve got. Because they’re comics, they’re able to say quite brutal things to one another and laugh about it, whereas, in other relationships something seemingly innocuous can upset the other person.
L: Michael and Hilary Whitehall have been married for 36 years whereas Amanda Abbington and Jonathan Goodwin got engaged they first time they met. So we’ve got such different relationships. Harriet and Bobby’s relationship is all banter whereas Rachel and Pasha are so sweet with each other. It’s fascinating.

You set lots of challenges for the couples, things like stacking a dishwasher or packing a car boot. Are these things that cause disagreements in your household?
J: The idea is to put the couples into situations where they could very quickly have an argument. There’s a misconception with celebrities that everything is glitzy and glamorous, but this show has none of that and it’s celebrities you know having the exact same arguments you’re having at home. So we have packing for a holiday, filling the dishwasher, snoring… These arguments are universal, no matter who you are. We want couples at home to be nudging each other because it’s all so familiar, or single people raising a glass to themselves for being single.

Did anything you put the couples through cause any arguments you were genuinely worried about?
L: We thought we’d started something between Vicky Pattison and her fiancé, Ercan. They had to write a poem to each other and Ercan basically said Vicky’s accent went through him and he couldn’t understand what she was saying half the time. We thought there might be words when they got home.
J: But there’s nothing like an audience’s laughter to defuse an argument because you realise how non-sensical it is anyway. Meet the Richardsons is basically an excuse for us to channel tensions into comedy and you see that in the studio, someone might start saying something thinking they’re going to land a blow but as soon as us and the audience start laughing at them, they realise it’s all nonsense.

Do you have any standout moments from the series? Or a favourite couple?
J: I could watch Bobby and Harriet 24 hours a day. I would watch Big Brother if it was just them locked in their house.
L: I loved them all but Duncan James and Rodrigo are adorable.
J: Duncan is so well known and Rodrigo isn’t but that doesn’t matter, it’s the relationship that comes to the fore. The minute they walk into that first therapy session, even though Rodrigo is shy about the cameras, he knows what he wants to say about the mess Duncan makes when he has a shower.
L: We’ve got Kimberly Wyatt and Max Rodgers later in the series and if you follow them on Instagram they’re the most perfect couple but within 10 minutes of being on the show they’re arguing about how goes out to mend a fence or something while she’s inside with the kids and all the house work.
J: It proves what unique individuals stand-up comics are, too. You forget in civilised society how brutal we are to each other and there are no barriers. We had Sara Pasco and Steen Raskopoulos doing each other’s accents, which is one of my favourite parts of the series. The comic couples are fascinating to watch.

Married at First Sight’s Charlene Douglas is the series’ relationship expert. Do you think you tested the limits of her expertise?
L: Yes, probably. She was so clever at asking things like ‘do you think it’s fair to be asking that?’ and making the couples think.
J: She was also analysing me and Lucy and there are times we’ve got the couples completing a task but what Charlene is actually doing is watching me passively aggressively telling Lucy she’s using the stopwatch wrongly. We’d see Charlene scribbling down notes about us.

Have you learnt anything from filming the series? Either about yourselves or the nature of relationships in general?
L: We’ve learnt that all couples have beef with each other and have ongoing tensions about something. Everyone’s the same.
J: It’s not about whether you have issues or not, it’s about how you deal with the issues. There is no perfect couple. Michael and Hilary Whitehall were absolutely brutal to each other and it’s the lexicon of their marriage now.
L: I’d like to think that people watching who aren’t in a couple will think they’re ok and don’t need to rush into anything.
J: I would punish any handholding or kissing in the studio as well. We don’t want any of that.

Can you tell us a story about the oddest couple you know?
L: We know a couple that met when they were 15 and 16. They’re best friends, they never argue, they don’t spend a lot of money, they don’t go on expensive holidays, they go to the same caravan site every year and have done for 18 years. They always enjoy it, even if it’s raining and they’re just stuck in the caravan together. They enjoy each other’s company and they do everything together. It’s hard to believe they’re real.
J: The oddness by the way is just how happy they are.
L: They’re so happy, it’s amazing.
J: They’re so kind and generous and it’s just weird. We’re waiting the big reveal, aren’t we?
L: We’re waiting for them to snap at each other and it just never happens.
J: Or something bigger than that, like ‘Don’t go in the basement!’
L: They are true love and it’s hard to believe it really exists

Christmas Comedy On The BBC

Motherland: Last Christmas

Kevin (Paul Ready), Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin), Liz (Diane Morgan), Anne (Philippa Dunne), Amanda (Lucy Punch) and Meg (Tanya Moodie) are gathered in a Christmassy kitchen

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

School’s out for the festive season so the mums, and Kevin (Paul Ready), are busy prepping for the ultimate in blended Christmas celebrations.

It’s a full house at Julia’s (Anna Maxwell Martin) with an influx of grandparents demanding endless cups of tea, as they play with a VR headset Paul bought “for the kids”. Julia has invited Kevin along too after learning that his alternative was dining on turkey crisps from the hotel vending machine in the company of the other divorced dads. Kevin excitedly offers to whip up a full-on Persian feast. Liz (Diane Morgan) also turns up when her ex cancels following a massive Christmas Eve bender, letting her down on his first ever offer to host.

Meanwhile, Amanda (Lucy Punch) is spending Christmas Day with Johnny (Terry Mynott), the kids and Johnny’s new wife Tamara (Louise Delamere). Which is fine. Really fine. It’s fine. Amanda’s mother Felicity (Joanna Lumley) has been invited too and jumps at the chance to revel in the awkward atmosphere. The contrast with Christmas at Anne’s (Philippa Dunne) house couldn’t be starker; Anne is hosting her mammy (Maggie McCarthy) and the cousins – all 29 of them – and is beside herself with excitement.

Despite their enduring love-match, Meg’s (Tanya Moodie) husband Bill buys her a present so dire that it has her questioning whether he really knows her at all. She gets stuck into the plentiful supply of booze she’s bought for the day but regrets the drunken results when something really shocking happens over the road at Julia’s.

Motherland is written by Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe, Divorce, Pulling), Holly Walsh (Dead Boss, The Other One), Helen Serafinowicz (Motherland), and Barunka O’Shaughnessy (Timewasters).

The Cleaner Christmas Special

Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies) and Robert (Robbie Curran) stand behind the counter in an ice cream parlour

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

It’s Christmas Day and Wicky is looking forward to winning Weasel’s Christmas raffle: first prize, an actual horse. All that stands in his way is a blood-soaked crime scene in an ice cream parlour, and a regular customer who isn’t going to let a little thing like a murder stop him from getting the perfect peach melba ice-cream.

Ghosts Christmas Special

People: (Left To Right Back Row) The Captain (Ben Willbond), Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas), Thomas Thorne (Mat Baynton), Kitty (Lolly Adefope), Julian (Simon Farnaby), Humphrey (Larry Rickard). Front Row: Pat (Jim Howick), Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), Robin (Larry Rickard)

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

The Ghosts, touched by Alison’s thoughtful generosity, are inspired to give her a special Christmas present in return – but with Alison due back in a matter of hours, can they pull off their ambitious plan in time? Mike’s loaded Tupperware comes in handy when their journey hits a bump in the road, forcing them to reassess their Christmas day plans. And Kitty gets her moment in the spotlight thanks to a much-needed pep talk from a surprising source.

The Ghosts will also get together for a special festive episode of the companion podcast Inside… Ghosts: Christmas Special, featuring Jim Howick (Pat) and Mathew Baynton (Thomas), available on BBC Sounds straight after the Ghosts Christmas special airs on BBC One.

Mrs Browns Boys – Christmas & New Year Specials

Mrs Brown (Brendan O'Carroll) holds a vase and smiles for the camera

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

Episode 1: Shining Mammy

Cathy’s creepy boyfriend is initiated into the family and Agnes gets a festive fright when looking after his spooky twins. Meanwhile Bono rethinks his eco-kick after a lesson from Agnes.

Episode 2: Mammy’s Hair Loom

Buster and Dermot are convinced Cathy’s boyfriend is a vampire and there’s only one way to deal with vampires. Meanwhile, Agnes awaits the valuation of an ‘antique’ vase that’s been in the family for generations

Two Doors Down Christmas Special

Neighbours Colin (Jonathan Watson), Anne Marie (Siobhan Redmond), Eric (Alex Norton), Beth (Arabella Weir), Ian (Jamie Quinn), Gordon (Kieran Hodgson), Christine (Elaine C Smith), Michelle (Joy McAvoy) and Alan (Graeme ‘Grado’ Stevely) gather in a coffee shop

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

As the snow begins to fall, it’s a welcome break at the coffee shop after a spot of Christmas shopping where Christine surprises the neighbours with some uncharacteristic festive generosity.

Blankety Blank Christmas Special

Bradley Walsh stands on the set of Blankety Blank, which has been decorated with Christmas trees

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

Blankety Blank is a Thames (a Fremantle label) production for BBC One and BBC iPlayer. It was commissioned by Kalpna Patel-Knight. The Executive Producer for Thames is Christopher Barbour and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Kalpna Patel-Knight

Bradley Walsh returns with a festive special of the legendary Blankety Blank. A panel of six celebrities will fill in the missing BLANKS to help some very lucky contestants win some amazing prizes.

Joining the panel this week for a fun and festive Christmas special are TV presenters Alison Hammond and Jonathan Ross, comedians Alex Horne and Guz Khan, and actresses Dame Joanna Lumley and Joanna Page.

Would I Lie to You Christmas Special

Gloria Hunniford, Christopher Eccleston, David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Lee Mack, Sophie Willan, Guz Khan

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

Rob Brydon is back in the host’s chair for a festive edition of Would I Lie To You?

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again

Mr Parker (Griff Rhys Jones), Raj (Harish Patel), Flavio (Kevin Bishop), Dad, Mike (David Walliams), Mum, Linda (Sheridan Smith), Ben (Archie Yates), The Queen (Maggie Steed) and Esha (Shobu Kapoor)

BBC One & CBBC & BBC iPlayer

Gangsta Granny Strikes Again!, an adaptation of the hugely popular 2021 children’s book written by David Walliams, comes to CBBC, BBC One and iPlayer this Christmas.

This comedy-drama, the sequel to the 2013 BBC One movie Gangsta Granny, features a stellar cast which includes Walliams himself as Dad, Mike, Sheridan Smith as Mum, Linda, Kevin Bishop as Italian dancer Flavio, Maggie as Queen, Griff Rhys Jones as Mr Parker and young Archie Yates as grandson Ben.

We join Ben a year on as he is getting used to life without his beloved Gran. With the memory of their daring Crown Jewel heist still fresh in his mind, he is stunned to learn another spate of thefts are beginning to occur – with all the clues pointing to The Black Cat, better known to Ben as Granny!

The Weakest Link Christmas Special

BBC One & BBC iPlayer

Romesh Returns with a Christmas Special of The Weakest Link and will be joined by 8 celebrities, each with their own connection to Christmas who will have to work as a team to try to win a maximum prize of £50,000 for their chosen charity.

Each round one player will be voted The Weakest Link by their fellow contestants and will leave with nothing. After a final head to head one celebrity will be crowned The Strongest Link and will take the prize.

Richard Osman’s Festive House of Games

Richard Osman and Santa (Nigel Harvey) on the set of House of Games

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

In these special festive editions, eight famous faces go head-to-head testing their general knowledge skills in a variety of fun trivia-based games in Richard Osman’s Festive House of Games. Across two weeks, the celebrity contestants – Clare Balding, Ivo Graham, Ugo Monye, Su Pollard, Brian Conley, Scarlett Moffatt, Anneka Rice and Phil Wang – will take on a series of quiz rounds selected by the host, quiz legend, Richard Osman. A winner will be declared following a quick-fire round at the end of the show and they will be taking home a prize and the House of Games Festive trophy.

Will the winning star opt for the much coveted Festive House of Games suitcase, or will the fondue set prove irresistible? Fun, witty, and full of surprises, Richard’s cross-examination of the celebs over the course of the week provides an entertaining watch for all the family as the level of competitiveness and camaraderie grows. And of course, this warm, feel-good festive quiz is perfect for playing along with at home.


Sandi Toksvig and Alan Davies pull a Christmas cracker between them

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

Time to Talk Turkey! Sandi and Alan gather round the tree with Gyles Brandreth, Chris McCausland and Aisling Bea to tear into toys, teddy bears, and other festive topics starting with “T” … featuring personal appearances by the President of the Magic Circle AND probably the world’s most popular bear.

Live at the Apollo – Christmas Special

Eshaan Akbar, Rosie Jones and Cally Beaton

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

The BAFTA nominated Live At The Apollo returns to BBC Two for a highly anticipated seventeenth series with seven brand new episodes. In this special festive edition of the award-winning Live At The Apollo, the fabulous Rosie Jones is your host as she introduces Eshaan Akbar and Cally Beaton to the Stage.

Frankie Boyle’s 2022 New World Order

Frankie Boyle

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

Frankie Boyle returns with his New World Order end of year special where, with the help of his guests, he’ll dissect the unsettling year that was 2022. The show features Frankie at his satirical best with stand-up, review and discussion – all in an attempt to make sense of the last 12 months. Frankie Boyle’s New World Order is made by Zeppotron, part of Banijay UK.

Inside No. 9

Pierce (Reece Shearsmith), Posy (Shobna Gulati), Jasper (Steve Pemberton), Dick (Simon Callow)

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith return with a special festive film from their award-winning anthology series Inside No. 9. Joined by guest stars Shobna Gulati and Simon Callow, they serve up a disturbingly spooky Christmas story set in a mysterious church.

The Bones of St. Nicholas

Dr. Jasper Parkway has booked an overnight stay in a reputedly haunted church on Christmas Eve. However, much to his dismay, he is soon joined by unwanted guests Pierce and Posy, who have even brought their own sleeping bags. Together with the eccentric warden Dick, it doesn’t look like Jasper is going to be lonely this Christmas. Even though sherry, biscuits and Yuletide phantoms are on offer, why is Jasper so keen to be left to his own devices?

Inside No. 9 is produced by BBC Studios Comedy Productions for BBC Two and BBC iPlayer. It was written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.


Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones)

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

Detectorists, the multi award winning comedy series about metal detecting enthusiasts Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), returns for a feature length special.

The Danebury Metal Detecting Club is in trouble; developers are sniffing around, and after losing out on a big finder’s fee, the club is going to need a miracle to help save their beloved scout hall. So when Lance manages to secure a permission to search ten acres of prime, undetected land, it looks like things could be on the up. But when a mysterious relic is unearthed, Lance breaks protocol, threatening his friendship with Andy and the future of the DMDC.

Written and directed by Mackenzie Crook.

Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing

Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer sit in a cabin that's been decorated with Christmas lights and a tree. On the table in front of them there's an iced cake with two icing figures fishing.

BBC Two & BBC iPlayer

This Christmas BBC Two has the perfect festive treat for Gone Fishing fans. For the first time in Gone Fishing’s history, the angling duo leave the riverbanks of Britain behind and Paul takes Bob on a dream fishing trip to Norway – the country were Cod is God and a place that truly embodies the traditional spirit of Christmas.

They travel to The Lofoten Islands which are in the arctic circle, 1,000 miles north of Oslo and are made up of majestic mountains, deep fjords, long, surf-swept beaches – the scenery is breath-taking and the historic fishing villages, and the seas around it are teeming with fish.

Neither Paul or Bob have visited Norway before and it’s an angler’s paradise. Paul is like a kid at Christmas, excited at the possibilities of catching species of fish he’s never fished before.

They are on a mission to find a variety of species including: cod (otherwise known as a ‘Norwegian White Gold’ such has been its significance to building the wealth of the nation); halibut, pollock, ling, trout, char and the ultimate prize – an attempt to catch the hard-fighting coalfish, nicknamed cold water cheetahs in the tough waters of the legendary maelstrom.

Along the way Bob surprises Paul with some unique accommodation in the most remote locations they’ve ever experienced – complete with all the trappings you’d expect of a Christmas trip. Bob searches out the most interesting culinary delights from Christmas porridge to traditional Christmas cookies and they meet with locals as well as a very special guest from their past.

Sadly, trusty terrier Ted is unable to join the pair on their festive adventure to Norway but Paul makes sure he is certainly there in spirit …

On this trip they make memories to last a lifetime, both on and off the water and viewers will be left reeling by their adventures.

Bad Education: Reunion

Bad Education Series 4

BBC Three & BBC iPlayer

Bad Education is back! Fast-paced, irreverent, and starring not only an all-new class K, but also former classmates, world class diva Stephen (Layton Williams) and soon-to-be-family-man-with-responsibilities Mitchell (Charlie Wernham) finding themselves at the other side of the desk as newly qualified – or not – teachers.

The Christmas special episode of Bad Education will reunite useless teacher and big kid Alfie Wickers (Jack Whitehall) with his old students one last time as they return to Abbey Grove for a joyfully chaotic careers day.

Amidst the mayhem, Stephen’s quest for musical theatre stardom hasn’t gone quite as planned and Alfie has a decision to make – will he finally leave the school forever to be with Gulliver.

Interview with Sheridan Smith – Rosie Malloy

Can you tell us a little bit about the character
Rosie Molloy?
So I play Rosie Molloy. Her character is one of the funniest
characters I’ve ever played to be honest. Rosie is single, she’s
got a great family, is very much a career girl, she’s just been
promoted at work and she seems to have it all. But, at the
same time, she does not have it all. She’s a very complex
character, because she is suffering the illness of addiction.
She’s got a huge heart though, but she has the illness and gets
addicted to everything.
I think everybody will know a Rosie in real life or have
something in common with Rosie or even be like a Rosie,
so I think viewers will really relate to her. She is very flawed
yet very lovable. The writer, Susan Nickson is just brilliant
and has created the series from her own observations in
her life and these challenging things that have happened
to her. It is uniquely comic but from her authentic voice and
lived experience which makes it so relatable. She is so good
at writing characters who are flawed but have big hearts
and Rosie is definitely that. I think Susan has written her as
a strong female character who perhaps grew up through
the early noughties. Rosie’s lived through those wild times
of laddette culture but is now in the next stage of her life.
Perhaps she has not admitted to herself that she has not
left these wilder times and vices behind. Rosie has become ill
without realising it and because of this, she’s manipulative to
the people around her but not in a devious way.
She is rather a flawed character. There are a lot of funny
situations that come about in the series because of her
personality and addictions but we are never actually laughing
at them or Rosie herself, it is her reactions to the situations
that you find her in that add to the comedy.
Is it just a comedy or does it pull the heart strings?
There are many situations that Rosie gets herself in that are
very funny and some situations that are also heart-breaking.
There was one scene where, my mum played by Pauline Mclynn,
says, “you’re not a child any more Rosie” and Rosie says, “I am
a child” It really gets me emotional because it is the moment
Rosie realises that she has not grown up properly. As a
character, Rosie alludes to the fact that she has been through
a lot in her past and it’s this that has made her an addict.
Susan is so brilliant at writing like that, there’s very funny
situations and suddenly she’ll pull the rug from under your
feet and there’s the most heart-breaking moment. It was
important to me to play those moments because even though
it is a comedy, it is about a serious issue and it’s important for
me that I played the character, laughing at her situations and
not at her addictions.
How would you describe the shows comedic tone?
It’s very funny but there are moments of pathos. And if I’ve
done my job right, then the audience should be willing Rosie
to get better because she’s in total denial for most of the
show. She gets herself in the most ridiculous situations but
underneath all that, you just wanted to get well, you just want
her to beat her addictions. So, there’s an amazing balance
between laugh out loud moments and also moments that will
make you think and perhaps cry.
What was it like working with writer Susan Nickson again?
The writer Susan Nickson and myself worked together on Two
Pints Of Larger and A Packet Of Crisps for 8 years. I think we

did 70 episodes together. We’ve kind of grown up together.
I think I was 18 when I started out on the series, and she was
21. So all these years later, I’m back playing her Rosie. It’s kind of
playing her when she’s older, I guess.
She’s an amazing writer and I think she is a real trailblazer for
female writers and women in general. You know, the whole
team at the production company Hartswood films, it’s all run
by women, so it was a very empowering environment to be in
on set. I think, to tackle a subject like this, which is so serious,
and to find the fun in it, is very brave and it is these women
that took the chance to do it. So yeah, I’m in awe of them.

Susan writes so honestly, tackling a difficult subject from the
heart, but she can make it relatable and understands how to
find the humour in it.

What will people take away from the series?
I hope people have more empathy for addiction after they
watch this series. Like I say, there’s lots of funny situations,
but really at the heart of it all is this real situation that Rosie
is in and for anyone out there who suffers from any kind of
addiction, I just really hope that people take something away
from it and they can relate to Rosie.
I remember, Susan texted me, she had just seen the first cut of
the series, and she was like, “oh, it’s such a happy little world of
doom”, and that kind of sums it up. It is tragic, but it is hilarious.
Out of the tragedy comes these funny comic events that Rosie
gets herself into.
So what funny things happened on set?
There were so many funny things that happened. There is one
scene where Rosie is meant to finish a bottle of wine at the
end of the scene and deliver a line after she drinks. It was only
meant to be a small amount of pretend wine in the bottle but
on this particular take the bottle had been set incorrectly.
They had set it as a full bottle of wine.
The scene started and I think the production team thought
I was going to say “Cut I can’t drink all that”. Anyway, I didn’t.
They all had to wait for ages as I decked this whole bottle of
pretend wine in one take. When I finished, I had to deliver the
line “I’m good thanks!” all bloated like a balloon. Well, I could
hardly breathe after downing it all. Afterwards, the whole
crew gave me this big round of applause but I felt so sick
afterwards. I didn’t even eat my lunch.
Then there was the time I had to play a troglodyte. Rosie has
this out of body experience in the show. She’s walking into
a hospital, and she thinks she looks really bad, like a little
troglodyte with crazy hair. Once I had the costume on and
makeup done, I looked ridiculous. Probably the most ridiculous
I’ve ever looked in any job ever. We had to keep reshooting
and reshooting as no one could keep a straight face. I looked
ridiculous. It was just fun. It was just a lovely set, a lovely crew
and it was just a great atmosphere.
Who will enjoy the series?
I’m hoping this series will appeal to everyone really right across
the board. Any age group, but especially the younger folk.
I think they’ll relate to the character, or they might know people
like Rosie or know a strong female who’s perhaps flawed like
she is. It is special because, even though it’s a comedy, I think
it’s really important that it was written by Susan Nickson.
She has been there; she’s been through addiction so, I think
it is important for people to watch it and understand where
it is coming from. I am just hoping its comedy and heart will
appeal to all.
There is nothing else like it. I’ve got to say, and that’s why it
appealed to me. I’ve never seen a comedy like this, about this
subject, and it’s a complex subject, so it was really important
for me to get Rosie right and to get the tone, right.
So hopefully you will see the light, warmth, fun and shade
come through.
It’s a great cast. How was it like working with them all?
The cast and crew were phenomenal to work with on this job.
All of them understood the importance of the subject matter,
and everyone was like a little family. I was in every single scene,
so I got to see everyone all the time. I particularly loved working
with Pauline, who plays my mum. This is because she played
my mum when I was 17 in my first ever TV job. We were reunited
which was lovely. Ardal plays my dad and watching the two of
them working together was brilliant. Apparently, they hadn’t
worked together since they did Father Ted. Every cast and crew
member worked so hard. It was a real dream team. Our director
was David. He is the funniest man because he’s a trained
clown! If you couldn’t find him on the set, he’d be like, hanging
from something or juggling with oranges. He was like a little kid.
Plus, he’s the voice of Pingu! I was star struck. I think he gets it
right with the comedy. You can obviously go too far with these
things especially when the series is quite heightened. I think
he never let it go too far and got the balance right.
What was it like working with writer Susan Nickson again?
The writer Susan Nickson and myself worked together on Two
Pints Of Larger and A Packet Of Crisps for 8 years. I think we
did 70 episodes together. We’ve kind of grown up together.

Interview with
Surrane Jones

What was it about Christmas Carole that made you
want to be a part of it?
I’d just finished Gentleman Jack and I felt like I wanted
to do something fun, so I asked my agent to look out
for a Christmas film or something like that. So, she
put the feelers out and the team at Sky sent me the
idea for Christmas Carole. It was exactly what I was
looking for and I had the opportunity to work with
them and be Executive Producer. I took six months off
after Gentleman Jack to be with my family, which we
all needed – and then we set to work and filmed it in
the Summer!
Why were you so keen to do a Christmas film?
Well I love Christmas. I will literally watch any
Christmas film, whether it’s a high end blockbuster, an
old classic, animated, low budget – anything. I’ve never
done a Christmas film and I’d always wanted to tick
that off as an actor, so it was a bit of a no brainer.
Also, none of the roles I’ve done really, even Dr. Who,
because it can be quite scary, are appropriate for my
six-year-old. So he’s at a great age for this and
I wanted to make something for him. He knew when
I went away filming that I was kind of doing it for him
to be able to see. Something for the entire family.
So that was nice.
It must be nice to be able to show him what you do
for work?
Yeah! I do show him little bits of things so with
Gentleman Jack, I say, “Oh, this is mummy and
mummy’s wife.”, and then I’ll show him a bit of Vigil and
say, “Mummy’s being lowered onto a submarine.” But
to have a whole show that he can actually sit down
and watch with me and his dad and the dogs… it’s
going to be fun.
There have been so many adaptations of
A Christmas Carol, how would you say this one
is different?
I think by modernising the story it’s really taken a fun
and unexpected twist on how you think about A
Christmas Carol. It has a modern female Scrooge
which feels fresh and different to the original story.
My character Carole has made her wealth online
selling disposable single-use Christmas decorations.
She thinks she runs the world, does not care that she
is making a profit from tatt and is mean to her staff.
There is always so much waste at Christmas so it’s an
important message to get across about
sustainability. The story has a core message of family,
like the original, but the themes are contemporary.
Family relationship themes are something everyone
can relate to, especially at Christmas. There is also the
twist of the comedians as the three spirits of
Christmas. Comedians that we all love from the past,
the comedian that we best know now from the
present, Jo Brand, and then a comedian that some
people will be introduced to in Nish.
Do you have a favourite version?
Yeah, I love The Muppets Christmas Carol! It’s brilliant
and I think, as a reference, that’s the one we kept
going back to because of the use of the puppets
opposite Michael Caine. That is just so great and the
way that he plays it so straight. I love it. And then
there are more fun ones that I remember growing up
like Scrooged with Bill Murray, just very funny and I’ve
seen it in the theatre a couple of times. I saw Rhys
Ifans do it at The Old Vic with my husband a few years ago and I thought that was a beautiful experience, he was so good in it. I just think there are so many ways of doing it and there are so many versions and it’s a redemption story. We all know it and the villain at the beginning comes good and is taught valuable lessons, so I think it’s something that we all know and we all want out of life, don’t we? We all want people to learn their lesson and come good and be given a chance to redeem themselves. And like I said, it’s important in this current climate that we learn these lessons to just be kinder to each other.
How would you describe Carole when we first meet her in the story?
She’s taken her eye off anything that’s meaningful. It’s
the greed part that we see at the beginning, the lack
of emotion, the lack of family and the lack of any
meaningful connection. She’s basically, because of her
past, become a driven, successful business woman
who wants to sell, sell, sell and doesn’t care about
anything else.
What we all tend to do at Christmas is spend a lot of
money on unnecessary things and actually, it’s right
there in front of us. Everyone’s probably got a load of
stuff that you can make things out of, that are just as
good as buying the decorations Carole sells.
I think the conversation around sustainability is really
important. What’s happening to the Earth and the
impact of climate change is absolute chaos. Carole
definitely needs to learn some lessons around that.
She’s, for the most part, estranged from her family.
She only speaks to her brother when she has to but
she doesn’t speak to her dad at all. That’s a theme
everybody can recognise when families get together
at Christmas, it can be really difficult at times so it’s
immediately intriguing. When they do get together,
her family just can’t relate to this woman who’s mad
on power, money hungry and doesn’t want to speak to
them. And she’s mean. She really is the true spirit of
Scrooge. She’s a mean old bag!
You’ve got three very unusual ghosts in your tale,
haven’t you?
Yeah, I think it’s fantastic and such a nice twist. So I
had already seen Jonty and Ian, (who play the ghosts
of Christmas past) in their stage show in 2016. I took
my husband to see them because he’s a huge fan of
Morecambe and Wise. We actually played Bring Me
Sunshine at our wedding, so that was almost like a
sign as I’m a genuine fan of theirs.
I, like most people, have been a fan of Jo Brand for
years. I think you feel like you know Jo because hercareer has had such longevity. She’s the original
subverter of the norm – she’s anarchic and a trouble
maker in the best way. We reference Extra Slice
because Bake Off is such a warm show and as Jo’s
associated with that, it makes her perfect for the role
as Ghost of Christmas present. She’s a national
treasure but Carole isn’t that impressed that it’s her
and Jo isn’t that impressed that she has to be a spirit,
so that was a really fun scene. And Nish… I don’t think we’ve ever seen a ghost in a hoodie before and it’s great because Carole doesn’t really know who Nish is, him being the Ghost of Christmas yet to Come, so he has to explain it to her. I think everyone brings a
different audience. People don’t really know me for
doing this kind of stuff and as soon as people see
Jonty and Ian they’re going to think that Morecambe
and Wise have joined us again, because they’re so
good. And then Jo and Nish will bring their own
audience to it too. Of course, just the fact that it’s A
Christmas Carol will bring its own audience. I love this film. There’s something really warm about it… and odd.
If you were to be visited by three ghosts, past or
present, who would you want to meet?
Oh my God. Well, my parents would be there, obviously as Christmas past… they could tell me how I’m doing.
That would be quite nice and so comforting. I’m going
to have Santa as Christmas present, obviously, just
because I do really love Christmas! For Christmas
future I’d like Adele and Mariah Carey, can I have two?
I’d just love them to come and sing me some
Christmas songs and we’d have a right laugh together!
I do want to point out that both of them are very, very
established and not new to the scene at all – because
if Adele reads this I don’t want her to be like, “What?
Fucking Hell?!”
How did you find filming on green screen?
I don’t mind it because I just think my brain is hard
wired toward imaginative play – it always has been but since I’ve had my son it’s gone into overdrive.
My husband’s the same, so I’m happy to pretend
anything’s there. What’s wonderful about it is, you
get a huge surprise when you see the finished article.
It’s like a gift at the end of filming when you go to the
premiere or a screening and find out it all looks
amazing. It’s an added bonus when you see it all
put together.
Recreating the Angela Rippon/Morecambe and
Wise dance scene must have been fun?
It was brilliant and I’m so glad we made it work for our show, we couldn’t do an outright copy because they just did it so brilliantly, but our version is definitely something a certain generation will recognise. The costume was beautiful and the way that we told our story through them doing the dance, it was very clever. Jonty, Ian and I rehearsed it before we started filming so we’d already really got to know each other, which was really nice. My hubby Laurence and my agent Christina came to watch when we filmed it and I think everyone was quite excited for it to work. It’s such an iconic piece of television, it was a privilege to do.
You’ll have Strictly bosses calling you once they
see it!
Well, it was one of the guys who does Strictly that
choreographed our little piece, Bill Deamer, he was so
lovely and we had a right laugh putting it together. I
do love dancing and I do love singing, but I would only want to do it in a stage show. I love watching Strictly though. I don’t think I could handle the pressure; the professionals are just so amazing and that’s what makes it so wonderful to watch and again, it brings everyone together.
What does Christmas look like in your house?
We usually have three Christmases. So we have one in
the north with my family in and around Manchester,
then we’ll go to Kent to see my husband’s family and
then we’ll do our own thing so that my boy can open
his presents and he can play with them because at
six, that’s what you want to do. You don’t want to be
dragged around everywhere. We all just live so far
apart sadly. But we always do a Christmas dinner at
each place, so we get three Christmases, and more
importantly, three Christmas dinners.
Do you have any Christmas traditions?
We do matching pyjamas, which my husband used to
hate but I think he loves it more than me now. Our
Christmas tree has baubles from all over the world,
wherever we go, we try and see if there’s a Christmas
“Everyone was quite excited for it to work. It’s such an iconic piece of television, it
was a privilege to do.” decoration that we can pick up. Our tree has got a New York taxi, it’s got these beautiful baubles that I picked up in Africa, Mickey, Minnie and Donald and it’s got Mexican chilies. So it’s pretty eclectic! Obviously we leave out brandy for Santa, plus milk and carrots for Rudolph. We are still in that phase where it’s very much for our son but to be honest – I think we did this before he came along.
Have you ever had a Scrooge in your life?
Maybe, but I probably haven’t noticed. I genuinely feel Christmas is about family so I’m usually too busy
being festive to worry about people who don’t
embrace that. For me it’s about seeing people, it’s
about the visits that you can do, getting together,
spending time with loved ones – because we all live in
such a busy world. I’m really grateful of the holidays
because you have to stop and take stock and I really
appreciate that, especially now my parents aren’t
around. I know it’s sometimes difficult for families
to get together, because of location or cost, or the
fact that they may not have any family left, so I never
take being able to get together with my loved ones
for granted.
When it comes to Christmas TV, what do you look
forward to?
It tends to revolve around our son at the moment so
the Julia Donaldson cartoons that they do every year
are always a hit in our house and Elf is always a goer.
We’ve done Home Alone with him and that was a big
success. I think when you have a little one in your
house, it gives you a reason to experience it all again
through the eyes of a child. You have to get on board
because that won’t last forever.
In terms of Christmas presents, is there anything on your list this year?
I do love a present but honestly the best thing is just
playing with my son on Christmas day and us all
talking our Dachshunds for a Christmas walk and that
kind of stuff. There’s just something really special
about it. My memory of my Christmas’ past are like
that too. I don’t remember the presents so much,
more the time spent with my parents and the things
we did. It’s those small moments of connection that
are truly priceless.
What’s the best and worst present you’ve ever had?
I love pyjamas. It’s one of my favourite things. I have
pyjamas for every single occasion. I have posh
pyjamas, Christmas pyjamas, comfy pyjamas, pyjamas
for the summer. So if you want to please me, pyjamas
is the way to go. My husband’s always telling me I
don’t need another pair but you can never have
enough pyjamas, so they’re a definite thumbs up for
me. Worst… I don’t want to upset anyone, but there’ve been quite a few. They go straight in the re-gift or
charity pile. When people give me booze, I’m always
slightly disappointed as I don’t really drink – except for a small Baileys now and then.
If you were going to buy a present for someone in the cast, who would you pick and what would you buy them?
I’d like to pick out a really good headband for Jo
because she really suits them and it’s almost like
that’s her thing, along with her glasses. So I’d get her
a really funky headband.

BBC’s 2022 Christmas line up on TV Channels and BBC iPlayer 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas as the BBC brings viewers a December to remember with plenty of programmes and box sets to delight and entertain everyone across the UK this yuletide.

The BBC’s fantastic festive line up will be available live and on-demand on BBC iPlayer and across our channels as both favourites and new offerings from the worlds of drama, comedy, entertainment and factual programmes sit alongside the very best in arts, music and religious programming. Viewers will be enthralled and captivated by a line-up like no other whenever and wherever they want to watch.

Charlotte Moore, BBC’s Chief Content Officer says: “Nothing brings people across the UK together like Christmas on the BBC and this year we’ve got a world-class line-up like no other. Get ready to escape and be entertained with an incredible range of new festive shows across every genre, live or on demand, there’s something for everyone.”

There is a story of kindness, friendship, courage and hope for viewers of all ages in a heart-warming, film based on Charlie Mackesy’s best-selling book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, and there are more animated adventures with this year’s Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler intergalactic adaptation, The Smeds and The Smoos.

Scenes from The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and The Smeds and The Smoos

Get ready to escape into other worlds over the season with a selection of gripping new dramas. We head to a small Scottish town in the life-affirming Mayflies starring Martin Compston, Tony Curran and Ashley Jensen. Sally Wainwright’s multi-BAFTA award winning hit Happy Valley returns to the BBC for its much-anticipated third and final series.

Scenes from the BBC's Christmas dramas clockwise from top left: Mayflies, Call The Midwife, Happy Valley, Death in Paradise, His Dark Materials and Strike

The Call The Midwife Christmas Special sees a talent show and a fresh start for the midwives and over on the Island of Saint Marie, Commissioner Patterson (Don Warrington) is left haunted by memories of the past in a festive, feature-length episode of Death In Paradise. The residents of Walford get set to celebrate Christmas in EastEnders; while new drama boxsets to binge over the festive season include the final chapter of the epic trilogy His Dark Materials, and Strike: Troubled Blood, which sees Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) visit family in Cornwall when he’s called on to solve a mysterious cold case.

Amongst a raft of entertainment specials, Michael McIntyre will be spinning his enormous yuletide wheel when he is joined by Gino D’Acampo, Alesha Dixon and Bear Grylls all attempting to win money for their favourite charities plus Bradley Walsh returns with a festive special of the legendary Blankety Blank, Romesh Ranganathan’s The Weakest Link and Mo Gilligan debuts TV’s newest and biggest music game show, That’s My Jam.

Strictly Come Dancing returns to the Ballroom for a fab-u-lous all-star Christmas special, plus there is a stocking stuffed with other entertainment highlights including festive episodes of The Hit List, Question of Sport, Pointless, University Challenge, Would I Lie To You and QI plus Richard Osman will open the doors to brand new episodes of his Festive House of Games and The Graham Norton Show will return for its traditional New Year’s Eve edition.

For the first time ever, the Men’s FIFA World Cup Final will be broadcast live on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 18 December – which team will bring it ho ho home?

BBC Christmas comedies Detectorists, Ghosts, Mrs Brown's Boys, The Cleaner, Motherland, Two Doors Down, Inside No. 9, Frankie Boyle's New World Order and Live at The Apollo

Comedy fans will have plenty to look forward to with loads of specials coming up. School’s out for the festive season in Motherland and Bad Education is back with not only an all-new class K, but also former classmates too. Elsewhere, Wicky heads to a blood-soaked crime scene in an ice cream parlour in The Cleaner and over in Button House the Ghosts are touched by Alison’s thoughtful generosity and are inspired to give her a special Christmas present in return.

For fans of Mrs Brown’s Boys there are two visits to Finglas this festive season and as the snow begins to fall, it’s a welcome break at the coffee shop after a spot of Christmas shopping in Two Doors Down. Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith present a special festive film from their award-winning anthology series Inside No. 9 and Detectorists, the multi award winning comedy series about metal detecting enthusiasts Andy (Mackenzie Crook) and Lance (Toby Jones), returns for a feature length special plus there will be even more laughs to come in Live at The Apollo and Frankie Boyle’s 2022 New World Order.

For the first time in Gone Fishing’s history, the angling duo leave the riverbanks of Britain behind and Paul takes Bob on a dream fishing trip to Norway – the country were Cod is God and a place that truly embodies the traditional spirit of Christmas and Dame Mary Berry will be joined by Angela Hartnett, Monica Galetti and Rylan Clark shares her ultimate Christmas feast, packed with tips to plan and get ahead for the big day whilst Sara Pascoe invites celebrities for a festive Sewing Bee Special.

It’s holiday season at The Repair Shop, where the dedicated team of craftspeople are ready to lovingly restore some treasured Christmas keepsakes; and Antiques Roadshow hosts a Special Episode about toys and games and how they have shaped our childhoods.

Natural history lovers will be transported to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, as we meet a group of Barbary macaque monkeys in Dynasties II (Macaque) before Gordon Buchanan gets close to seven incredible huskies on a treacherous dogsled adventure through Canada’s spectacular Yukon wilderness in Snow Dogs in the Wild and there will be a special edition of Frozen Planet II.

In music, Top Of The Pops returns for a Christmas special hosted by Radio 1’s Clara Amfo and Jack Saunders and in Cliff at Christmas Sir Cliff Richard chats to Sara Cox about his incredible 64 year career and also performs some of his Christmas classics, new songs and best loved hits. On New Year’s Eve Jools Holland will host his annual Hootanany whilst Eurovision and break through music artist of 2022, Sam Ryder, is joined by some of music’s biggest stars to put on a spectacular New Year’s Eve party.

In My Life at Christmas, actress and comedian Sally Phillips meets three well-known faces to explore how their memories of Christmas reflect the enormous changes they have gone through in their lives, careers, family and faith and there will be three special episodes of inspiring hymns in Songs of Praise, together with uplifting stories of faith from around the UK and beyond.

Winding down Christmas Day to a gentle close, Oti Mabuse reads the story of the first Christmas from the Gospel according to St Luke in On Christmas Night and Carols From King’s will feature the world-renowned choir, directed by Daniel Hyde, singing carols old and new.

Bringing some foodie fun to the festive season, MasterChef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace are back once again for two specials, inviting eight of the most memorable celebrities from past series back into the infamous MasterChef kitchen and a sensational year of sport will be celebrated as BBC Sports Personality of the Year comes live from MediaCity UK in Salford.

Count Magnus is the latest ghost story for Christmas from Mark Gatiss coming to the BBC and Gatiss also stars as Jacob Marley in a stage production of A Christmas Carol in his own retelling of Dickens’ classic winter ghost story.

There will be a new adaptation of Coppélia which combines enchanting animation and live action dance in a modern take on the much-loved ballet and Choreographer and director Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker offers a distinctive contemporary take on the classic Christmas tale plus one of the world’s leading forensic investigators, Professor Dame Sue Black, will deliver this year’s Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution.

A host of children’s favourites including Ben Cajee, Jennie Dale, Andy Day and Justin Fletcher will star in CBeebies latest reimagining of a the classic pantomime Dick Whittington and Gangsta Granny will strikes again alongside loads more Christmas Crackers for the young ones to enjoy including a Malory Towers Christmas Special, Dodger Christmas Special and Mr Tumble himself Justin Fletcher and friends are back with a Christmas episode of Something Special.

And if all that weren’t enough, there will be hundreds of box sets and classic Christmas specials to stream on BBC iPlayer from much-loved shows like Gavin and Stacey, Ghosts, Miranda, Citizen Khan, Call the Midwife and Not Going Out.

Eight finalists for new comedy talent scheme

Sky Studios and Birmingham Rep announce eight finalists for new comedy talent scheme: Sky Comedy Rep

  • The partnership, now in its second year, aims to discover and develop new comedy writing talent from across the UK.
  • Over 400 aspiring writers applied.Eight of these now begin a six-month paid programme to produce a one-act comedy play.
  • Some of the UK’s best comedy writing talent including Sanjeev Bhaskar, Liam Williams, Morwenna Banks, Laurence Rickard, Nathan Foads, Danielle Ward, Daniel Lawrence Taylor and Paul Doolan set to mentor new writers over six months.
  • Tickets are on sale from today for the live premier of all eight plays which takes place at The Rep in May 2023.

Sky Comedy Rep, the new talent partnership between Sky Studios and Birmingham Rep, today announced the eight new comedy writers who are about to embark on a six-month paid training programme to develop a new piece of work, mentored by some of the UK’s best comedy writing talent.

Following the success of the inaugural Sky Comedy Rep scheme in 2021/22, over 400 applicants pitched for the final eight available places in 2022/23. This year’s brief was to submit a sample of a one-act play set around the simple premise of Proposal in the Park. After scrutiny by the selection team from Sky Studios and The Rep a group of new writers hailing from across the UK – Salford, Stoke-on-Trent, Durham, Manchester and Birmingham – made the final cut.They will now further develop their plays with guidance from this year’s mentors who are today announced as Sanjeev Bhaskar, Liam Williams, Morwenna Banks, Laurence Rickard, Nathan Foads, Danielle Ward, Daniel Lawrence Taylor and Paul Doolan.

In addition to providing training, mentoring and a professional showcase, Sky Comedy Rep is already providing new British comedy writing talent with a springboard into the industry.As a result of the work developed and performed at The Rep earlier this year, a number of 2021/22’s cohort of writers have gone on to develop projects for Sky Studios and a range of other producers and broadcasters.

More detail about the process and an introduction to the writers can be found below in Notes to Editors.

The writers will meet in Birmingham next month at a workshop led by Iqbal Khan – Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony Director, Tartuffe (RSC and Birmingham Rep), and East is East (Birmingham Rep) – and Madeleine Kludje, Rep Associate Director and Talent Development lead (Grimeboy, Birmingham Rep).

The overall scheme was established and is led by The Rep’s Artistic Director, Olivier Award-winning Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote) and Sky Studios Creative Director of Comedy, BAFTA Award-winning Anil Gupta (Goodness Gracious Me, The Office).

Anil Gupta said: “Last year’s success and the brilliant work we were witness to at the showcase made it clear that the Sky Comedy Rep is here to stay. At Sky Studios and The Rep we have forged a pipeline which is already channelling excellent comedy talent into this industry. Our new crop of writers hail from all over the UK and have already demonstrated exceptional creative, comedic talent. Sky Studios is proud to work with them as they start out on their careers, and we look forward to a future of discovering and unlocking still more talent for everyone to appreciate and enjoy – live and on TV.”

Sean Foley added: “I am incredibly excited to help these eight brilliant comedy writers take their first steps in this amazing industry.Developing and nurturing new talent is central to what we do at The Rep.Last year we saw and heard the work of a brilliantly talented and diverse group of creatives who reflected all manner of backgrounds from around the UK, with an especial focus on those under-represented in our industry.The extraordinary response to their work meant that there was no hesitation from our side in making Sky Comedy Rep a regular and dynamic event in our calendar. I can’t wait to see where this year’s writers will take us and themselves!”

The writers’ programme culminates in a live staging with Sky Comedy Rep presents Parklife: A Festival of New Comedy Writing in May 2023 and will feature up and coming actors and emerging directors meaning that this really is new work and raw creativity in its purest form.Tickets are available now here

This year’s mentors are:

Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, is the award-winning writer and actor behind Goodness Gracious Me, and ‘The Kumars at No 42’

Liam Williams, a stand up, writer and actor, Liam is the creator of Ladhood, Pls Like, as well as being one third of acclaimed sketch troupe Sheeps

Morwenna Banks, award-winning actor, writer and producer Morwenna is currently writing Sky’s Funny Woman (out early 2023), alongside Damned, and Slow Horses.

Laurence Rickard, writer and star of the historical sketch show Horrible Histories, Laurence has gone onto be the co-creator and writer behind Yonderland and Ghosts.

Nathan Foad, writer, comedian and actor originally from Newark-on-Trent, Nathan has written on The Young Offenders, and is the creator of Newark, Newark.

Danielle Ward, writing credits include Brassic, Mongrels, Not Going Out, and Idris Elba’s In the Long Run.

Daniel Lawrence Taylor, creator, writer and star of Timewasters, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA for best scripted comedy, and won the 2018 Royal Television Society award for Best Breakthrough

Paul Doolan, the writer & co-creator behind Trollied, as well as writing for Bloods, Cuckoo, and Top Coppers.

This year’s writers are:

Tom Critch

Tom describes himself as a cack-handed Salfordian scribe with ideas way above his station, and wholly unreliable ankles. He is winner of the David Nobbs Memorial Trust competition and winner of Best Comedy at the Portobello Film Festival. Comedy has always been in his blood, which shows you how lackadaisical the NHS can be sometimes.

Doug Crossley

Doug is a writer and performer, originally from Stoke on Trent. Past recognition includes being a finalist for the Mercury Weinberger playwriting prize, and winning a place on the BAFTA Rocliffe Forum List for his original sitcom, Fairies. He can often be found performing improv comedy on a house team at The Free Association in London.

Alice Etches

Alice Etches is a writer, actor and comedy performer. She has written for several series across TV and Radio, and was a finalist in the David Nobbs Competition 2018, Funny Women writing awards 2019,and BCG’s Yellow Door competition 2020.

Alice is currently working on a number of short films, and sitcom scripts. Her character skits and sketches can be found on Instagram @aliceetches

Aoife Kennan

Aoife is an actor and writer. She grew up in Durham, but identifies as Irish and has the passport to prove it. She was recently on the Royal Court Writers Programme and has developed work through Masterclass Script Sessions. Her new play, SCRATCHES (a funny show about self-harm) was showcased at new writing nights at the Jermyn Street Theatre and will show at VAULT Festival in 2023.

Mahad Ali

Mahad was part of BBC Studios Writers Academy 2021, where he worked on continuing drama series Eastenders, Holby City and Casualty. Also a part of the inaugural Tamasha Theatre Playwriting group, Mahad performed at Stratford Theatre Royal Stratford East, Rich Mix, Park and Soho Theatre’s with Tamasha and Paines Plough.

Currently Mahad’s is passionate about developing TV comedy/drama ideas which share the fun, joy and pain of the Black British African experience.

Georgie Morrell

Georgie Morrell is a comedian, writer, voiceover artist and award-nominated actress, who hasperformed at various fringe festivals across the country including Great Yorkshire, Guildford and Leicester, along with three solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Georgie has written for the Metro and The Huffington Post. She has also featured in Time Out magazine and is an ambassador for the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC).

Hattie Soykan

Hattie Soykan is a queer comedy writer who grew up with four cats, two rabbits, and a whole lot of existential dread in a tight-knit Muslim community in Manchester. She began her career at BuzzFeed where she wrote funny articles about pop culture and social commentary and has dabbled in writing sketch comedy at Soho Theatre. These days Hattie lives in London, with just one cat and a healthy sprinkle of leftover existential dread, where she writes stories centred around culture, sexuality, and identity.

Asia Wray

Asia is a writer and poet hailing from Birmingham. Her work has featured on billboard campaigns for SPK ABOUT IT (I Want to Run at Night) and Open Media (International Women’s Day). Her career ambition is to tell powerful stories that is reflective of the world around her. She describes this experience as a ‘full circle moment’, having left the city ten years ago.

Interview with Martin Clunes

Clunes plays Dr Martin Ellingham in Doc Martin of which the final series has gone out on a high in the ratings with viewers asking for more.

It is lovely so many people tuned in and enjoyed this last series.

The audience figures are very gratifying. If you were looking for another commission you’d punch the air, but even though we are not looking for another commission, we can still punch the air because it is nice to go out on a high.

When I went to have my flu jab at my local medical centre the day after the final episode went out one of the doctors said to me ‘that was a fantastic episode last night’. That was really nice from a doctor, and the nurse who’d given my me jab said ‘shut up I haven’t watched it yet’. That was gratifying.We hope all those loyal viewers will enjoy the Christmas special.

What was it like on set when you filmed the final scenes of the series?

It was absolutely lovely. It was a hot summer’s day and we were filming a scene from episode seven with Jessica Ransom, Joe Absolom, Vincent Franklin and Beth Goddard. The sea looked like it was the Mediterranean, and just out of vision on the left was beach full of people doing what people do in Cornwall, families loving the beach and the ocean and dogs swimming around. It felt like it was the right way to say goodbye to Cornwall.

It was emotional but I didn’t see anyone crying. It was more elation to have got to the end of nearly six months of filming.

The scene where you threw the For Sale notice for the Doc’s house over the cliff echoed a scene from the very first episode. Were there moments from the final series which tied up loose ends from previous series?

It was an echo to a scene at the end of the first episode in series one. In our mind the big revelation was when the Doc, who’s always hated dogs, let the dog, Chicken (played by Taffy) into the house in the final scene of the final series, having always shoved him out the door from the word go.

What is your favourite memory of the whole ten series?

It was all jam. May be just that memory of being on the beach when it was lovely and sunny and Cornish. I couldn’t single out one memory.

Did you take a souvenir from the production and/or Port Isaac to remind you of your time on Doc Martin?

I really wanted the spaniel model which stood outside the pharmacy for people to put money in for charity. It was pointed out that it belonged to a hire company and that they don’t usually part with them. But somehow my wife got it and gave it to me. It is now very proudly in the entrance hall to our house.

What can we look forward to in the Christmas episode?

Snow, Christmas lights, the lovely Claire Bloom came back to play the character of the Doc’s mother, and Ron Cook as Santa.

You can imagine the doctor isn’t too keen on Christmas for his own tortured reasons. It’s never stopped making me laugh, I don’t know why because if it was a real person who had had such an awful upbringing you’d feel nothing but pity for them, but because it is him it just makes me laugh.

How did his tortured childhood affect the Doc’s approach to the festive season?

As a child his parents abandoned him on Christmas Day, leaving him with a pencil set and an orange in his Christmas stocking.

It has just slightly scarred him, and also with his cynical view of everything, he thinks it is all a lot of nonsense and was an invention to hide a Pagan festival.

His son James is trying to get into the spirit of Christmas and Louisa is trying to engage with James’ engagement so there’s a sort of impasse between Louisa, James and the Doc.

Then there’s Leonard played by Ron Cook, who has his own personal problems with Christmas – his wife, who loved Christmas, died five years ago just two days before Christmas – although he is solving it by entering into the celebration and playing Santa.

We saw a softer, more compassionate Doc in the final scenes of the last series, does he return to being his grumpy self in the Christmas episode?

The soft side was due to a massive loss of blood! That’s his excuse. He is a bit grumpy because of all the festive nonsense, and he is not sure his son should be infected by such nonsense, and wants him to place it where he places Christmas in his mind.

He manages to upset the children of Portwenn by closing down Santa’s Grotto?

He thinks Santa may have something contagious because he is itching and scratching, and the children can’t be put at risk, even though it is upsetting for them. His son James is so upset at not meeting Santa he tries to run away to the North Pole in search of him.

James doesn’t want to speak to his father, nobody wants to speak to him – but he’s been there before.

When was the Christmas episode filmed?

It was filmed in February. It was the first thing we shot, before shooting the series. We needed North Cornwall’s trees not to have any leaves, and have it looking wintry, and it was. I discovered electric clothes to keep me warm. They are fantastic. It’s a gilet, and you use a power bank, like you’d charge your phone with, and it has three different settings to keep you warm. I turned it up to the max.

There was a major storm which affected the filming – the Christmas tree on the Platt had to be taken down before it was blown down?

It was a major storm, Storm Eunice, and one day we had to get all the actors out of the trailers and into the production office for safety, because the wind was rocking the trailers around. The props team had to take down the huge Christmas tree they’d placed on the Platt for fear of it being blown over. When we were filming in the studio in a barn on the farm there was a worry, but we carried on.

Just a month after finishing filming Doc Martin you flew to Papua New Guinea to begin filming a new documentary series for ITV about the Islands of the Pacific?

It was absolutely fantastic, and it felt very different from the first series of the Islands of the Pacific. Because of the logistics of Papua New Guinea we were far more embedded. We lived in this village on the Trobriand Islands where they built us huts and we lived with them for the whole time we were there – seven to eight days. We got to see their lives, and visited other villages nearby and got to really see the tribal nature of how they live.

We then went to the the Philippines, and finally to Guam and Halau.

Having spent so much time away this year you must be looking forward to spending time at home with your family at Christmas?

We had six days between the first two blocks of filming to make space for the World Clydesdale Show, of which I am president.(Martin is a keen heavy horse enthusiast, himself owning two Clydesdale horses, Ronnie and Bruce) I got to spend one night at home then went up to Aberdeen for the show.

Every morning I woke up and I wondered where I was and which bed I was in. This morning I woke up at quarter to six thinking ‘where am I and where have I got to go’. It was the first morning I’ve thought, I live here. It’s a real adjustment when you wake up and look around the room, looking for familiar things, and thinking which hut am I in?

What are your plans for Christmas?

We have all the family coming to us, which is a joy, and we all share the cooking.

What are your favourite memories of Christmas?

I remember the weight of the stocking on the end of the bed. Mum would wrap each present in paper, things she had gathered through the year, which goes on here now at Christmas.

What was your favourite Christmas present?

I was very excited when I got a Corgi James Bond car which had a little figure you could flip out the roof. But it broke.

What would you most like for Christmas this year?

I’d like a trip somewhere – we buy each other trips rather than stuff -last year we went to Madeira.

What is next?

I start working on a new drama for ITV next year about county lines crime.


Dominic Cooper‘s film credits include: The Princess, Captain America: The First Avenger, My Week with Marilyn, An Education, Tamara Drewe, The Duchess, Mamma Mia, Starter for TenThe History Boys, The Escape, and Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft. His wealth of television credits include Preacher and Fleming (he played the titular roles in both), as well as Marvel series Agent Carter. Currently, we can see Cooper starring in the all-star reimagining of the Spaghetti Western That Dirty Black Bag for AMC. Next up, we’ll see him in the all-star cast of major new BBC One drama, The Gold.

Rob Brydon is an actor, writer, and presenter. His television credits include Gavin & Stacey (BBC), Marion & Geoff(BBC), and Human Remains (BBC). He’s the host of award-winning BBC show Would I Lie To You? and stars alongside Steve Coogan in acclaimed travelogue series The Trip, directed by Michael Winterbottom. Rob has been touring with his solo show, A Night of Songs and Laughter, which next year travels to Australia and New Zealand. Film credits include Swimming with MenCinderella, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Rob’s West End theatre credits include: A Chorus of Disapproval (dir Sir Trevor Nunn), Future Conditional (dir Matthew Warchus), and The Painkiller (dir Sean Foley).

Will Keen most recently wrapped indie feature Borderland opposite Felicity Jones and Mark Strong, as well as TV series The Gold for BBC One / Viacom. He is currently on our screens in Ridley Road (BBC) and The Pursuit of Love(BBC) opposite Andrew Scott and Emily Beecham. His other TV credits include: His Dark Materials I, II & III (soon to be released), The Crown I & II, Genius: PicassoWolf Hall, and The Musketeers. Stage credits include: Patriots,GhostsWaste (Almeida), Quartermaine’s Terms (Wyndham’s Theatre), The Arsonists (Royal Court), and The Coastof Utopia (National Theatre).

Along with My Lady Jane, Anna Chancellor will also have a leading role in the Amazon limited series Fifteen Love. She also recently starred alongside Leslie Manville in the Searchlight feature Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Other previous credits include leading in the highly acclaimed Golden Globe-nominated series The Hour, Britbox Original series Hotel Portofino, recurred on the SundanceTV series The Split, and was a series regular on the BRON Studios series That Dirty Black Bag, opposite Travis Fimmel and Dominic Cooper. She previously had one of the leads in the Working Title/Universal Film Come Away opposite Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo, directed by Brenda Chapman, had a season-long arc in the DC series Pennyworth for EPIX, and shot a role in The Watch for Amazon.

Kate O’Flynn recently finished filming the role of Fiona in Everyone Else Burns for Channel 4. She can also be seen in Sister Pictures’ critically acclaimed series Landscapers as the role of DC Emma Lancing opposite David Thewlis and Olivia Colman, and in Bridget Jones’ Baby as the bolshy northern Brand Manager Alice Peabody, alongside Renée Zellweger. Notable TV credits include Wanderlust and No Offence. Kate is also well-known for her roles on stage, and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Laura in The Glass Menagerie at The Duke of York’s Theatre. Other credits include All of It (Royal Court), The Trial (Young Vic), and A Taste of Honey (National Theatre), amongst many others.

Jim Broadbent is an Academy Award-, BAFTA-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning theatre, film, and television actor, best known for roles in Iris (for which he won Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes in 2001); Moulin Rouge (for which he was awarded the BAFTA for performance in a Supporting Role in 2001) and the international phenomenon the Harry Potter franchise. He was BAFTA nominated most recently for his role alongside Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. More recently, Jim has starred in Roger Michell’s The Duke, James Marsh’sKing of Theives, Christopher Smith’s Christmas comedy Get Santa, and Paul King’s critically acclaimed Paddington films, based on the beloved children’s books by Michael Bond.

Isabella Brownson is playing Katherine Grey. Her upcoming work is Napoleon (Ridley Scott) and The Devil’s Hour(Amazon Prime).

Henry Ashton graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2022. His credits include Creation Storiesdirected by Nick Moran, and the short film The War Ends at 11, directed by Louis Fitzpatrick.

Abbie Hern is a London-based Welsh actress. Her credits include BBC’s The Pact, as well as starring as the lead in an episode of Jordan Peele’s CBS All-Access anthology series, The Twilight Zone. Most recently she featured in the final series of Peaky Blinders and can next be seen in Enola Holmes 2 with Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill.

Joe Klocek can be seen in Robert Connolly’s feature film The Dry, starring Eric Bana in which he plays the Young Aaron Falk—it was released in early 2021 to brilliant reviews. Last year, he finished shooting Children of the Corn (Calder Colvington) which was directed by Kurt Wimmer and will be released later this year. Previously, he was a main cast member in two seasons of the BAFTA-winning TV series Nowhere Boys, and last year was awarded the Rising Talent Award at the Casting Guild of Australia Awards ceremony. Received incredible reviews for his leading performance (Eli Bell) in Trent Dalton’s play Boy Swallows Universe which broke records to become the best-selling play in Queensland Theatre’s entire history.

Máiréad Tyers graduated from Rada in 2020 and is already making a name for herself in television and film. She can shortly be seen as the lead in brand new series Extraordinary (Disney +) and has just wrapped on the film Borderland, prior to which she made her feature debut in Belfast directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.

Brandon Grace began his training with the organization Open Door, which supports those who are frequently underrepresented at traditional drama schools. Following this, he gained a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and after completing his final year, landed a series regular role in Season Two of Fate: The Winx Saga for Netflix. Brandon recently made his stage debut in the National Theatre’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, starring opposite Katherine Parkinson in the play, directed by Simon Godwin.

Since graduating from Arts Educational drama school, Michael Workeye has starred in BBC’s Sitting in Limbo and Channel 4’s Big Age. He can be most recently seen in the highly acclaimed BBC One drama series This is Going to Hurt starring Ben Whishaw. 

How many streamers can UK households afford?

As the cost of living crisis in the UK rages on, and energy prices surge with a floating ‘cap’, will customers re-evaluate their subscriptions to streamers?

Will the unprecedented pressure on household incomes be too much to absorb the £100 or more monthly subscriptions? Most probably something will have to go. Will millions of households even be able to afford the essential broadband services on which the platforms exist?

Besides which are there far too many streamers vying for a shrinking pot of disposable income?

Netflix reportedly lost nearly one million customers, globally, in the most recent quarter. Later this year Disney+ will launch a new ad-funded service, which will still be charged at the current subscription rate of $7.99. The charge for the ad-free service will rise to $10.99 per month in the US (prices haven’t been announced for the UK). So, a 28% increase for the current offering. Prime Video is also proposing a price increase.


Sports, football in particular, will still be the mainstay of Sky in the UK. And Sky Sports could be the last to be affected but will BT TV have the same pulling power for their sports coverage.

Will streamers have to re-evaluate their offering/prices market by market depending on economic situation in each country.

What will you do? Will you be reconsidering which if any streamers you subscribe to in the coming months?
Do let us know.

Am I Being Unreasonable? Daisy May Cooper and Selin Hizli, discuss their new comedy

Selin Hizli and Daisy May Cooper

How did Am I Being Unreasonable? originate?

Daisy: For me I always wanted to write something with Selin because I think she’s the most talented person I’ve ever met, I mean second to me, I am massively talented (laughs) but there’s nobody else who makes me laugh like her. There’s nobody on this planet who makes me laugh like her and during lockdown I’d been avoiding her for a long time, weirdly I wanted to avoid everyone.

Selin: I knew you were just at home doing nothing because so was the rest of the world. So I knew you couldn’t come up with a good excuse so I could just force you to be my friend.

Daisy: And then you phoned me, I answered and we had a conversation about wouldn’t it be great to do a show that was based on female friendships, toxic friendships and how many toxic friendships I’ve had in my life and that’s how it came about.

Can you give us an overview of the story.

Selin: So we start with Nic who is living in a village and I think the way we always described her is nothing is really terrible but nothing is really great either. She’s sort of stuck in this rut of going through the motions, getting her son to school, chatting to her husband after work and everything is sort of a bit grey for her.

Daisy: Very unfulfilled

Selin: Very unfulfilled and then in comes Jen who’s this new mum at the school

Daisy: And turns her world upside down

Selin: It’s almost like a love story between them. When you have a friend you make a connection with you just fall head of heels in love with each other

Daisy: Aww

Selin: And then…

Daisy: … and then it becomes toxic as a lot of really intense friendships do. They get so close that it’s got to go wrong.

Selin: Nic is so focused on how Jen makes her feel, she starts to question who actually is Jen? What do I actually know about this woman who seems to be my perfect friend that’s just turned up in my life. You then follow Nic as she learns more about Jen, things are revealed and everything becomes much more intense for Nic and her family life with her son and her husband and it culminates in something that Nic’s been keeping in for a long time and it finally lets itself out.

What draws Nic and Jen together?

Daisy: What draws Nic and Jen together? They’ve got very masculine energies like Selin and I have. They are both very funny, they are both extremely vulnerable and not afraid to admit that and how else would I describe it?

Selin: There’s an honesty I think that really draws them together because that’s the thing. They’ll make a joke about themselves before anyone else can get in there, so they can make it and judge themselves. And I think that especially when there’s kids involved, it’s so easy to get so worked up about what people are thinking about how you’re parenting your child and when you find a parent that doesn’t care in the same way that you don’t care about certain things, it’s really attractive I think.

Lenny Rush who plays Ollie

What is the relationship like between Nic and Ollie?

Daisy: The relationship between Nic and Ollie is she treats him like the adult and he talks to her like the child.

Selin: I think that’s the experience that a lot of people will relate to. I’ve spoken to so many people in my life who have felt like they’ve had to parent their parents from quite a young age and I think that Nic really relies on Ollie a lot.

How difficult is it to work together as friends?

Daisy: It’s difficult to work with friends if you don’t have a really truthful, honest friendship. For example, if I come up with a really bad idea, she can immediately say, that’s shit without having to worry hurting my feelings,

Selin: And vice versa.

Daisy: And vice versa, you don’t have time to pussy foot around each other or to take offence and that is what the perfect writing partnership should be.

Selin: I feel very safe working with Daisy, I feel like it’s a place where I can suggest things whether it’s good or bad and it’s not going to be like get outta my house.

What is the tone for this series?

Daisy: Got a little bit of horror in there, got a little bit of laughter in there, got a little bit of mystery in there, got a little bit of drama in there, got a lot of very serious subjects in there, but then you do a serious subject and you come out on a laugh

Selin: Because you’ve got to laugh

Daisy: I don’t think anything is truthful as a drama if you don’t have any humorous things in it

Selin: And I think that’s what we found when we first started working on the story of it, we’d come up with all these drama plot points and they didn’t start to feel real until we put the comedy in. They didn’t start to feel truthful and really like what we recognised as our own experience until we put that comedy in and started drawing out of those dark places.

Daisy: And that’s the thing about human instinct is when things are really really bad, you don’t dwell on that, you try and find the humour in life to try and pick you up. So that’s what we tried to be as truthful in that as we possibly could.

Why did you choose to have improvisation in the show?

Daisy: The real reason you have improv is that is real life. You talk over each other, it makes you react. When you say the same lines over and over again the scene can become stale and you know what that person is going to say.

Selin: And I think for the other actors in it as well, we’re not writing something and then it’s like a test to see if someone can do what we’ve imagined in our head. We want people to own it and bring their own experiences and their own lives to it. Then that’s when it’s truthful and that’s when it’s real and that’s when you get those surprises, you get those exciting moments that we might not have thought of if we just said those lines. It’s a real sort of collaboration that makes everyone feel…

Daisy: They have ownership of the characters they are playing.

Why should viewers watch this series?

Daisy: I’ll tell you what, you should watch this series, because I think personally it’s unlike anything that’s out there on the telly and we make television we would want to watch.

Selin: That’s what made us want to do it in the first place. We wanted to make something that we would want to watch that kept us interested and didn’t give us all the answers on a plate and was a bit of fun as well.

Sum up Am I Being Unreasonable? in 3 words

Daisy: I would sum up the series in 3 words, bonkers, scary, truthful, funny – that’s four.

Selin: I would say…

Daisy: … it is great

Selin: Enjoyable, panic attack

Daisy: Yes, funny panic attack!

Selin: Funny panic attack


DAVE’S EDINBURGH COMEDY AWARDS will return at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. After a two-year worldwide hiatus, the renowned Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards are back celebrating 40 years of awarding comedy excellence, reflecting the rich heritage of comedy talent recognised and its status as a springboard for comedians who have gone on to become household names at home and abroad. UKTV’s award winning entertainment channel Dave also returns as
proud sponsor of the Awards this August.

Nica Burns, longstanding Producer & Director of Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, said: “We are so glad to finally be back celebrating the very best of British comedy with four decades of talent alongside our partner Dave, the home of comedy and entertainment TV. With a rich 40-year history, Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards have shone the spotlight on the next generation of comedians and championed comedy as a vital sector of the entertainment industry. Our winners and nominees can be constantly seen and heard across all media channels, they cross over into dramatic roles and write, act and make movies. We’re looking forward to a bumper
year of exciting, outstanding comedy talent.”

The inaugural Comedy Award winners were The Cambridge Footlights in 1981,
whose line-up included Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson. Other
winners whose careers have soared since carrying off the awards range from the lateSean Hughes, still the youngest ever winner at age 24, to Rose Matafeo, Hannah Gadsby, Bridget Christie, Russell Kane, Richard Ayoade, Al Murray, The League of Gentlemen, Dylan Moran, Jenny Eclair, Harry Hill, Lee Evans, Steve Coogan and Frank Skinner.
Our 2019 winners, Jordan Brookes and Catherine Cohen have had a busy couple of years. Brookes has taken his acclaimed Edinburgh show around the UK and beyond, hosted his own BBC Radio 4 series Jordan Brookes on…, has made a pilot for Channel 4 and recently launched a brand new podcast with Dave, Look At What You’ve Done. Meanwhile American Catherine Cohen co-hosts the popular podcast Seek Treatment whilst her debut one-hour comedy special The Twist? She’s Gorgeous is now streaming on Netflix.

Past nominees include James Acaster, Nish Kumar, Sara Pascoe, Romesh
Ranganathan, Darren Harriott, Ivo Graham, Lucy Beaumont, London Hughes, Mae Martin, Sophie Willan, Seann Walsh, Greg Davies, Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Russell Howard, Chris Addison, Reginald D Hunter, Adam Hills, Jimmy Carr, Omid Djalili, Noel Fielding, Sean Lock, Lee Mack, Peter Kay, Graham Norton, Bill Bailey and Eddie Izzard.

Dave has a well-established passion for supporting fresh comedy, and with a growing slate of UKTV Originals, the channel prides itself on supporting new talent and bringing in young audiences. Original comedy programming attracting an over 25% or more 16-34 audience profile include Mel Giedroyc: Unforgivable, BAFTA-winning Big Zuu’s Big Eats and Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster’s Hypothetical.

Cherie Cunningham, Channel Director for Dave, said: “Here at Dave we are so
passionate about comedy, and nowhere does it better than the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. It’s a real source of pride that so many previous winners and nominees are making and appearing in UKTV Original comedy shows on Dave, and I’m sure that after a few years away, 2022’s Awards are going to be an excellent edition full of truly exciting acts.”
A full history of the winners and nominees, eligibility rules and all other details about the Awards can be found at:



Kerry Godliman

Why did you agree to do Champion of Champions?

I’d do Taskmaster every week if they’d have me.

There’s nothing else like it. It’s very creative, and it doesn’t feel like a competition. I just find it really silly and playful and fun.

Greg and Alex are extremely funny and I like that the tasks are so varied. This episode of Champion of Champions is a great example of that.

You’ve got an arty one, a practical one, and I like that variety compared to a lot of competitions where you’re just doing one thing.

What was the reaction like to your series?

The people that love Taskmaster, really love Taskmaster and they really liked my season. I thought season seven was a lovely, lovely one and people have a lot of affection for it.

So I’ve always been pleased to be part of that group.

A lot of former contestants have become good friends. Does it feel like there’s a Taskmaster family?

Sometimes it does, yeah. I’m always keen to know who’s doing it next because it feels like they’re joining the fleet. It does have a sort of Freemason kind of vibe with the secret handshake.

In this Champion of Champions, you revealed you keep your trophy in a garage amongst “a lot of crap” and Greg wasn’t very happy about it.

Yeah but it’s needed crap. It’s valued crap. I know that might seem like an oxymoron but I keep my camping gear in there, and that’s some of my most treasured possessions.

I just think the trophy is a bit creepy and I live with children so I don’t know where else I would put it. I genuinely don’t know where I would put it in the house.

It’s huge and it’s quite austere and it’s mildly threatening. I’m happy with it in the garage.

Was it a different experience to do a show with other contestants who’ve all done it before?

What’s funny is that normally in a series it’s like human tapas so you’ll have a cerebral one and a surreal one and a lazy one and an efficient one and that’s what’s charming about each series.

But when you’ve got five champions, they might be more similar so I went into it thinking, “Maybe we’ll all do the same sort of thing.”

But that wasn’t true at all. We all did really different things. For my prize task, I genuinely thought everyone would do the same as me. It seemed really obvious to me. And I can’t believe nobody else did it.

How did you get on with Greg?

The beauty of watching this show is how arbitrary he is about everything, but it’s maddening when you’re a contestant.

But I think he was pleased with the fact we all brought our A-game. Right from the start, he was impressed with us because sometimes people just come on to the prize task with absolute rubbish and it really irritates him, but we all offered pretty great stuff and that kicked it off.

I think he was like, “Wow, these are good”. That set the tone.

Did you do anything differently this time around compared to your original series?

No, I sort of wish I had. In retrospect, I now have regrets and I have things I would say.

But no, I didn’t really overthink it. If I had a strategy at all, it was not to have a strategy. I just went in and tried to be a bit instinctive, but maybe I should have thought about it more.

Greg invented a catchphrase for you during your series, “bosh”. How do you feel about that – does it follow you around?

Yeah, it does. I’ve ended up just leaning into it. I even called my last tour Bosh. It represents a side of my nature that I both celebrate and wince at in equal measure.

It does prove how astute Greg is: he nailed your personality with that catchphrase.

Yeah, he definitely has a good a good eye for my nature. It’s like cheap therapy really. Go on there and get your personality wrung out.

People seem to use Alex as a prop more and more often these days. Did you do that in Champions?

He’s kind of like a stooge in the house so you do need to make the most of his presence. He’s there for the taking.. It’s a waste not to dress him up or make him do stupid things.

There was an art task where we really got to go wild with him. Although I don’t know if I would play it differently now.

I just couldn’t resist it. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly cerebral contribution.

Any favourite moments?

I’m not going to say what it is but Liza’s outfit is going to blow people’s minds.

And Richard did a task involving his feet which was stand-out for me. He’s got Frodo-like feet. I don’t want to be mean but they were kind of repulsive.

Lou was hilarious, defending her prize. She just dug and dug and dug. You want to say, “Stop digging, leave it”, but she was just on a mission.

Ed really smashed it with one task and on another one was really flailing around and getting angry. I love him. He gets really angry but it gets him nowhere.

You brought in a former contestant for a surprise cameo, too.

I don’t know how that happened, to be honest. He just engineered his way in and I realised with retrospect I’d been completely played. But it was nice to have him there as a little talisman.

Greg said recently he could never compete on Taskmaster, even for a comedy sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you agree he would be?

I don’t think he would. I mean, he’s brilliant at being the Taskmaster but I don’t think he would be very good at doing the tasks.

It’s so fragile, that status that he’s wielding, that anything could topple it. I mean, it’s on ice, isn’t it? It’s on a plinth of matchsticks. If there was one chink of humiliation in that persona, he’d be ruined.

So he’s right never to do it.

Ed Gamble

What was the reaction from fans to your series?

It was really good, I think the show has a really good fan base. They’re lovely, but I don’t think you could be angry and watch Taskmaster, to be honest. and I think that’s all credit to the show.

Alex established the show with a very, very lovely atmosphere.

I mean, I don’t like sports but I think this is sport for proper nerds. You can share your favourites, you can get excited when they achieve something.

I’m led to believe that in sport people don’t tend to laugh when things go wrong, so in a way this is better than sport.

There’s nothing more fun than really digging down into the minutiae of something ridiculous and I think that’s what people enjoy doing – chatting over the scoring. The whole thing’s ridiculous but that’s fun to get serious about.

How does Greg’s head compare to an FA Cup trophy?

Greg’s head is the ultimate thing to win. I’m very, very happy to have one. Some people have said the show is not about winning but I think they’re approaching it all wrong.

You’ve got to want to win, you’ve got to throw yourself into it otherwise you’re not going to be your best self.

Where do you keep your trophy?

It sits directly in line of sight in my zoom calls, at the back of my office on a high cabinet. It’s the first thing people see when they do a zoom with me on my Taskmaster podcast.

Having said all of that about winning, I think just being on the show is such a wonderful thing. I’m very very happy and proud that I was ever asked to do it.

Talk me through your outfit for Champion of Champions?

I thought for a long time about what I was going to wear. For the full series you want to wear something comfortable but this was only one day so I thought I’d go big.

It’s a baby blue, 70s tuxedo with a ruffled shirt and bow tie. I wanted to go for the kind of Dumb and Dumber look or just like a proper horrible prom suit with the massive wide lapels and the silk stripe down the trousers.

I just thought that if any of the tasks went terribly, it would be hilarious for them to go wrong wearing that suit.

Did you do anything differently in Champion of Champions compared to the full series?

I really came out swinging, I argued every single tiny point. There were moments in the series where I thought, “I can probably take a backseat, I’m not going to say anything because I’ve got to come back and see these people tomorrow.’

But for Champion of Champions I went into the studio like I never had to see any of them ever again.

And how did that go down with Greg?

I think you can imagine how that went but it was a lot of fun to really go for it. And I think Greg respected me more for it.

There was a moment in a task to do with ducks where I think you nearly lost the plot ….

I completely lost my mind. I did what you shouldn’t do on Taskmaster, which is to keep going with something even when it’s clearly not working.

What I should have done was to try something new instead of pursuing the same thing for hours until its inevitable conclusion.

But once I’d lost a certain amount of time, I thought, “I’ve just got to keep going”. Alex and the entire crew were laughing at me.

It was funny to start with, then we were all looking at our watches, and then it got funny again and then everyone got angry. Madder and madder and madder.

You made as if to storm off. Did you really think about just going home?

Yeah. Every 10 minutes I thought about that. At no point did I think, “It’s alright because this will be good telly.” None of it was the for the telly. The crew could have packed up and gone home and I’d have still been doing it.

How did you get on with the other contestants?

I knew beforehand that I liked all of them so I knew it would be a fun studio record.

Kerry’s an absolute pitbull, she was sat next to me so she kept me in check. She’s brilliant.

I’d never met Liza before and I was so excited to meet her. She totally lived up to my expectations.

I’m friends with Lou anyway so I knew what to expect and she was absolutely off the chain as per usual.

Richard unfortunately became the whipping boy immediately. Both me and Greg like to torment Richard quite a lot, so that was fun.

It feels to me as if people are using Alex more and more as a kind of prop these days. Would you agree?

Yeah, poor guy, we really went for it. To be fair, one of the tasks demanded it, so that’s his fault.

And with the others, if they ask you to do something “elaborately” or whatever then you very quickly realise you need Alex, who is basically just a fleshy prop. He’s asking for it, he’s so easy to use and to humiliate.

And Greg loves it so you know it’s a bit of a win if you do it.

Greg said recently he would never take part in Taskmaster, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good and he’d win everything. Do you agree that he’d be great?

I mean, I think we all know that the reason Greg won’t do it is because he knows that if there was a physical task, he’d have a heart attack and explode.

Would Alex be any good?

He writes the tasks, obviously, so they’re all in his voice and that’s his sense of humour and the way he looks at the world. So I think he’d nail it straight away.

Although quite often we’d do a task and Alex would have had no idea it could be done like that. There are so many different ways of doing them all and it’s up to people’s interpretation.

But I do feel like Alex would be would be pretty amazing.

Do you do any of the Taskmaster games at home?

No, I think if there was any more Taskmaster in my life, my wife would leave me. She has to deal with it so much.

I do the podcast, so I watch the episodes in advance all at once because I’m so excited for a new series.

Then I watch them all week by week as they go out live, and I’m always interviewing people about Taskmaster.

Then quite often if I’m flicking around the channels and there’s a repeat on, I’ll watch it. There is absolutely no way she would put up with anything else Taskmaster based.

Congratulations on your wedding. There was a good Taskmaster contingent there.

It was fantastic. Thank you, we had a really good day. It was a lot of people’s first day out like that in 18 months or two years so it went off. It was great.

It was lovely to have so many Taskmaster guys there.

Lou Sanders

Why did you want to do Champion of Champions?

Oh, it was a no-brainer. It was just so nice to see everyone and I can’t imagine anyone saying “no”.

Was it a different experience doing Champion of Champions compared to the full series?

Yeah, the pressure’s off. Everybody wants to win the series when they do it so they can come back for Champions, because it’s the most fun show in the world.

Whereas Champions is so nice and relaxing because you just think, “Well, nobody’s coming back, let’s just have fun.”

You did get quite argumentative with Greg though …

Yeah. It’s funny isn’t it? Me and Ed beforehand were saying, “I’m not even competitive, this doesn’t matter”, but then throughout the show we all got a bit competitive in different ways.

Where do you keep your Greg head?

On my sewing basket. Sorry, I’m just showing off that I’ve got a sewing basket. I don’t sew.

What was the reaction from fans to your series?

People are really nice about it, they just love it. They can watch it with their kids and it has a really warm place in their heart. I don’t want to be too cheesy, but it’s so amazing to be part of.

I rollerskate and one guy at the skate park said “Oh, I loved your Taskmaster” and then I was really embarrassed because it’s sort of embarrassing people knowing who you are when you feel a bit vulnerable at the skate park.

So I said, “Oh, thank you” and promptly fell over.

You wore your rollerskates on the show …

Yeah, I think it’s nice to really go for it with your outfit, especially as it’s a one-off.

But oh my God, Liza Tarbuck blew me away with her outfit. I don’t want to give the game away but when you see what she does with her outfit: I just couldn’t believe how good it was.

I loved Ed’s outfit as well. He looked like such a beautiful wally.

Is it a different vibe, doing the show with four others who’ve all won the show before?

It’s a lot more relaxed. I was quite nervous when I did mine three years ago because it was my first big TV series.

This time it was more relaxed because we’ve done it before, we know each other, and the pressure was off. It was just a lot of fun.

Me and Kerry have just done a camping show together, The Outsiders, so we knew each other well. I already knew Ed and Richard really well.

I’d never met Liza before but I felt an affinity with her which was inflamed on the show. I always loved her, even on the Big Breakfast before I went to school.

I remember at the time I just couldn’t believe how funny she was and her tone and everything.

I was just like, wow, you just don’t see such strong, funny women talking in their own voice and playing by their own rules the way she did. That was really unusual.

You had quite a heated argument with Kerry over points at one point …

I love Kerry, she’s such a beautiful soul in this world. I couldn’t believe my luck, everybody in that show is an absolute diamond.

There was no serious competition, we all really like and respect each other. I have glee in my heart when I think of any one of those guys.

Did you do anything differently this time around compared to your own series?

No, but I think I was more relaxed

I did change my mind three times about the prize task round. I thought we should put a lot of effort into it.

I think the rest of the tasks were quite light and fun but also quite romantic. I thought they were quite sweet tasks.

Did you enjoy using Alex as a prop?

He loves it. He loves being humiliated.

Didn’t he look lovely in my task? I can’t give too much away but I was doing that boy a favour and he should never forget it.

Was Greg on good form?

He was on great form. He’s never looked better, for a start.

I think it’s nice for Greg and Alex having us back because they know our vibes and that makes it easy for them. They don’t need to help everyone feel relaxed because everybody is already.

Greg recently said he could never do a task, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you think that’s true?

That’s the kind of thing a child would say. “No, I’d be too good.” Come on, Greg. The real reason he won’t do it is because he doesn’t want his authority to be stripped.

I think he’d be totally cack-handed which would be quite good to watch.

I think Alex would be brilliant, and Greg would be crap, which is why he’d never do it.

Richard Herring

Why did you want to do Champion of Champions?

It was just so nice to do. There was a little bit of pressure off in terms of doing the tasks because it overwhelms you when you’re doing it for the series and you’re so nervous about messing up.

To come back and do an extra one-off episode, I just felt a lot more relaxed about the whole thing.

That’s the lovely thing about winning the series, is you get to have another go.

I know that’s how Johnny Vegas felt about this series, he told me it doesn’t matter who wins but the nice thing is you get to come back if you do win. It feels like a special little reward.

And, you know, it’s the nicest job you’ll ever have. It’s fun to be set tasks by Alex and do a challenge and then realise, “Oh I’m being paid for this – technically it’s an actual job.”

Don’t tell them this but I would do it for free, five days a week.

What was the atmosphere like?

Brilliant. When I did the series we had no audience and we were socially distant so it was a very different thing this time around.

It was a very nice atmosphere and it felt like a celebration of the show.

We’d all won a series already and it was just an extra bit of fun, so it didn’t feel particularly competitive. Everyone got their moment to shine.

Was it really not competitive?

Well, no, but we did all try very hard. I think it’s important to do your best and try to win.

If you’re not at least slightly competitive with it – well, Jo Brand wasn’t and she was glorious – but if you’re just trying to be funny and not actively try hard then generally it doesn’t work as well.

How did you get on with Greg?

I think he was a bit thrown by the fact I’ve lost some weight and I was dressed slightly less scruffy than usual so he left me alone a bit and I also got some praise from him for the first time ever.

But he was rude to me as well and I do love it when he’s rude. It’s part of the fun.

I can’t imagine anybody else doing that role. He’s so brilliant.

He’s got to be tough and commanding but then he’s also got to be funny and that’s a very difficult line to tread.

Even when you’re the victim, he’s got such a good eye and a good use of language and he’s so good at honing in on our weaknesses, you just have to admire it.

Did you do anything differently compared to in your own series?

I did try very hard in my series and I think sometimes that came across as a bit “route one”.

So this time I wanted to think a bit more about finding interesting ways to do things, because that’s something I hadn’t really excelled in doing previously.

But you know, you can’t really win or lose, it’s just lovely to take part.

When I won my series I said to Daisy [May Cooper], “All this means is that I was better than you at threading some polos onto dried spaghetti while wearing some mittens, it’s not really a skill for life.”

Is she still bitter about the drawing task that you lost together?

She was super competitive and I love her for it. She has so much more confidence and self-belief than I do, and she was very confident that the animal she’d drawn was definitely a hippo and that I’d know that.

She was quite heavily pregnant and she was absolutely incredible so even I feel a bit sad that she didn’t win the series. She really wanted it.

What’s the feedback been like from fans about your series?

People really get behind who they like and so some people were furious that I beat Daisy and couldn’t understand that!

But what I like about the show is that you end up liking everyone even if you don’t know who they are or you’re not sure about them at first.

Everyone on it is an exceptional talent and the nice thing about Champions is that everyone got their moment to shine and everyone was very funny.

People love the show and are very supportive and I think certainly people who were listening to my podcast were trying to get me on it for so long, and they were just so happy that I was on it.

I’ve had a lot of lovely support, especially from my own friends. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience: even when Greg lays in to me I just find it so funny.

What do you think is the secret to its popularity?

There’s so much love in it, and the team behind it are the greatest team I’ve ever worked with on any TV show in terms of their commitment to the ideas.

When you have to make a little film or something, the work they put into that and what they add and the effort that goes into making your work look the best it can be, are just phenomenal. They understand what works.

It’s reality TV in a way because it’s real, and the comedy is obviously improvised, and we have no idea what’s coming up, and I think that’s what draws people in.

I watched it as a fan before I was on it and you watch it thinking, “It would be great to do that” and “I’d be terrible at that” or “I’d be great at that”, which is part of the fun.

Where do you keep your Greg head?

I had to hide it for a while as there’s a gap between winning and it being broadcast where you have to be secretive and put it in the attic; I was really careful.

But I’ve had it out a few times. I do a stupid ventriloquist show and I think it turned up in that as a prop.

Or occasionally someone wants to see it so I’ll get it out and share it on the zoom call. But yeah, it’s just lying on the floor at the moment, I haven’t got a trophy cabinet.

Mind you, I never won anything for so long and I’ve had a sudden burst of winning House of Games and The Chase, although you don’t get a trophy for that.

Talk me through the rest of the contestants: is it a different thing, going into it with four other winners?

A bit, but it doesn’t really affect you because all you can really think about each task is how you’re going to approach it yourself. The only time you really think of them as competition is during the final task in the studio.

I did think beforehand that maybe it wouldn’t work as well because everybody in it has been successful, and I wondered if everyone would be too good at doing the tasks and there wouldn’t be any funny mistakes.

But that was far from the case. There was plenty of variety in there.

Lou’s delightfully loopy and brilliant, Liza is so clever and in control, Ed’s over-keen and a massive fan of the show, and Kerry is no-nonsense and always getting her face in there.

So it was tough competition but that took the pressure off. Everybody was so good that it didn’t really matter what happened.

Does that mean it wasn’t competitive?

Well I’ve been on Ed’s podcast a few times and there’s a kind of jokey rivalry there. We’ve been on Twitter having a little banter about it.

What were the tasks like for Champions?

There were a couple of arty ones and art is my absolute worst nightmare because I’m so bad at it. Greg might as well just say, “There’s one point for you” before I even start.

I really threw myself into it and I was still terrible. I’ve done a lot of improvisation on other people’s shows and on my own show and it’s just about taking a leap of faith.

It’s the same as the way you write comedy, which is to switch off and let your subconscious take over. It might work, or it might not, but that’s the joy of it.

You did the show four weeks after having a testicle removed after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Did you feel okay?

I was fine, really. Luckily there wasn’t too much action involved in the tasks and I was just about okay to do it.

I don’t want to say it would have been the worst thing about the operation but if I’d not got to do Taskmaster, which for a while I thought might be the case, it would have been terrible.

I was meant to be doing Taskmaster a week after the operation and obviously that wouldn’t have worked out so we pushed the dates back and I did it three weeks after.

Officially it should have been four weeks after the operation and I wasn’t supposed to lift anything but I wasn’t really required to lift anything hugely heavy. As long as I wasn’t going on any bicycles, I was given permission to do it.

I was a little bit unsteady on my feet still but the crew were helpful.

Did you take advantage of Alex and use him as a prop?

I don’t think I realised in the series that it’s fun to dress him up as a prop.

Also I think it’s nice to get a little bit of revenge because, as charming and as innocent as he appears, he’s the guy who’s pulling all the strings.

So it did feel quite cathartic to throw paint at him and say, “That’s for all the awful things you put me through.”

Greg recently said he could never do a task, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you think that’s true?

That’s the thing: he can never do it. I was talking to David Mitchell about that on my podcast. He was saying, “People think I’ll be amazing and clever so all that can happen is that I can humiliate myself and dissuade them of that.”

I don’t think Greg could do the task because it would undermine his authority to too great an extent, unless it was the last ever episode.

I think he’d be very, very funny and he’s such an unusual shape that I think you’d get a lot of humour out of that. But I don’t think he would be good at it.

Liza Tarbuck

Why did you want to do Champion of Champions?

If I want to laugh, there are two programmes that do it for me: Gogglebox and Taskmaster because, with both of those shows, you feel like part of the gang.

That’s a difficult thing to do on TV and I think everybody chases that inclusivity.

And not even Gogglebox has the level of creativity that Taskmaster has.

It’s always so surprising how differently – or how exactly the same – everybody approaches their tasks because when you do the tasks you’re obviously on your own and you’ve got no idea what anybody else is doing.

All the crew are really straight-faced. No hints given. So when you’re at the house you’re like a detective and you try to ask, “Has anybody else done this?” but they won’t tell you and that’s just so unique.

What sort of reaction did you have from your series; do people still talk to you about it?

You know, what I think is funny is that because of my persona people don’t necessarily approach me!

But when people do, nobody has been anything other than excited by it. I talk about it, still, because it really pulls things out of you.

It’s just lovely to be able to do a job where you’re genuinely free and supported in that.  A lot of programming is about sort of controlling you, which sounds negative but that’s just the way it usually works.

And if you’re a person who doesn’t particularly enjoy that, which I don’t, Taskmaster is a pretty unique, positive experience.

It’s not for everybody because you are putting yourself out there, you’re very vulnerable. There’s no acting, there’s no preparation. So it’s testimony to people that do say “yes”.

Where do you keep your Greg head?

Mine’s in bed, in the spare room, ready for the next guest. Under the duvet is a plumped up body to make it look like he’s in the bed.

How did you get on with the other contestants?

It was just such a pleasure to meet them. I’d never met Ed or Lou but I really liked both of them.

I know Kerry from bits and pieces of work but we’re none of us big pals. We just had a lot of professional respect for each other before meeting, I guess, and it was really nice to meet them all.

I loved Ed’s suit. And bloody hell, his first prize task. I just don’t even know how he did it. It was really beautiful.

It did feel like everybody made a massive effort.

I think it’s respect to the programme. I wouldn’t have said “yes” if I wasn’t going to put in the effort.

It was just really nice to be back. You have no idea what’s going to happen.

Waking up and knowing you’re going into Taskmaster is the best feeling. I think I had one day during my series where I woke up slightly the wrong way and thought, “Oh, I don’t know about this”, and then I was suddenly like, “Yeah, I do”.

It’s magnificently creative. It’s the best fun.

How competitive was it?

I sat next to Ed, and watching him arguing was just marvellous. I think this show has done brilliant things for Ed Gamble. It’s his medium entirely.

And you need someone arguing. When somebody is judging my work, I go quiet. I just appreciate it. I just think, “I was only given 20 minutes to do that, that’s bloody brilliant”, or “Okay, what the hell was going on in my mind when I did that?” but I don’t argue about it. I just had a lovely time. So it’s good that Ed took on that role.

I have been competitive in my life, when I’ve played sports, but as you get older that just passes and you think, “It’s just lovely to be here”.

Did you approach anything differently for Champions compared to your series?

Well mine was a few years ago and since then and with lockdown, the programme really has got a life of its own.

You do want to contribute in the best way that you can because it’s, like I say, one of the shows that really makes me laugh.

What I learned from both doing my series and from watching subsequent series is that you never go into a room and don’t check under the table.

If you’re being asked something that’s slightly veiled, you have to stop and think, “What does this mean? It could mean anything” and go through the possibilities.

But also, you just don’t know what mood Greg’s in. The thing that you can’t forget is that you are ultimately looking to please him and he’s an arbitrator.

If there’s something up in one of the tasks he’s on it like a blooming rottweiler. There’s a moment in Champions that people are never going to forget, to do with Richard’s feet and Greg’s response to his task.

I think Greg takes the role very seriously. I think he understands that everyone’s laid themselves out a little bit bare but he’s very quick to pick up on stuff that happens. He’s really astute.

Did you use Alex a lot during the tasks?

I think it’s a shame if you don’t. I think it makes his day better.

What’s the secret to Taskmaster’s popularity, do you think?

When you watch the repeats, you very often see something new that you didn’t notice the first time, or you know that your favourite bit’s coming up. You can re-watch and think, “Actually, that was great”.

It’s a rare thing that you can slide through that time and time again.

And it does really capture the imagination and it encourages creativity.

During lockdown when Alex was doing weekly tasks on YouTube, that was absolute genius because they were so much fun and with everyone stuck at home, Greg was only too happy to judge them.

Alex is just brilliant at devising tasks. He knows what works.

And what I really love about it is that it’s all coming from a place of pleasantness.

Greg recently said he could never do a task, even for a charity sketch, because he’d be too good. Do you think that’s true?

Do you know what? The joy is, we will never know.

Her Majesty The Queen and Paddington Bear surprise 11.2 million UK viewers

Sharing a warm and hilarious cream tea at Buckingham Palace as tens of thousands of people watched outside the Royal household on big screens with millions more worldwide.

The two and half minute sequence, kept under wraps for several months by Buckingham Palace, BBC Studios and Heyday Films/STUDIOCANAL, sees Paddington delighted to learn that The Queen shares his love of marmalade sandwiches, with the Monarch even opening her iconic handbag to reveal her very own ready-made supply of Paddington’s bread and orange preserve staple inside. As the beloved bear shows Her Majesty what he hides underneath his hat, The Queen confirms “So do I,” before prising open her bag and remarking “I keep mine in here.”

Paddington also causes chaos by accidentally depriving the very forgiving Monarch of another cup of tea and spraying cream from a Chocolate Éclair over a Palace Footman.

The short film sees the Peruvian-born Bear congratulate The Queen on her remarkable reign, with Paddington exclaiming: “Happy Jubilee Ma’am. And thank you. For everything.” Her Majesty, as self-deprecating and modest as ever, simply replies “That’s very kind.”

The sequence ends with both The Queen and Paddington using a spoon to tap out the beat of Queen’s We Will Rock You anthem on a China teacup as the band themselves and The Corps of Drums from the Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines start the song on the main stage outside, with thousands of people around Buckingham Palace, The Mall and the Royal Parks joining in unison.

Buckingham Palace commented: “Her Majesty is well known for her sense of humour, so it should be no surprise that she decided to take part in tonight’s sketch. There was an interest in the filming and animation process and the opportunity to invite a famous bear to tea was just too much fun to miss. While The Queen may not be attending the concert in person, she was very keen that people understood how much it meant to her and that all those watching had a great time.”

Avoidance: Meet the cast of Romesh Ranganathan’s new comedy

Romesh Ranganathan and the cast of Avoidance tease his new comedy about a man with severe conflict avoidance issues who is forced to change for the sake of his son.

Romesh Ranganathan

Romesh Ranganathan as Jonathan in Avoidance

Tell us about your new series Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show?

Avoidance is about a conflict-avoidant beta male, who is so frustrating to live with that his partner leaves. He is then forced to try and sort himself out, for the sake of this son. He ends up staying with his sister and her wife…it’s funnier than it sounds. It’s supposed to be funny with a bit of heart, but I’d settle for mildly diverting at this point. 

This is your first series with your own production company Ranga Bee for the BBC, how was that?

It’s cool to have a production company, but it does add extra anxiety when you know that any issues are something you need to worry about. I didn’t enjoy the idea that if I moaned about anything I was essentially slagging myself off. 

Tell us about the writing process for Avoidance. 

Ben Green and I had a version of this idea about five years ago and every now and then we would dip back into it and develop it further. Eventually we decided to put it together as an idea for the BBC. Ben, Neil Webster, Shaun Pye, Kefi Chadwick and myself thrashed out storylines and ideas, and then eventually wrote individual scripts before poring over them to make sure our characters seemed like real people. Then we spent the rest of the process worrying it was all rubbish. 

Do you have any similarities to your character Jonathan? 

His conflict-avoidant beta maledom is based on my own character, but I would like to think I hide it a bit better than Jonathan does. The fact that Ben agreed it would be a good starting point for a comedy suggests I don’t. 

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

I think the first scene with Kieran who plays Spencer – he was who I filmed with on the first few days. He was just so natural and brilliant and I remember thinking we were onto something good with him. It was a really nice moment, swiftly followed by waves of anxiety about my own performance. 

You have some great talent involved, when you wrote it did you have the casting in mind?

We didn’t have people in mind specifically, but we were lucky that in each of the main roles, the cast had taken the characters beyond how we even imagined they could be. Jess, Lisa and Mandeep are the most incredible actors, and they brought their characters to life in a way that had us all buzzing. We have really lucked out with them – every day they were looking at scenes and how to approach them and improve them. 

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before?

I worked with Lisa on King Gary and thought she was amazing, and worked with Jess on Judge Romesh, which I thought went well, but she has since told me I seemed a bit stressed on that, and I thought I was being charming, so I’m glad we’ve had this experience to wash that away. I watched Mandeep in After Life and thought she was excellent, but had never worked with her. Kieran is of course a megastar in the making.

Jessica Knappet

Jessica Knappet as Claire in Avoidance

Tell us about Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show?

It’s a naturalistic sitcom about Jonathan, a conflict-avoidant Dad, played by Romesh, who separates from his wife (me) and moves in with his sister (Mandeep) and her wife (Lisa) who hates him.  Quite a lot of people don’t like Jonathan and he’s trying to figure out why that might be and become a better person. A lot of the comedy comes from the fact that he has a hard time owning up to his terrible mistakes and the convoluted ways he evades facing the awful truth.

Do you have any similarities to your character? 

Yes. In contrast to Jonathan, Claire’s not afraid to say and show exactly how she feels, which is something I can relate to. For an actress I am actually very bad at disguising my emotions, something my husband knows all about. Claire’s openly aggravated by Jonathan from the moment we meet her, which has been really fun to play. I love the honesty of being beyond pretending and playing nice in a relationship. I totally get that – I would call it communication but my husband would call it shouting. She’s not immune to making bad decisions herself, though, as we find later in the series.  Again, relatable.

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

Romesh and Ben Green (director) were really open to us improvising which there isn’t always much time for in television. I really enjoyed any scene where Claire was putting Jonathan in his place, especially because Romesh in real life is all about the withering put-downs. It was fun sparring with him and it’s such a buzz when you’re given the freedom to ad lib a bit, especially when the person you’re playing opposite happens to be one of the funniest comedians in the UK. That said, I’m pretty sure most of it was unusable because we were just laughing instead of acting but the main thing is we enjoyed ourselves.

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before?

It was so nice to have a small core cast. We all got on really well, Mandeep and Lisa are really positive, naturally funny people and it was always a good vibe on set. Romesh is incredibly relaxed, or really good at pretending to be anyway. I think because Rom and Ben have worked together for so long and they created the show together, they were so confident about what they wanted and they are both very good at bringing out the best in people. It was one of the happiest, most laid-back sets I’ve ever been on. I think there is a relaxed tone to the show because of that.

Do you think Claire’s relationship to Jonathan, and also Spencer will be a relatable one that isn’t often shown in TV?

Yes Claire and Jonathan’s relationship is possibly so relatable that we are going to trigger a thousand separations! She has a really good relationship with her son and wants to protect him and I think what’s heart-breaking and might be relatable for lots of people is that struggle with what’s right for her personally, the relationship and what’s right for her child. Something I really loved about Claire’s character was that she isn’t the cliché nagging ex, she’s confident and sarcastic but she also has her own doubts and fears and she remains compassionate towards Jonathan, despite the fact that he is completely useless.

Mandeep Dhillon

Mandeep Dhillon as Danielle in Avoidance

Tell us about Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show?

It’s a story of dysfunctional family dealing with Romesh’s characters inability to deal with conflict. I play his sister who has become a therapist and who tries to stay positive, emotionally present and in control but finds her front slipping and reverting to childish arguments when around her brother. Having Spencer stay and seeing her wife’s warming to have a child in the house reawakens her desire to have her own child. Problem is that discussion was had and put to bed years ago and her wife Courtney is the best as being open to change.

Avoidance is a celebration of what it is to be a loving and sometimes dysfunctional family unit. At its centre is Jonathan, a man who has some serious avoidance issues but who is being forced to change for the sake of his son. I think audiences will watch it and be able to relate. It’s a fun and bittersweet show.

Do you have any similarities to your character?

The only thing that is similar is that we share a slight OCD for needing things to be in order. I wish I had more similarities to Dan because I admire her so much, but the truth is, I don’t. Dan is very mature, something that I’m still working on and she can cook up a storm in the kitchen, again, something I’m still working on!

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

I can honestly say this was the most unprofessional I have ever behaved on a set before! I would get the giggles almost every day and mid scene would just be crying with laughter which is a testament to the other cast members because they were so funny. One of the funniest scenes AND hardest scenes was the scene in episode 1 where you meet Dan and Courtney. Having to eat that disgusting frittata was AWFUL! Myself and Lisa would corpse every time it got close to me having to try some because it genuinely was disgusting to eat. I also loved filming the argument between Dan and Courtney in Episode 5.

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before?

I LOVE EVERYONE IN THIS CAST. Working with Rom, Lisa, Kieran and Jess was such a joy. We really did become a family on and off set. Rom is such a talented man, and the loveliest person I have ever met, we really have become brother and sister. Lisa, who is now my BFF, would have me crying with laughter in a take because she is so funny. Kieran is my spirit animal, and weirdly the same maturity level as me (he is 10, I am 31) and Jess loves my favourite Bollywood film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and would even sing along to it with me. I mean what is not to love?

What were your first impressions of the script?

When I read the script I thought it was a perfect balance of funny, heart-warming and important. I was so happy to read a script where this beautiful blend of a family just existed without question of their race, culture and sexuality. These characters all accept one another just as they are, even Jonathan, who is a hot mess. It made me so happy to see a brown family on screen who represent what it is to actually be brown, NORMAL. It’s so important to me that people who look like me are seeing a true reflection of themselves on screen and for that I’m so happy that this show was even created let alone commissioned by the BBC.

You play a brilliant aunt in the show, does that come from real experience?

I really enjoyed playing an aunt to little Spencer. I am an aunt in real life and so I was able to transfer the love I have for my niece onto Spencer. I love my niece as if she were my own daughter and I have a lovely relationship with all of my aunts, so I really wanted to bring that into Dan’s world. As I said before, Kieran is my spirit animal, we would make up songs and raps together and play silly games. He is basically on my level, or I’m on his level, so that made it so easy for me.

What can you tell us about Courtney and Danielle’s relationship?

Courtney and Dan’s relationship is wonderful. I loved this dynamic. Courtney is basically a teenager and Dan is the therapist mum. You can tell they have been together forever there is such a level of comfort between them.

Lisa McGrillis

Lisa Mc Grillis as Courtney in Avoidance

Tell us about Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show? 

Avoidance is about a man who is separating from his partner and trying to protect their child from being affected by it, by completely avoiding the situation. In fact he avoids any type of confrontation or difficult situation. 

Him and his son end up living with his sister and her wife and they have to learn to live alongside each other and it isn’t easy for any of them.

Do you have any similarities to your character? 

I’d like to say no, but truly the difference between myself and Courtney is that I have a filter and Courtney doesn’t. She unashamedly says exactly what she feels, she doesn’t dampen the blow. She thinks Jonathan is pathetic and needs to grow a back bone and she doesn’t hold back from telling him because that’s what she thinks. Simple. I’d probably be much more empathetic. 

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before? 

Romesh and I worked with each other in King Gary, the rest of the cast were new to me but will remain firm friends whether they like it or not! It turned out that Mandeep lived literally around the corner from me for years and we never knew it. But she’s moved to LA now which is sad because I would definitely have made her my BFF. We are going to have to be pen pals now instead.

What were your first impressions of the script?

I loved it!

How does Avoidance compare to anything else you have starred in?

I really love the simplicity of it. I also like playing someone who the audience might not necessarily warm too straight away. It’s fun playing someone who really doesn’t care about what people think of her, because I very much do care about what people think of me.

What can you tell us about Courtney and Danielle’s relationship?

They are in a very normal, pretty healthy relationship. They argue, they disagree, their communication is sometimes terrible but ultimately they love each other. Courtney is a massive child at times and Dan often ends up diffusing sticky situations that Courtney has created by mothering her. But I think Courtney often surprises Dan when Courtney’s inability to filter works for the greater good.



Backlash over Ricky Gervais Netflix special Supernature

The comedians Netflix special has come under fire from many other stand-up performers, causing a Twitter storm and some viewers claiming to have cancelled their subscription to the streamer.

In SuperNature, Gervais makes a string of what he describes as ironic and satirical jokes about trans people and female comedians which generated a great deal of laughter from the audience.

Gervais told BBC One’s The One Show on Tuesday that comedy is for “getting us over taboo subjects”.

He said: “I think that’s what comedy is for, really – to get us through stuff, and I deal in taboo subjects because I want to take the audience to a place it hasn’t been before, even for a split second. Most offence comes from when people mistake the subject of a joke with the actual target.”

He said audience members go through mixed of emotions when hearing a near-the-knuckle joke. “It starts and they go, what’s he going to say? I tell the joke. Phew, they laugh. It’s like a parachute jump – it’s scary, but then you land and it’s all OK. I think that’s what comedy is for – getting us over taboo subjects so they’re not scary any more. So I deal with everything. And I think we second guess the audience too much.”

However, Glaad the US GBLT rights group didn’t agree  “It’s full of graphic, dangerous, anti-trans rants masquerading as jokes. He also spouts anti-gay rhetoric an spreads inaccurate information about HIV.” officials posted on the group’s Twitter page,

Gervais defended himself saying that for each joke, he momentarily takes whatever stance would make it funnier – “without prejudice” – and insisted that the gags do not represent his actual views and should just be seen as what they are, jokes.

“In real life, of course I support trans rights,” he said. “I support all human rights and trans rights are human rights. Adding “it’s mad to think that joking about something means you’re anti-it”.

On The One Show, Gervais referred to his hugely successful Netflix series After Life, saying some had questioned whether the audience can “take this”.

“Of course they can,” he continued. “Real life is much worse. These are just jokes. They don’t mean anything. They’re just for you to laugh for an hour or so. So that’s why I deal in taboo subjects.”


Netflix Is A Joke Festival Streaming

The biggest live, in-person event in Netflix history: Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival will be available to watch on the streamer: 


LILY TOMLIN AND JANE FONDA PERFORMING AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Elizabeth Morris / courtesy of Netflix

These shows, along with additional specials coming to the service. Like the newest with Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, a history-making special filmed in front of NIAJ’s largest audience ever – a sold out Dodger Stadium! As a forlorn Montreal Expos fan, it was incredible to experience joy on a baseball diamond again. And Netflix is adding even more festival performances to it’s Sirius XM Netflix Is a Joke channel. 



These shows represent some of the best work done at Netflix, with the best comedic talent on the planet. Netflix is grateful to everyone who performed, helping to create the biggest comedy festival in US history. From Amy Poehler and Tina Fey in conversation to John Mulaney performing at both the Forum and the Hollywood Bowl, and an unforgettable evening during Stand Out … this festival was a celebration of comedy and a true civic event. 



There were so many special moments that are almost too numerous to mention – Bill Burr, Wanda Sykes and Kevin Hart headlining the biggest venues in town, Larry David charming everyone at the Greek, Seth Rogen leading hilarious table reads, free outdoor shows at the Palladium and Chris Rock surprising fans at the Hollywood Bowl. And, of course, Dave Chappelle’s four sold out stand-up shows at the Bowl will go down as one of the biggest successes of the festival. Just look at what we were able to accomplish together: 

  • 295 shows;

  • 336 comedians performing; 

  • 35+ venues across LA – from the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory to the Dodgers Stadium, the Forum and the Hollywood Bowl, and many more in between;

  • And 260,000+ tickets sold.

Thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who came to support and enjoy these shows. It was a great reminder that comedy helps bring us together. There’s nothing quite like being in a crowded theater or outdoor arena with hundreds to thousands of other people laughing their heads off with their favorite comics on stage. For everyone who couldn’t make it to LA, check out highlights from the festival here. And sit tight. There are plenty of great stand-up specials for you on Netflix very soon — it’ll almost feel like you were actually there.

“Live from Last Night” at Netflix Is a Joke: The Festival | Exclusive Clip and Photos – DAY SEVEN


Wednesday night, Bill Burr took the stage at the Hollywood Palladium for Friends Who Kill, which will premiere on Netflix. The show featured stand-up sets from Michelle Wolf, Jimmy Carr, Jessica Kirson, Ian Edwards, Dean Delray, Steph Tolev and Joe Bartnick. Jeff Ross and Dave Attell roasted themselves and the audience and the night concluded with a performance by Josh Adam Meyers’ God Damn Comedy Jam. Ronny Chieng also dropped by and brought the house down with a rendition of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”

BILL BURR PERFORMING AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix
BILL BURR PERFORMING AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix

Tuesday’s taping of Arsenio Hall at the theater inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel featured conversations with guests including Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, who discussed his historic shows this coming weekend at Dodgers Stadium. Hall was also joined by comedic trio 85 South, who honored him as one of their idols, plus comedy club royalty Jack Assadourian Jr. got the crowd laughing with a short stand up set. Special festival correspondent, Atsuko Okatsuka, also returned.

For his third show on Wednesday, Arsenio Hall returned for interviews with rap legend Snoop Dogg, who shared a blunt with Hall on stage. Also on hand were comedy icon Katt Williams, Abbot Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson and Chinedu Unaka who closed the show with a stand-up set.



ARSENIO HALL & GABE IGLESIAS AT  NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix

ARSENIO HALL & GABE IGLESIAS AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix
ARSENIO HALL & SNOOP DOGG AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix
ARSENIO HALL & SNOOP DOGG AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Adam Rose / courtesy of Netflix

 Wednesday’s events included a conversation between comedy legend Mike Myers and director David O. Russell in front of a packed audience at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres. The conversation was followed by a free fan screening of the first episode of Netflix’s new comedy series The Pentaverate, with a special introduction from Mike Myers himself.

Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jeong, and Mike Myers attend The Pentaverate Premiere + After Party Photo credit: Araya Doheny/Getty Courtesy of Netflix

Keegan-Michael Key, Ken Jeong, and Mike Myers attend The Pentaverate Premiere + After Party; Photo credit: Araya Doheny/Getty Courtesy of Netflix

Tuesday night saw two sets by comedy icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin who hosted Ladies Night Live at Hollywood Palladium, which will premiere on Netflix. The trailblazers and entertainment legends gave the audience an evening of top notch stand-up featuring guests Michelle Buteau, Cristela Alonzo, Margaret Cho, Heather McMahan, Tracey Ashley, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, and Iliza Shlesinger. 


LILY TOMLIN AND JANE FONDA PERFORMING AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Elizabeth Morris / courtesy of Netflix

 Tuesday’s events also included a celebration  of the late, great Norm Macdonald. The room was filled with MacDonald’s closest family and friends. Conan O’Brien MC’d, as some told personal stories and shared their fondest and funniest memories of the comedy legend. Guests in attendance included Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Kevin Nealon, David Spade, Conan O’Brien, Colin Quinn, Molly Shannon,  and more.



 Wednesday night also included a hilarious set from Mexican comedian legend Franco Escamilla at Hollywood Pantages Theatre and Craig Robinson at Troubadour with his band The Nasty Delicious.

FRANCO ESCAMILLA AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Terence Patrick / courtesy of Netflix

FRANCO ESCAMILLA AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Terence Patrick / courtesy of Netflix
CRAIG ROBINSON  AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Randy Shropshire / courtesy of Netflix
CRAIG ROBINSON AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Randy Shropshire / courtesy of Netflix

 The Oprheum was in the mood for love on Tuesday for night three of Seth Rogen’s Table Read of the comedy classic When Harry Met Sally. Rogen kicked the night off praising the film and its star Billy Crystal who he described as “the pinnacle of Jewish male sexuality.” Rogen assumed the role of “Jess,” Harry’s best friend, and introduced a stellar line up including Nick Kroll as Harry and Zazi Beats as Sally. The cast was rounded out by Casey Wilson, Atsuko Okatsuka, Rory Scovel, Tommy Chong and June SquibbStephen Merchant acted as narrator. Zazi Beats did not disappoint in her recreation of Sally’s orgasm scene in Katz’s Deli. She was only slightly up-straged by June Squibb’s delivery of the classic follow up – “I’ll have what she’s having.” A small ensemble provided musical cues from the film’s soundtrack throughout the night.

Wednesday night marked the fourth and final night if Seth Rogen’s Table Reads featuring  a reading of the Clueless script in front of a packed  house. Lily Collins read as Cher, Mason Gooding read as Travis, Quinta Brunson read as Tai, Storm Reid read as Dionne, King Bach readas Murray, Joel Kim Booster read as Christian, Ray Romano read as Mr. Hall/Mel Horowitz, Kerri Kenney-Silver read as Amber/Miss Geist (and others), Jimmy Tatro read as Elton, and original cast member Breckin Meyer read as Josh. With music by the Red Room Orchestra who aptly covered The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.




Last night, the legendary Conan O’Brien packed out The Wiltern for a live taping of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. After the thunderous applause subsided, he was joined by his assistant Sona Movsesian and producer Matt Gourley, and guest Bill Hader for a riveting conversation about Hader’s early life, success on Saturday Night Live, and hit show Barry. O’Brien closed out the evening with a cover of “We’re Going to Be Friends”, harmonizing alongside Jimmy Vivino and his band.


CONAN O’BRIEN  & BILL HADER AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL Photo credit: Andrew Toth / Getty/courtesy of Netflix
CONAN O’BRIEN & BILL HADER AT NETFLIX IS A JOKE: THE FESTIVAL; Photo credit: Andrew Toth / Getty/courtesy of Netflix

 Tuesday night also included John Mulaney at The Kia Forum, 85 South Show Presents: 5 on it at YouTube Theater, another evening of Aziz Ansari and Friends at The Orpheum Theatre, Laugh With Your Mouth Full: An Evening with Phil Rosenthal (Screening, Food and Q and A with Phil) at Avalon Hollywood, Jimmy O. Yang at Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Nate Bargatze at The Palace Theatre, Christina P and Why Won’t You Date Me? with Nicole Byer  at The Regent Theater, Stand-Up On The Spot, Guy Torry and Roast Battle at The Comedy Store, Made In Canada and Ismo & Friends at Laugh Factory, Luenell and Sam Morril, Brian Monarch and special guest at The Hollywood Improv, Neal Brennan: Unacceptable at Largo at the Coronet, Zach Zucker’s Stamptown The Bourbon Room, Beth Stelling, Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher – Endless Honeymoon Podcast Live at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever, The Pansexul Bachelor with Holmes and J.R De Guzman at The Elysian Theatre, and two sets with Janelle James at The Lab at The Hollywood Improv.

Wednesday night also included Mike Birbiglia Live! at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, Tony Baker and Friends at Avalon Hollywood, Anthony Jeselnik & Enemies at Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Ryan Hamilton at The Regent Theater, Comedy Chaos at The Comedy Store, two sets of Made in Brazil at Laugh Factory, Aida Rodriguez and Tonight at the Improv featuring Mark Normand, Sam Morril, Dusty Slay & more at The Hollywood Improv, Neal Brennan at Largo at the Coronet, Jessimae Peluso at The Bourbon Room, Colin Quinn at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever, James Adomian and Mary Beth Barone at Elysian Theater, Chad and JT at Townhouse Venice, Morgan Jay and Women Crush Wednesday at The Lab at The Hollywood Improv, and Are You Still Listening? at SiriusXM Garage.

Introduction by Creator, Director, Writer and Executive Producer Holly Walsh, and Writer and Executive Producer Pippa Brown

“We’re very much picking up where we left off – the new series starts the morning after the night before. After leaving the audience on the cliffhanger of Cathy snogging her brother, we now see the fall out of this massive revelation. Cat and Cathy have understandably different reactions: Cat desperately wants to see her new bro, whilst Cathy struggles to come to terms that she FRENCHIED A SIBLING.

This show has always been a love letter to sisterhood, with Cat and Cathy still trying to work out how to co-exist as family – but now we’re throwing a new brother, Callum, into the mix too. Callum has to get his head around the fact that he’s been living a lie and that his ‘perfect’ family is not all that it seems. And there’s also Callum’s mother Angela – who’s finally had to fess up to the biggest secret of her life: that her son’s father is not who she says it is. All of this is alongside Tess and Marilyn’s gradual acceptance of Colin’s inability to keep his dick in his pants.

This series has been a joy to work on from start to finish and we couldn’t be more excited to be back on the BBC. Our core cast – Ellie White, Lauren Socha, Rebecca Front and Siobhan Finneran – were so funny and collaborative and we couldn’t be more chuffed to have Christopher Jeffers and Michele Austin join the gang. We also welcomed back Amit Shah and Caroline Quentin who were, as ever, brilliant sports and fantastic performers.”

Interview with Ellie White

Cathy (Ellie White), Cat (Lauren Socha)
Cathy (Ellie White), Cat (Lauren Socha)

Ellie White plays Cathy Walcott

Tell us a bit about where we find Cathy this series. Series one ended on such a cliff hanger!

At the end of series onr, Cathy is stood up at the altar and decides to go on her honeymoon with her sister instead. She finds herself getting very intimate with – potentially – her brother, which is where we find her in the second series. So she’s got the hangover to end all hangovers and on top of that, she may have just kissed her brother, which is, appalling and shocking to anyone – let alone to Cathy who’s one of the most neurotic, strait-laced people in the world. This is the biggest, wildest and also most horrific thing she’s ever done in her life. We see the fall-out from that and her getting back home and being grounded by the fact that she walks in on the tatters left by her horrible fiancé.

How does Cathy feel about Cat at the moment? Has their relationship changed at all since series one?

I definitely think they are friends now. Despite their differences, they’re friends. Which is really nice. They still don’t get each other fully, but they fill out each other’s blanks. Where Cathy is incredibly repressed, Cat is very straightforward and honest and where Cat is completely unhinged, Cathy is very “right, let’s do the sensible thing here”. They push each other in to areas that the other didn’t think they would ever go. It’s yin and yang. Chalk and cheese! But they’re friends despite all of that. The thing with me and Lauren is that we are chalk and cheese – but we get on so well.

We see a shock brother, Callum, join the fold this series along with his mum Angela. How does that change the dynamic?

The nice thing is that it doesn’t change the dynamic. There’s obviously this new friction. Cat is the most honest, open, open-minded person who is slowly starting to see her family expand, and that to her is one of the most exciting things and it’s a really heartwarming part of the series as well. She’s so excited by meeting me and potentially a new brother and Cathy’s more standoffish. Obviously because she’s snogged him, so she feels shame and embarrassment. That friction is the crux of their relationship in the new series. It adds to our dynamic – it does change the story, but it doesn’t change our narrative.

Is there any part of you that is similar to Cathy? Do you like the character?

Lauren would say that I am Cathy, basically, which is really sad. I definitely think that under pressure I can be like Cathy. I’m a very anxious traveller for instance. I get there like three hours early. I’m also terrible at telling people my inner thoughts. I hope I’m not as uptight and neurotic as her. I don’t know, ask Lauren that question!

Do I like Cathy? I feel bad for her. It’s an excellent, well-observed character. I know so many people like that. The intricacies and the neuroses; it’s so believable. Would she be my friend? Maybe after she’d met Cat and she’d opened up a bit more. Before that, I would struggle. She is annoying and she’s boring, but those are almost the best characters – the ones that have that dry boringness to them because when they’re unravelling, they’re almost more enjoyable than someone who’s a bit looser. I hope in my performance that she isn’t as annoying as she would be if you met her in real life.

We also meet Auntie Dawn, the brilliant Caroline Quentin, this series. What can you tell us about her arrival?

She is mad. And she was in the first series, but this time we go to her house. She is completely unhinged. Where Tess is very stoic and very passive-aggressive middle-class woman, I would say Auntie Dawn is a bundle of joy, and one of those middle-class women who are hilarious and wants to meet everyone and do everything all the time and “ooh everything’s lovely and jolly”, “ooh look at you, aren’t you handsome?!” She has verbal diarrhoea, constantly. And Tess struggles with that. It’s quite nice them having the character difference as well.

Caroline Quentin has always been one of my comedy heroes. In fact, so has Rebecca Front and Siobhan. It’s endlessly joyful to have such incredibly funny women that I’ve looked up to my whole life, not just career, but life. Jonathan Creek was my favourite programme of all time. It was such a dream. She has incredibly beautiful, pointed feet, she used to be a dancer. She has fantastic arches!

It looks like you have a riot on set. How was it filming together? Are there moments where you corpse?

It’s mad. It was full-on this series as we did some night shoots. I’d just had Covid so was absolutely depleted, but it’s endlessly entertaining. Lauren is just so funny as a person. She’s like no one I’ve ever met before. Siobhan is like the cool mum. She’s like my sister really. And she’s so funny. I’d mainly seen her in dramas, she’s such an excellent actress. As a person she’s incredibly funny.

Holly is a comedian and now directing this series and it’s her vision. With her having written it and being behind the camera, it felt like a family, and it felt like she knew exactly what she wanted. And obviously in a second series, you know people more, you trust people more, it’s less intimidating. It just felt like, oh wow, this is fun. This is having a great time with my sisters. Who are all mad.

Interview with Lauren Socha

Cat (Lauren Socha) sitting on the loo
Cat (Lauren Socha)

Lauren Socha plays Cat Walcott

How does Cat feel about the discovery of Callum, her new brother? Does it change the way she feels about Cathy at all?

She’s just happy for anything. She’s so appreciative that she has Cathy, so to have a brother is even better for her. It’s everything that she’s dreamed of. I think she’ll treat Callum the same as Cathy. She’s just happy to have the both of them. She loves her sister a lot and having a brother tops it off for her. She’s just buzzing for the both of them.

Family is hugely important to Cat. Why do you think that is?

I always look at Cat – the character – as a little bit naïve and vulnerable at times. With those sorts of characteristics, you are more open (as a person) and more open to finding a normal, loving life with a family. Family life would have meant the world to her because it’s all she ever wanted. It’s the not the norm for her to have that, so to have that now is just everything.

Do you think there are any similarities between yourself and Cat?

Definitely. One hundred percent. I’m very silly and naïve myself. Even more so since becoming a parent. And I like that, because she’s sweet. She’s not horrible and it’s lovely playing those types of characters compared to some other roles I’ve played. It’s nice to be playing a nice normal girl rather than a crackhead or a prostitute!

You have new cast members joining the gang this time. How has that been? Were days on set fun?

It must be very intimidating to come on set when we’ve all built relationships in series one. Immediately we felt a natural connection – especially between me, Ellie and Chris. It was a natural thing for us all and we all got along great. Michele is wicked. And Caroline, it wouldn’t be the same without Caroline, she’s amazing. Me and her got along so, so, so well. It was wicked to have them all, we all just gelled immediately.


I corpse badly. Me and Ellie are completely different people, but we have the exact same sense of humour. It’s always me and Ellie – Ellie can keep it together but I can’t. It’s like you know when you get told off at school and the teachers are like, “stop that Lauren” but you can’t, and it becomes a nervous laugh. It’ll get to 6.50pm when we wrap at 7pm and it’ll be me holding everyone up! The banter between me and Ellie is hilarious, and I think that’s what makes it. That’s why Cat and Cathy bounce off each other. It’s a natural connection we have. She’s one of my dearest friends in the world, but we’re very different and I think that’s what makes the characters work as well.

Cat’s hugely endearing (and very funny) to watch. Do you enjoy playing her?

It’s one of the best roles I’ve ever played. It’s nice to come away from the rude-girl approach and play a normal person. It’s quite refreshing and she’s a very refreshing character to play. It’s wicked to get the lines and see how she would play them. Holly’s been brilliant at letting us have leeway on building our characters and has been very open and creative with us as actors.

What would you like to see going forward for Cat? Not necessarily in series two, but in general.

It would be hilarious to see Cat in a very serious relationship and see where that goes. A pregnant Cat? A labour Cat? Although, you might see Cat do something similar later in this series… just not necessarily with a human.

Interview with Rebecca Front

Tessa (Rebecca Front) leaning on a sports car
Tessa (Rebecca Front)

Rebecca Front plays Tess Walcott

It’s been nearly a year since Tess’s husband died. How is she feeling about everything as we go into the new series?

Tess had an epiphany at the end of series one and she’s let her anger go. So, in series two, we see a much happier, more playful, cheeky Tess. She gets a job, she finds her place in the world, she smiles more.

Can you tell us a little bit about how Tess reacts to the news that her husband fathered yet another child?

I think she’s had to process the shock of the first betrayal, so a second one is almost water off a duck’s back. In some ways, the fact that Colin has betrayed Marilyn as well as herself makes it slightly easier to take. This was clearly a problem with Colin, not with the women.

How is Tess and Marilyn’s relationship?

Tess and Marilyn have settled into an Odd-Couple-style friendship. They really support each other, even though they couldn’t be less alike.

What was it like working with Caroline Quentin as Auntie Dawn again?

Brilliant. Caroline is a powerhouse and just a lovely person to spend time with.

Are there any similarities at all between yourself and Tess do you think?

I hope not. I mean – Tess is huge fun to play, but she’d drive me round the bend in real life.

What’s the best thing about being part of this series?

It’s just so much fun. I love the cast, love the whole team, the scripts are really funny. Honestly, it’s a delight to be a part of it.

Interview with Siobhan Finneran 

Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran)
Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran)

Siobhan Finneran plays Marilyn

Tell us a bit about where we find Marilyn this series.

It’s a year since Colin has died. She has grown quite a bit and is a lot freer than she was in series one. The phrase ‘the truth will set you free’ is probably very relevant to where Marilyn’s at when we find her in series two.

And how does Marilyn feel about Tess at this point?

From Marilyn’s point of view, Marilyn has always known about Tess, so she’s never had to suffer the horrific shock that Tess did – finding out that there’s this other woman that had been in his life for 30 years. She’s never had to deal with that. Marilyn has always known that Tess was there and never thought that Colin would leave Tess for Marilyn. They only had Colin one evening a week so the grief of losing Colin is there, but the rest of the stuff has not impacted on Marilyn the way it has done with Tess.

I think because Marilyn has always known Tess was there and probably has an understanding of how terrible that will have been for somebody. And because she embraces Cathy so easily and Cat is so welcoming to Cathy. I think if Cat was struggling, Marilyn would maybe be struggling but Cat doesn’t seem to be struggling with that new relationship. She’s thrilled with it. I suppose it’s just a connection still with Colin. They’re not at loggerheads as they were in series one, but that’s down to the fact that Tess has sort of accepted that that happened and is coming round to the realisation that Marilyn and Cat are not the devil incarnate.

It’s safe to say she does not take news of the ‘other’ other woman well. What can you tell us about that?

Not at all. She is then experiencing something that Tess had experienced 12 months before. It’s that revealing of another huge secret. I think Marilyn had settled herself with the fact that there was a wife and lived in that world of the – and forgive me now – ‘other woman’ headspace of going, well, I get my lovely time with him, I know he loves me. But to then find out that she wasn’t just the only other one, to try and get her head around that is really difficult.

She needs as much information as she can and the one person that could answer all these questions is no longer there, so they’ve got to set about their own detective work. He’s not there to answer the questions that I imagine any human being would want to ask. He’s just left them all in this incredible mess that they’ve now got to come together and work out themselves. To work out what the hell has been going on. And if there’s another one, there could be another 10!

Marilyn is certainly a character different to any other you’ve acted. Do you enjoy playing her? Do you like her?

I absolutely love her! For me, she is the most uninhibited woman I’ve probably ever played. Even though she’s so flawed. In series one you saw that she’s permanently medicated and can’t go out of the house. All of those things are absolutely horrific for somebody to be dealing with. I try and root it somewhere. All of that mess is now behind her as we start series two. Like I said before, it’s that thing where the truth will set you free. She can breathe again and all of those restrictions, whether they were medical or psychological problems she was having in series one, they’re slowly but surely ebbing away in this series. The doors have opened and as they’ve opened, she’s been confronted with Angela and the fact that he was lying to her as well. I think with Marilyn, the balance she had was that he was never lying to her. She knew what the situation was, and she was happy to go along with that.

What do you think about Holly’s and Pippa’s writing and the direction they’ve taken this series?

I love the scripts. I think the scripts are really, really funny. But also there’s a whole lot of heart in there, which is a treat to get to play. It would be completely and utterly depressing if we were making some kind of documentary because we wouldn’t get to see the funny side of it at all. Whereas the fact that these people are thrown together and are completely opposing families, that’s where the fun is. If we were making a drama, there would be no fun there because it’s actually a completely and utterly horrific situation for anyone to find themselves in.

You have a fantastic cast ensemble. What are the days like on set?

We have a really lovely time, actually. I was thrilled this time round to get to do more stuff with Rebecca because in series one the characters were at loggerheads. So, this series they’ve come together a bit. And the girls are great, Lauren and Ellie are just great fun to work with. It’s a lovely job. And the sun was shining, which always helps!

Interview with Christopher Jeffers

Callum (Christopher Jeffers)
Callum (Christopher Jeffers)

Christopher Jeffers plays Callum

Tell us a bit about Callum and the sort of person he is.

Callum is a young, successful builder/part-time model who we met briefly at the end of series one when he met this beautiful stranger in a pub and kissed her. We pick up from the morning after and get to meet him properly. He’s happy, he’s ambitious and comes from a nice, put together family. He’s an only child. Obviously, there’s the revelation and we see how it affects him and his family and tears that protection apart a little bit. And how he deals with his emotional journey as he moves forward and navigates these two new sisters in his life.

It’s fair to say the news comes as a complete shock to Callum. How does he feel about Cathy and Cat being his new sisters?

It’s an absolute shock to find out you’ve got two new sisters anyway, but the fact that you’ve kissed one of them is a double blow. It’s a bit of a nightmare situation for him. There’s a negative initial reaction, especially being an only child and now having two sisters. But there’s a see-saw because Cat is really keen to get to know Callum. He wants his space a little bit but doesn’t really get the opportunity to have that. Which is probably a good thing for him because he’s never had the chance to deal with anything on this scale before in his life. It’s been interesting to look at that.

Do you think audiences will like Callum? What’s he like to play?

I hope they enjoy watching him and his sisters navigate a new family dynamic and get to know each other. Playing him was so fun and each day on set was a new experience. I was on a horse, or on a quad bike, chopping wood with my top off – so we’re not too dissimilar in that sense! I relate to him as well because we’ve had similar family situations in our lives. I discovered I had four sisters and a brother when I was put in contact with my birth dad nearly four years ago. When I told Holly about it, she was like, “are you joking?!” It was weird reading it (in the script) as I was able to draw from my own experiences. There was some artistic licence for me to be able to add my own bits in there.

You’re the newcomer this series, how has it been filming with the rest of the cast?

The cast, crew and creative team are absolutely incredible. The thing for me, is being put into this female-driven comedy with five incredible women and be inspired by them and to work with them. Siobhan, I massively looked up to and has inspired me and my acting. To work with her was like ‘wow’. The writing is so clever, and everyone made me feel so comfortable. I hope it comes across on camera, it was a privilege to work with such an amazing cast and creative team.

We filmed in your hometown of Manchester. How was that? Did it make the experience more special?

Yes of course. Manchester is the best city in the world! My parents still live there, a lot of my friends still live there so to be able to be there, where I grew up and know so well, was nice. I don’t get to go up often because I’m working in London and away so much. To have a nice block of five weeks up there was great. I felt really lucky. My grandma wandered on to set one day. She was shopping nearby and wandered in to have a look what was going on!

What do you hope the audience takes away from the series?

A lot has gone on – and is still going on – in the last few years and a lot of people have had a tough time, so I do hope this series brings some relief, joy, laughter and escapism for people. It’s a comedy but it does explore grief and loss and the complexities of families, which everyone has to deal with – you know, you can’t choose your family – and we all deal with that in different ways. I hope that resonates to a lot of the audience who follow us on the journey. It’s old-fashioned comedy but it’s got heart, it’s funny, it’s silly, it’s emotive, it’s moving. I hope people find it a joy to watch but also, it touches them.

Interview with Michele Austin

Angela (Michelle Austin), Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran) leaning on a sports car
Angela (Michelle Austin), Marilyn (Siobhan Finneran)

Michele Austin plays Angela, Callum’s mum

So, tell us a bit about Angela and where we find her.

When we find Angela, she is at the top. A self-made millionaire businesswoman who’s incredibly confident, but also a bit of a mess too. She’s not as slick as she could be! I talk to Holly a lot about that thing where you project that you’re really in control, but just out of sight you’re a mess or it’s not quite as it seems. She’s a confident, middle aged woman in love with her husband and thinks she’s got it all, then it all quickly comes tumbling down around her.

What sort of person is she?

She’s the kind of person that I imagine would aspire to be on Dragon’s Den as a dragon! She’s a wannabe dragon, that’s the best way to describe her. Obviously, it’s a comedy and it’s a lot of fun, but we definitely want to think about her being a successful black woman in what must be quite a white male dominated business. So, she’s got to have a level of confidence and hutzpah, which she has in spades. I mean, she might not be the classiest with how she spends her money, you know she’s got quite the house there! But she does have a very bougie lifestyle put it that way, there’s a lot of gold and crystal.

The shocking news is completely out of the blue for Angela, how does she react to it?

Not very well. She doesn’t react very well, because she’s not used to being out of control in a situation. Also, she’s having to deal with the shame of it all because it is completely unexpected for her. She is really determined to get her life back at any cost really.

What does she think of Tess and Marilyn initially?

She doesn’t think much of Tess and Marilyn at all. She’s quite the snob. She does warm to both of them, and probably because she doesn’t have an awful lot of friends. She’s working all the time and I think those kinds of businesspeople probably don’t have as big a social life as they would like. She absolutely adores her husband, and he keeps the house and home together. It’s appalling the idea of not being with him, but also, she’s dealing with the shame of the situation. She’s deeply ashamed and she’s deeply embarrassed by the whole thing. I mean, what would the Cheshire set think?

Do you think we will see friendships develop?

Yes, we do see friendships develop and I think it’s opposites attract. I think she really loves the fact that she’s probably inspiring Tess to be more confident. I think that she thinks she’s really an inspiration to Tess. And she thinks that Marilyn is fun really. She has fun with Marilyn, and they have common ground in music, cigarettes and wine.

The characters you played previously are very different to Angela. Did you like playing her?

Oh gosh I loved it! Because (and I thank all the relevant parties for giving me the jobs in the past) I’ve spent an awful lot of my career in nursing scrubs and uniforms and in sensible suits. I’ve played quite a lot of caring professionals. So, it’s been utterly joyous to be able to put on slightly naff, gaudy clothes and wear lots of really amazing wigs!

I made a decision quite early on that she has a selection of wigs that she wears because she probably doesn’t have the time to be in hairdressers all the time, so I wear some really fabulous wigs. Danielle was amazing at finding really great costumes for me. She also did the costumes for Alma’s Not Normal, she’s brilliant. I loved playing Angela because she was goofy, and I got to do a lot of tripping up and spilling things on myself and choking and the kind of goofy stuff that I do at home. It was a lot of fun.

How does it feel to be joining the cast?

It’s always a strange one isn’t it, because it can be a little bit like going to a new school, you do have that feeling! On the one hand you want to be confident and on the other hand you don’t want to go in all guns blazing with your best jokes and sort of bamboozle them. You’ve got to get to know people. But I was really lucky that we got to do some rehearsals before, so I got to meet everyone then. I have a few friends in common with Siobhan so I knew her. I was incredibly nervous because I think they’re brilliant. But they were very welcoming and sweet to me. I had a laugh and a lot of fun with them. I hit them with some of my best jokes and stories and it was okay in the end, you know?

Do you have any anecdotes from filming?

Oh my god the dog, Tina Turner. The dog was the most extraordinary animal I’ve ever come across. We spent a day’s filming where it felt like all I was doing was trying to push this dog into the bloody car. Trying to push an Irish Wolfhound into a Ferrari was the most extraordinary thing.

We were filming in summer and by the end of the day the dog was quite pungent. Possibly one of the worst days of my career was that the day because we had to film the dog licking my feet. They had to spread Dairylea on my feet because the dog liked it. The next day, when I got back to my hotel room, there was a beautiful package of foot soak and chocolates and lovely, nice things from Holly just to say ‘thank you very much’.

I have to be honest, lots of my things involve the dog. The first day of filming, when unfortunately, Holly tested positive for Covid, she was directing us via Zoom, the dog was pretty lively and was supposed to be sitting still but didn’t want to. That’s also the day I discovered (because I’m not a dog owner as you can tell) that dogs have periods. So, I’ll just leave that one there, it was quite an interesting filming day.

Interview with Tom Basden – Here We Go

What can viewers expect from the first full series of Here We Go?

Across the series, there are a few different stories going on, there’s Paul’s attempt to find a new job and a new direction for himself, having given up on his archery dream, there is the course of Amy and Maya’s relationship, there’s Cherry and Robin getting back together, breaking up and then and then a sort of last ditch attempt to sort of salvage that.

Really the show focuses on the kind of everyday catastrophes that beset the Jessop’s life, some of which are very familiar, things like the family trying to eat more healthfully or trying to go on a day out together, and some of them are quite weird and wonderful, like the family accidentally kidnapping a dog or having to destroy a swimming pool, or going undercover with an estate agent, so there’s a real mixture of ordinary family life and quite ridiculous adventures. 

Where do we pick back up with the Jessops?

I’ve tried to move the Jessops on from the pilot but keep a lot of things in place. So Robin and Cherry have now got back together, having broken up in the pilot and they are now giving it another go at the start of the series and Amy and Maya are still together and Sam is still making videos. Rachel and Paul’s relationship is still in need of need of a revamp, I guess you’d say. So in some ways, there were a lot of things from the pilot that I felt like I wanted to spend more time with.

How was writing the series? Was it easier, because you had all the characters established, or was it more difficult taking the family out of the pandemic and into a more normal way of life?

I think once I found the stories I wanted to tell and the overall series arcs for the for the characters and their relationships, it was quite easy and really enjoyable. When I first came up with the idea for the show, it was never intended to be purely for the pandemic, even though this worked really well for the pilot in 2020. At the time I felt that there were a lot of stories and ideas that could come from the central setup – that the youngest son is documenting the life of his family who are desperately trying to find ways to have fun together despite the world trying to make life hard for them. And I was already thinking about loads of other situations, and places I’d like to put them. When I was making the pilot I felt like there was a lot left to be done with the Jessops, so I’m delighted that I had the chance to do that. 

Is there any part of yourself that you put into Robin? Maybe a stash of Goblins hidden somewhere?

Yeah, I did collect Warhammer figures, as a lad for a while and I think my parents have still got them somewhere. To be honest there’s bits of me in all the characters, there’s bits of Paul that I’ve said or recognise myself in, and there are definitely bits of Rachel in me when it comes to constantly trying to get my family out the door and trying to take charge but being quite inept at doing so. I think when you’re writing stuff you do tend to carve up bits of your personality and to divide them among your characters a little bit, so I’d say I have some similarities with Robin but luckily not that many!

What is it about Cherry that you think Robin is in love with?

Robin and Cherry’s relationship is based on some couples I know (that I obviously won’t name) where there is a certain kind of needy and vulnerable man who is attracted to a very strong woman. It can work the other way too of course. But I think you see that dynamic play out quite a lot and it’s is something that I was keen to explore because although it can be funny, it can also be really sweet when couples find their groove in those relationships and it can bring out the best in them.

Also, because Robin and Cherry aren’t living with the Jessops, their relationship can be a bit more high impact, where suddenly they’re into cycling or salsa, or they’ve got a new passion, or something else has happened in their relationship that’s quite exciting. So there’s never a dull moment for Robin and Cherry and I think that that’s probably what both of them find quite attractive about the relationship, even if it’s also going to be a source of stress. And I think Robin probably does need someone to sort him out a bit and of keep on straight narrow because when he’s not with Cherry, he is completely useless.

You have some great talent involved, when you wrote it did you have the casting in mind?

When I wrote the pilot I did have Katherine in mind, and with Jim and Alison, as soon as I saw them reading it I absolutely couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it, they were just so perfect for those roles. With Cherry, Tori’s audition was so brilliant and funny that I was really excited to write more dialogue for her and suddenly had a much better handle on the character. Having made the pilot I could pretty much write for the for the actors and for their voices when putting the series together, which is really helpful. Within the series, there are certain roles that I wrote with specific people in mind, such as Ray for Tim Key or Frank for Mark Williams.

And what was it like working with Alison Steadman?

Incredible! Alison is someone I’ve been watching in films and TV shows for ages, from Abigail’s Party, Nuts in May, Life is Sweet when I was growing up and then Gavin & Stacey more recently, and she is just such a joy to work with. Every take is just fantastic, and so funny and she’s always completely in control of where the comedy is coming from, so it was brilliant and a great experience working with her. Some of my favourite stuff in the in the series is from Alison’s character, like the episode where she gets a new boyfriend, and she’s just she’s so wonderful at playing a character like Sue, who is so upbeat and absurd, and sometimes little bit unaware, but then then can suddenly become quite emotional and can suddenly break your heart out of nowhere. She makes it look so easy.

How did you find working with the camera in such a different way?

I quite like being able to acknowledge the camera. I made the film David Brent Life on the Road with Ricky Gervais a few years ago and that was the first time that I got to do that, to play that game of acknowledging the camera and looking to the camera as if to say like “are you hearing this?” and I think it can add a lot of extra humour because you’re able to play with what the character is and isn’t aware of.

How do you find the creative process given you are the creator, writer and a cast member?

It’s quite a full on, when you’re writing and you’re also featuring in something. You’re also there all the time as you’re watching scenes that you’re not in, talking to the Director, talking to the actors. And I’m sure that they get a bit sick of me but it’s also really exciting seeing your ideas come to life, and then afterwards in the edit, helping to make decisions about how best to present them. There were times when it was it was wearing me out a bit, but I think that’s just sort of that’s what comes trying to make a comedy show.

Do you prefer being behind the camera or in front of it?

I would absolutely prefer to be in front of it if I had the choice, but I think something like this, where I had the opportunity to write scripts and then be in front of the camera is even better. Any setup where you can improvise and play around and try and find funny moments with other performers who have a similar sensibility is pretty much the most fun you can have.

Was there much improvisation on the set then?

There was certainly some. I was always encouraging the cast to do takes where we go a bit mad and throw stuff in and start all talking over each other because in some ways, the show is about the chaos of family life, so I wanted it to feel like we’re a real family and that it’s not all carefully scripted. Some of the bonkers stuff made it through to the finished episodes as well –  like the moment in episode 2 where Robin and Dean just start kind of chanting for no reason.

There are some real laugh-out-loud moment this series, what was your favourite scene to shoot?

I really liked all the stuff in the distillery in episode 6 with Ben Clifford, who played Campbell. He made me laugh so much. My favourite thing to shoot was probably the scenes in the Italian restaurant in episode 5, we were essentially eating pizza and tiramisu for 2 days.

What do you hope viewers will take away from this series?

I really hope that viewers see their own families in this show and recognise the mini triumphs and disasters that families inflict upon themselves when they spend time together and that they’ll be impressed by my salsa dancing.

Is it a coincidence that Jim’s character plays archery, but then his character in BBC’s Ghosts died by getting an arrow in his neck?

I wish I had done it on purpose, because a few people have picked up on that, but unfortunately it just is a coincidence.

Interview with Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson

Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson in Britney

So what’s the story behind Britney?

Charly: Britney is the very true and very funny story of when I was diagnosed with a large pituitary adenoma  and I moved back to my tiny childhood village to deal with it. Luckily, my best friend Ellen was nearby….

Ellen: Having glamorously not yet left home…

Charly: Right and that is glamorous. So we were able to face it as a duo.

But that sounds like a sad story and this is a comedy.  How did you manage to find humour in such a difficult situation?

Ellen: Well, it was never a conscious decision to find the humour in it. But Charly makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world…

Charly: And Ellen makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world…

Ellen: Except whichever boy you fancy…

Charly: True! And we were back together for the first time in a few years having studied apart, and so it was just a case of ‘let’s have a nice time and try to discuss what’s happening as little as possible’.

Ellen: It was our dream to do comedy together from when we were teenagers re-enacting Smack the Pony and French and Saunders sketches in our bedrooms.

Charly: And we were considering trying to write a sketch show anyway. Then every time we came to write any kind of comedy over those months it ended up being brain-tumour related, because I guess it’s so much of what we were thinking about.

Ellen: Charly’s brain is so weird – even without the you-know-what – so she had a mad way of explaining stuff. Like how surreal it was to be told there was something in your brain you didn’t know was there that needs an operation to get rid of, she explained that to me as like finding out there was a small Welsh town in your brain, whose inhabitants are really pissed off they’re about to be evicted. And every time that happened, I was thinking, ‘This should be a show; how else will we monetise the experience?’

Is the TV show different to your original Edinburgh stage show?

Charly: Totally different, in some ways. In the live show, Ellen and I play all the parts and it’s very, very sketchy. Tonally, we hope the pilot has maintained a sort of wild energy, and the love-story that’s underneath the stage show, but just by virtue of actually having locations and sets and other actors it’s really different.

Your supporting cast includes Omid Djalili as Charly’s doctor and Lia Williams and Tony Gardner as her parents.  Did you have an idea of who you wanted to play the roles?

Charly: We really wanted everyone who you watch in the pilot to take the roles so it is a real dream.

Ellen: The only person I was slightly gutted about was we’d offered Daisy Edgar Jones the role of Charly, but she was filming some sort of Irish thing so couldn’t do it. But Charly does a really good go.

Charly: Omid has been a huge fan of ours for a really long time, we actually taught him everything he knows about comedy.

Ellen: Right. So when he wrote to us begging for what he described as ‘the opportunity of a lifetime’, we thought we’d give this plucky newcomer a chance.

Charly, you were desperate to stay in New York.  Do you think you might ever go back?

Charly: Oh big time! I’m not done over there. I didn’t get to leave on my own terms, I left because of my diagnosis and the fact that the American healthcare system is dogshit but I’ll definitely go back, I’m excited to.

What’s it like acting as yourself?  Did you find yourselves exaggerating your personalities and stories?

Ellen: The good thing about the fact that we’re doing it together is that if one of us does start to exaggerate parts of ourselves in a scene, we can say ‘chill out mate, you’re doing a bit much here’ or ‘actually you weren’t wearing so much makeup or that padded bra for that part of the brain surgery’…

Did writing this programme make you nostalgic for your past?

Charly: Yes and no. It was definitely nice to revisit lots of the jokes and adventures we went on but it wasn’t a barrel of laughs dredging up the medical stuff. Having said that, though, it was very cathartic to look back on everything and choose how to tell the story, it was quite freeing in some ways.

You both seem to find the funny side of the darkest situations. Do you use comedy to get through difficult times?

Ellen: I don’t know if this answers the question, but the first thing Charly did after the diagnosis was put on an inflatable sumo suit and I wrote a comedy eulogy.

Why did you name your tumour Britney?

Ellen: It’s easier than always referring to it as ‘that enormous tumour resting life threateningly close to your carotid artery’.

Charly: Also because a bad bitch brain like mine could only house a bad bitch tumour and Britney is the baddest bitch in pop.

You have a great friendship.  Do you ever fight? Do you ever get on each other’s nerves?

Ellen: Yeah, we definitely fight. We hate to do it, though!

Charly: We always try to make up before we go to bed, even if that means a very late walk and a Strongbow Dark Fruits and a chat.

Ellen: We spend a huge amount of our time together, and often find we’ll be up into the early hours of the morning because we have so much to ‘catch up on’.

Charly: How?! We live together, we work together, we hang out in the evenings and at weekends together. By virtue of spending so much time together and having been best friends since we were 14, it would be creepy if we didn’t sometimes get on each other’s nerves.

Is your friendship exactly as it’s portrayed in the programme or is it exaggerated in the name of comedy?

Ellen: If we wrote like we actually talk, I reckon it’d be unintelligible.

Charly: Yeah, we’ve had to write in more ordinary human speech otherwise nobody would have understood what the hell was going on. The friendship in the show is honestly completely authentic, if anything we’ve had to chill it out a bit for TV.

Ellen: Our only fear is that, in mining the friendship for our careers, are we hollowing something out deep within us?

Charly: But then we think, ‘but it’s the BBC!’

Ellen: And we’re instantly soothed.

Interviews with Greg Davies and guest stars in The Cleaner


What can viewers expect from The Cleaner, and why should they tune in?

The Cleaner is a comedy about a man who has made it his job to mop up the horrible aftermath of crimes and accidents. To Wicky, a bloodbath is just an obstacle between him and his next pint. Each week he attends a different ‘crime scene’ and meets a new character associated with whatever had happened. Each episode is totally different the only constant being a man with an everyman curiosity and a determination to leave things spotless. It’s also very silly at times and I hope funny.

I think it’s a unique show in that the cleaner is the only constant character. The bizarre life events that have led to him being called unfold differently every week, and he finds himself in strange situations talking to people he has no frame of reference for.

This is a departure from your previous writing style, how was that for you?

Each episode is generally a two-hand ‘play’. I mistakenly thought this would be easier than writing for multiple characters. It is not! It was nice to just focus on Wicky and the person he encounters each week though. It’s a challenge to make them rounded and to give context to the dreadful events that have led them to be spending time with a crime-scene cleaner.

Do you see any of yourself in Wicky, are you a bit of a gossip?

Oh I’m even nosier than he is, but I generally don’t get access to crime scenes. He gets to dip in to bizarre lives, which I’m a bit jealous of to be honest. He also likes a pint and his friends are the friends he has had for a very long time, which is true of me.

You attracted some brilliant co-stars for the series. When you were writing their episodes did you have them in mind, and how was it working with them?

I didn’t dare imagine that people like Helena [Bonham-Carter] would say yes, so I just wrote them, but the scripts certainly evolved once the parts were cast.

Each of episodes are stand-alone with a new case and new people, did you have a favourite and why?

It’s such a cop out answer but I genuinely didn’t. They are all so different and each actor brought new and brilliant things to the part.

Having played Wicky, how good do you think you would be at cleaning up a crime scene now?

As anyone who knows me will testify, I would be the worse crime-scene cleaner on the planet. My home/car regularly look like crime scenes because of my incompetence in the field of domestic work.

Are there any funny anecdotes from filming you can share?

I generally laughed a lot through the series. There was one incident I would love to tell you about, but for now I am sworn to secrecy. Until I establish how much the actor is prepared to pay me not to tell you.

If you ever met a real crime scene cleaner what would you ask them?

I’d apologise and then ask them if we can get together and design a more breathable SOCO* suit for a fat middle-aged man working under lights.

*Scene Of Crime Officer

A word from Helena Bonham Carter

Sheila (Helena Bonham Carter), Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies)
Sheila (Helena Bonham Carter), Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (Greg Davies)

How was it working with Greg Davies?

It has been brilliant fun working with Greg and the team on The Cleaner. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Sheila, one of the eclectic (and sometimes murderous) mix of characters that ‘Wicky’ comes across during his gruesome but necessary work.

Before this job, thanks to my children, I knew Greg as the really tall man on Taskmaster, but now I know that not only is he genuinely very tall but he is also a brilliant writer, and as nice as he is funny. And he has a lovely mum.

David Mitchell Q&A

Terence Redford (David Mitchell), Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies)
Terence Redford (David Mitchell), Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (Greg Davies)

Tell us a bit about your character in The Cleaner, and what attracted you that the role.

I play an irascible and self-involved writer apparently oblivious to the gory family tragedy that just happened in his living room. When I read the script, the character’s lines really leapt off the page as immediately funny and speakable. That’s extremely rare, so I was immediately keen to be paid to say them on TV.

What was the most enjoyable part of filming for you?

Breakfast. On location filming shoots, there’s always a fried breakfast available at the start of the day and, having not done any location filming for ages because of Covid, I felt justified in really tucking in. The whole experience of filming a funny script in a house for a few days was such a lovely return to pre-pandemic life all round. We were shooting in April and it was one of the first things that made me believe that life really could get back to normal.

How was it working with Greg Davies?

Excellent all round. He’s an extremely funny and talented man, but also really good company. I was really chuffed that he wanted me involved with the project.

If you ever met a real crime scene cleaner what would you ask them?

What’s the best way of getting blood splatter off a tapestry seat cover.

Ruth Madeley Q&A

Helena (Ruth Madeley), Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies)
Helena (Ruth Madeley), Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (Greg Davies)

Tell us a bit about your character in The Cleaner. What attracted you to the role?

Helena, my character, is a very proud vegan. She’s proud of her vegan life, and she’s a very ballsy character. She has so much about her, and I personally absolutely love her dry wit. She doesn’t suffer fools and is very aware of who she is and how she wants to live her life.

He’s going to get such a big head after I say this, but the pull for me, mainly, was Greg. We’ve followed each other’s work for quite a while and he was definitely on my bucket list of people who I would love to work with. Also, the fact it was a comedy as well – I do so much drama, and doing an out and out comedy role was an absolute dream. Ican’t think of anyone who I’d want to do that with more than Greg, I was very honoured and very flattered to be asked.

Reading how the character develops in the scripts, and how funny it was, was the icing on cake. It was funny on paper but then it’s even funnier when you are interacting. I loved the fact it was just us two and loved that set up. It was such a nice way to watch Wicky with different characters and to see how he navigates through the world.

What was the most enjoyable part of filming for you? 

That’s such a hard question, there wasn’t one day where I didn’t enjoy it. I loved the big comedic scenes when Wicky jumps over Helena, I genuinely cannot wait to watch it on screen. Or the bit where they are really bonding when they are having a cheeky spliff – it’s just those moments and the little nuances that are really funny.

Our last day on set was when Greg was in the wheelchair, and he had to do a race, and I’ve never seen anybody so exhausted in my entire life, it was so funny to watch! He said, “How do you do this every day, it’s such hard work!”

I can’t think of one thing that wasn’t enjoyable. The team behind the camera was wonderful, a brilliant group of people working on such a fun project. There wasn’t one day that I didn’t want to be there, and I was very sad when it ended.

How was it working with Greg? 

His writing is so clever – the way he puts a story together, and the way he constructs characters, he was an absolute dream, he really was. And there was so much comedy, but he was very sensitive to making sure it was told in the right way. There was also no crassness. There was no, “let’s just throw a disability joke in here for the sake of it”. It was really clear he wanted to make sure it was funny, but also not offensive, and he was a bit of a genius like that.

People often think they can’t make certain jokes about disability, and Greg kept saying, “I want to get this right, I don’t want to upset or offend anybody”. If people are asking those questions it’s a good sign, that they want to get it right. The way he wrote the script and the way he created the character was such a beautiful way to tell the story of every single disabled person who has a non-disabled person constantly thinking about saying the right things and saying the wrong things. 

It genuinely was such a wonderful experience to be able to hear Greg’s thought process around that, and as well as the BBC and Studio Hamburg UK, they really wanted to make sure they got it right and they absolutely did. Every day on set was hysterical, and it was a lovely way to do it, because you could tell that production really cared about representing disability properly but in a really funny way. We need that and the world needs that, especially when we are living in such chaotic times – we just need some out and out comedy! I think Greg’s writing is incredible, and, let’s face it, his acting’s not bad either! He is a wonderful person to work with. 

Are there any funny anecdotes from filming you can share?

The days always started on such a wonderful note in the make-up truck, every day I would say “are you alright?” he’d go “I’m knackered, I’m so tired” – he’d be writing until God knows what time and he would say, ‘I don’t know any of my lines!”, but every day he had me in stitches.

There was a woman who came up to him when we were filming in the park, and asked what we were filming for, Greg replied it was for a BBC One TV production, and she asked him if there was anyone famous coming, and Greg replied “Nah”’. It was the most satisfying moment for me on set, honestly it was so funny, and it was just hysterical, he had a crowd of children watching him and laughing at him trying to race a wheelchair.

If you ever met a real crime scene cleaner what would you ask them?

Everybody who knows me, knows I am a little obsessed with crime, I will watch every crime documentary going, I would probably have a file full of questions for them. I think I’d ask: “what’s the most random body part you’ve had to bag up at the end of the day?” I’ve watched so many things online about crime scene cleaners and one of them said they had to put a human ear in a bag and I thought, goodness me, what a strange way to earn a living!

Stephanie Cole Q&A

Vivien (Stephanie Cole), Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies)
Vivien (Stephanie Cole), Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (Greg Davies)

Tell us a bit about your character in The Cleaner. What attracted you to the role?

My character Vivien is a frightful old woman, and she’s not a very nice lady at all! She doesn’t care about anyone else, is very selfish and very upmarket. I loved the craziness and the over the top-ness of it – not that we played it over the top, but I think they are all stories that are huge fun to read and to watch.

I had the most wonderful stunt double who did an extraordinary job. They so rarely get praise for their work, and I think the public don’t realise what an amazing job they do.

What attracted me to the role was working with Greg again, who I’d worked with several times and always enjoy hugely because I think he is terrific. It is a wonderful series, and the writing is good, Greg is wonderful and the whole team were absolutely fabulous. It was great fun to do!

What was the most enjoyable part of filming for you?

The most enjoyable part was working with Greg again, which is always a huge delight because he is great fun and he also takes the works very seriously and is extremely good and is a joy to work with. When you do television it is very rare you get somebody who’s not very nice, so it’s usually an absolute joy, but this was joy upon joy because Greg was wonderful to work with and indeed so was everybody else, all the crew, we did laugh a great deal.

I’ve worked with Greg several times now, and I just love it, he is so good at what he does. He is meticulous and great fun, and he appreciates your input. He is just a lovely man.

Are there any funny anecdotes from filming you can share?

I remember it was a very cold day when we filmed with the Aston Martin. It was in the garage, and Greg was in there with the car and I was stood outside and I remember thinking to myself, “there must be an easier way to earn a living”. I also did a lot of laughing when I kept throwing myself over the sofa, we had a giggle about that. The overall feeling was one of great pleasure and fun.

If you ever met a real crime scene cleaner what would you ask them?

Oh, I think I’d have a million questions about how they would go about it, and if they had watched The Cleaner, and also ask how similar a real crime screen cleaner is compared to Wicky in the show.

Layton Williams Q&A

Paul Wicky Wickstead (Greg Davies), Hosea (Layton Williams)
Paul Wicky Wickstead (Greg Davies), Hosea (Layton Williams)

Tell us a bit about your character in The Cleaner – what attracted you to the role?

My amazing, beautiful, talented lol character ‘Home Alone Hosea’ is an influencer and is social media obsessed. He got left by his parents in a big house all by himself when he was younger and he became an internet sensation. But with that of course comes a lot of tougher moments because he didn’t get to see or do much in the real world.

This is why I think the relationship between Hosea and Wicky is so amazing, because they are two very unlikely friends, people you wouldn’t think would get along but they do. But Hosea has a really good heart and by the end of the episode you feel for him and realise he is a good kid. He thinks he is doing these things for the likes on social media, but comes to understand that life is not about the double taps.

When I read the script I remember thinking, this is a bit of me. I kept reading and reading and it was a time when I was taking a break from everything because of the pandemic – theatres were closing and I was free! So it was amazing having a whole episode as a guest ‘star’, even though I don’t like to call myself a star! The line-up is iconic! I mean if Helena Bonham Carter is getting an episode, I wanted one!

When I went to my chemistry read with Greg I saw a medic who was getting all hyped, and I knew they had a story to tell that they wanted to get it off their chest, so I was like, “go on what do you want to say?” and they said “I just had to put a swab down Helena Bonham Carter’s mouth!” I was like, “OH, what’s she doing here?!” and then I realised she was in the cast too and I was like, oh my God!. I am so excited to see everyone else’s episodes and I’m just really privileged to star alongside such a stellar group of people. 

What was the most enjoyable part of filming for you?

The location – it was unreal. The crib we were filming in was iconic, it was all very eco-friendly and everything was self-serviced by natural movements of the light. I don’t know the science behind it, but it was lit and I was really bouncing around the place as if it was mine. Every day was a new fun experience. One day we are on space hoppers, another we are on bicycles, I know it sounds weird, but I don’t ride a bike very often so it was so much fun. Next thing you know we are playing sports games with bats! We were really put through our paces but it was so fun and I was constantly surprised by what was going on in that moment. I beamed all week!

I also loved the costume, the make-up and the set designs – the team was a whole bunch of huns, we were all on the same page and it all just pops on the screen! 

How was it working with Greg?

Working with Greg was iconic – he is an absolute star, and such a lovely guy! You never really know what people are like when you see them on TV, we all put on a persona when we have to, but he is just amazing. We were laughing so much on screen and off screen, and had an absolute lol, we’d be singing all day, it was an absolute pleasure. He was really patient and open to letting me try different things and if I said “Can we try it like this?” or “I think the kids would like this”, that’s not me thinking I’m young, but if I thought something might work he’d say “Yeah go for it!”. So we had lots of improvisation moments which I hope make it in! 

Are there any funny anecdotes from filming you can share?

It was so much fun spraying the jam, even though I did some accidental sprays when I shouldn’t have. I did a pirouette with the syringe in my hand and said “Oh my God, maybe I should try this” and I literally squirted the blood the whole way around the room and it was a clean squirt! I thought, oh no, what am I gonna do! So they had to make me repeat the squirt a few days later for continuity! It was amazing, but don’t go running round doing pirouettes when you are squirting blood because things will get dirty! 

If you ever met a real crime scene cleaner, what would you ask them?

I would ask. “How do you sleep at night?” because I would be traumatised! When I walked in and saw all the blood, it made me feel sick even though it was fake! So ‘How do they turn off from work life and not think about the dead bodies they’ve been cleaning up all day?

Jo Hartley Q&A 

Paul 'Wicky' Wickstead (Greg Davies), Maggie (Jo Hartley)
Paul ‘Wicky’ Wickstead (Greg Davies), Maggie (Jo Hartley)

Tell us a bit about your character in The Cleaner – what attracted you to the role?

I play Maggie, the one that got away. Wicky’s first love and long-term ex-girlfriend. She ran off, married another man, and became an artist, of sorts. Wicky never got over Maggie, she comes up in conversation throughout the series. She’s sassy and ambitious. I turn up in episode six, let’s just say it’s an unexpected reunion. Oh, and she hates blood.

What attracted me to the role was Greg, his hilarious script, the people involved and Tom Marshall [director], who’s super talented and a long-time collaborator.

What was the most enjoyable part of filming for you?

All of it! We had a lot of fun, we filmed in an old cottage in the countryside. Myself and Greg star in the episode, it’s a two-hander, so it was great to just jump in and challenge myself.

How was it working with Greg?

Superb, he’s truly wonderful and very very talented – down to earth, funny and very smart. Never met him before but always admired his work.

If you ever met a real crime-scene cleaner what would you ask them?

Do you take your work home with you?