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I TALK TO Anna Morris

"I was a bit worried in series one that everyone thought she was a bitch..."

Comedian Anna Morris isn't returning to Edinburgh this year, but she is giving last year's show Bombastic, one final outing at London's Soho Theatre. A show which when I spoke to Anna last year she described as "a mishmash of my favourite bits and favourite characters from all my previous shows."

Anna will be back on our screens from Thursday 11th April as Mrs Bryce-D'Souza in the second series of Channel 4's hit comedy Lee and Dean. Following the rather explosive stag and hen weekends at the end of series one, series two follows the boys, their friends and exes, as they try to re-build their lives.

Last time we spoke you were days away from heading to Edinburgh. How did it go?

All the shows went really well but it was just a struggle because I was really ill. I had a fluey thing in the middle of the bloody run! But I only had to cancel one which is better but I did about five shows feeling absolutely awful. I think adrenaline gets you through.

The audiences are always lovely and it was full every day so I had a blast. But it was exhausting, I'd do the show, get a taxi home which I don't normally do, and get straight into bed. So i'm having a year off this year because I feel like I need a break from it all.

You mentioned last year that this might be your final show. Are you thinking you might go back one year then?

I don't know. I expect I probably will because I do love it and I think I'll miss it this year. If I do go back, I think I'll do something a bit different. I've done all my multi-character shows and I've loved them, but it hasn't become as challenging anymore.

What might you do instead?

I'd love to do a theatre show, something more serious. Or be in a play. I might suddenly come up with a whole new show idea and do it. But at the moment I have no big ideas and I don't think it's good to go to Edinburgh when you don't have a full idea.

I'm thinking of having a break and coming back next year either on my own or as part of someone else's show.

Are you excited about performing Bombastic at the Soho Theatre?

I am! 7:30pm on a Thursday felt perfect. I knew Lee and Dean was coming out about that time and selling tickets isn't easy. My profile's not huge but it's almost sold out which is amazing. I think it might be the last time I perform this show. I haven't lined anything else up.

Do you think Lee and Dean has bought new people to your shows?

When it came out last year, I did some shows in Brighton and there were a couple of people in each show who had seen Lee and Dean but I thought there might be more. When I did Edinburgh, definitely. There were people coming out saying they really liked Lee and Dean which was lovely. I wouldn't say loads though.

A lot of people who came didn't know I was on TV. Quite a few people came up to me afterwards and a little bit patronisingly went "You really should try to be on TV one day..." - It was really sweet because some people just don't know because the two don't always link up.

Series 2 of Lee and Dean starts soon. What is it about?

It's about a group of builders who are led by Lee and Dean who are two mates from school and run a building firm called DeanLee Construction Services. The series is about them, their world and a lot of drama. It's a comedy drama really. It's quite dark and risqué in places.

There's a bit of a bromance there and it's really interesting because they're these alpha male builders with this really interesting subtext where one of them is kind of in love with the other one. But he doesn't know how to express it because he's in this world of banter and alpha males.

Where does your character fit in?

I'm not really part of their world, I'm their middle class client who is having a bit of a marriage shake-up and is in the process of separating. And in the first series she's having a fling with Lee and gets involved in their world and there's a bit of a tangled love story going on.

Remind us of how series one ended?

Well the end of the series was very dramatic, everyone fell out after the revelation that my character was pregnant and you're not quite clear who the father is. And it split up Lee and his fiancé.

Where is Mrs Bryce D'Souza at the start of this series?

We move forward a few months at the start of this series and my character's still pregnant, she's moved house and she's now working as a property developer. She's moved on really. Everyone's moved on and no one is really speaking that much.

But there are a lot of things that happen in the second series that bring them together. In the first episode there's a funeral which brings them all together. They can't avoid all seeing each other. As it progresses, unlikely friendships happen.

My character is quite on her own. She's not with her ex anymore, she doesn't want anything to do with Lee and actually starts being friends with Dean. It's a very unlikely friendship. They're from very different worlds which causes a lot of comedy.

Lee starts getting more involved with the pregnancy and I'd say that the second series is more dramatic than the first. At least for me it is. She's more miserable... if that's even possible.

Did you have much say in the direction your character took this series?

The series is mostly improvised but I left them ( Miles Chapman and Mark O'Sullivan) to write the story scripts and we didn't get the scripts until the day before we had the first rehearsal. We're allowed to suggest tweaks here and there or things that we don't think ring true to the character.

We adjust as we go along. Nothing major, but it's best to go with your gut or your instinct on what you think she will do. Sometimes you'll read a scene and notice things that will make her feel a bit cruel.

With my character, she likes to put on a front that she's fine and independent and doesn't need anyone, but actually underneath the surface she's actually really vulnerable. She does need people and she is really lonely. Trying to capture that is really hard because a lot of what she says isn't necessarily true.

Were you concerned with how she'd come across?

I was a bit worried in series one that everyone thought she was a bitch, which I think people did at first but as the series went through I think they realised she's not. What's really nice is that Miles and Mark really did take on board what me and Camille said after the pilot. We said "Just be careful as writers not to make the women too stereotypical and two-dimensional."

If my character is just a bitch and a bunny boiler, that's a real stereotype. And if Nikki is just a ditzy girlfriend, that's another stereotype. Quite a lot of auditions we go to, we see those characters, and it's just boring. People are more complex than that.

They totally took that on board when they went away to write it. I said "Make them more complicated. Those women might become friends. Let's not make it really two-dimensional." That's what's really nice, when they came back it was really lovely to see that these two characters became friends having hated each other at first. And that's real life.

Do you enjoy improvising on Lee and Dean?

I personally love it. I know a lot of actors don't depending on how they've been trained or what their background is. I know that everyone in Lee and Dean loves improvising because that's how we got the parts. All our auditions were improvised.

For my first audition they said "This is the kind of character we were thinking, she's quite middle class, she's a bit posh. There's nothing really wrong with her house but she just wants a bit of company. And wants to flirt with one of the builders" - So I did this ridiculous made up scene where I pretended that there was loads wrong with the house which there clearly wasn't and then flirted with Lee.

I love improvising because I do live shows and Camille (Ucan) who plays Nikki in it is part of a sketch group called Birthday Girls who do a lot of improv in their live shows. When you do live stuff, you have to think on your feet because stuff goes wrong and you'll get strange people in the audience shouting things.

We all really love it and improvising scenes means we've got the freedom to shape the show a little bit and just go for it! We had Cariad Lloyd and Colin Hoult in this series and that was amazing because they're both brilliant improvisers and I've always been a big fan of theirs. When I knew they'd got the parts I was like "Of course they did" because they're just brilliant.

How do you think Pippa really feels about Lee?

At the start of the second series, she doesn't really want anything to do with him. I think she has moved on. But it does get a little bit complicated later on because she's not quite sure if she needs him or if she just needs someone to be there for the pregnancy.

It's not very clear who the father is at the beginning and I don't want to give anything away. This series I think she realises that they're not quite from the same world and don't have as much in common as she first thought.

She actually ends up becoming good friends with Dean in this series because he's a bit more neutral. Nothing's ever happened between them and she hasn't got Nikki anymore which is a real shame because they became really good friends in the first series.

Did you miss not working as closely with Camille?

Yeah! It was a shame. We didn't have any scenes together which was really sad. We had so many lovely scenes last time and this time we don't. It's all a bit frosty between them and quite brutal. It's horrible.

Do you have any favourite scenes?

The funeral scene - and it's weird saying it's hilarious, it's obviously very poignant and dark because it's a funeral - but in true Lee and Dean style within that darkness there's humour and some really inappropriate things, like the coffin.

When the coffin first got taken out of the van, we all nearly lost it because we hadn't seen it and the art department are incredible on Lee and Dean. It's just so inappropriate!

I can't really say much about the last episode, but let's just say that in the last scene I had to make a lot of noise. It was all rather dramatic and quite emotional.

You've often described this as your favourite job. Why?

It's because it's got all the elements of things I know I'm good at and really enjoy. It's got improvisation which I love and the acting has been really challenging for me because it's quite serious. Some of the scenes are quite emotional and I've never done that before.

I was a bit nervous in case I wouldn't be able to cry in a scene, because I'm always doing comedy characters, but it turns out that I could. And I was really surprised at myself for doing it. In terms of a challenge, Lee and Dean has been really good for me.

And also everyone who works on it are really friendly and we all get on really well and have a laugh. It's such a nice environment to work in. And as someone who works on their own all the time, it's lovely to work with a nice group of people because I don't normally get a chance to hang out with a big group and have a laugh with them.

The whole series will be available on All 4 after episode one has aired. Do you like that approach?

Yes, so people can binge watch it if they want to or they can just watch it every week. I watched it every week in the end. Last year I'd seen most of the episodes before they'd aired but this year I've decided not to as I want to just sit back and enjoy it.

But to be honest I do binge watch telly normally. Killing Eve I watched in about three days because I couldn't stop! I love it when that happens.

Last time we spoke you mentioned that you were writing something with Mark who plays Dean, is that still the case? And what else are you up to?

Yeah, we've got a couple of things on the go. It's been on hold for the last few months because he's busy in the edit for Lee and Dean but we're cracking on with that shortly.

Me and Mark are trying to give ourself deadlines to get stuff in and then get stuff made. That's what's really good about Edinburgh, it gives me a structure where I do my work-in-progress, then my previews and then I focus on Edinburgh. But because I'm not, I don't have a structure and it's scary. I don't know what I'm working towards.

Might you pop up to Edinburgh for a couple days just to visit?

I was thinking about it. I've never been to the festival just as a visitor. I've always gone and done a show! I might go up for a long weekend. So many of my friends are doing shows this year so I feel like I should go up.

I did think about not going at all and wondering what that would feel like so maybe I won't go. But I feel like I'll get itchy feet and feel like I'm missing out. Part of me just wants sunshine so I might just go around Europe for a bit!

Bombastic is on Thursday 4th April at 7:30pm at Soho Theatre and you can book tickets here.

Lee and Dean returns Thursday 11th April at 10pm on Channel 4. The whole series will be available as a boxset on All 4 and Series 1 is available to watch now.


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