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I TALK TO Greg Davies & Roisin Conaty

Ahead of the press launch for the new series of Man Down, I caught up with Greg Davis and Roisin Conaty to find out more about what's in store.

In October 2013, Greg Davies, best-known for playing Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners, starred in Man Down, playing Dan, a childish fool trapped in an adult’s life who worked as a teacher and was hopeless at romance.

The series also starred the late Rik Mayall who played his father and when Rik sadly passed away in June 2014 the decision was taken to rewrite the scripts and continue with series two.

So after a successful first series, and well-received Christmas special, Man Down returns to Channel 4 next week.

So here we are, at the launch of Series 2. Are you surprised by how well the first series of Man Down was received?

Roisin: Grateful I would say...

Greg: Yes grateful! Thank you to my PR advisor there! (Laughs) I think you're always surprised, I'm always surprised when anyone likes anything that I do. It's the most exciting opportunity I've ever been given. I love it so much and I'm absolutely delighted that people seem to have gone with it.

And what's it been like writing the second series? Any easier?

Greg: I had two writers with me the whole time this time, the first series I was largely on my own with help for bits and bobs. But I locked two prisoners in a room with me this time, which you think would make it easier, but I'm sure they will agree with me, it didn't make at all easier. And the truth is, it's just not easy.

Roisin: And Rik died halfway through...

Greg: Yeah, there were things that happened as well.

Let's talk about Rik Mayall then, who sadly passed away last year. How far into writing were you?

Greg: We had five scripts in existence, and he was playing a more pivotal role, but we had no choice but to buy more time. And Channel 4 were so kind to give us more time, because it was a complete rewrite.

Did you ever think about not continuing with the series?

Greg: No, and it's a cliche, but I don't think Rik would have wanted us to have stopped it. We never considered stopping it, and nor did they (Channel 4). It was about making the time to do something meaningful with his absence, rather than just replace him.

We knew there was never a chance of replacing him, you could never replace Rik.

Of course you couldn't replace Rik, but Stephanie Cole is a great addition to the show, and in many ways would you agree similar?

Greg: Well... she takes over the role of my antagonist I suppose, the person who's sort of keeping my character in check through shocking behaviour. But she's a very different sort of character.

She's a very different presence in his life. With Rik we were hoping to explore the reasons why he played pranks on Dan, why he jumped out of hedges and things.

But with her, there's no hidden agenda, she just thinks he's pathetic and that he needs to sort his life out and pull himself together. And she's a certain type of lady who is aiming to impose her pragmatism I suppose. She's based on a lot of women that I've met it Shropshire where I'm from... a ruddy faced farmer's wife.

And what a fantastic actress Stephanie Cole is...

Greg: She's phenomenal, she pops up throughout and she is wonderful. And I think her and Gwyneth Powell are such an unlikely duo, but they work so well together.

Roisin: It's great to see that sort of double act, two women like that on TV. I really enjoy watching the two of them on screen.

Greg: You'll see in the first episode a scene where I end up in bed with both of the two old ladies in my life giving me advice, and it's one of my favourite moments from the whole series, that unlikely pairing!

Roisin, what's it been like for you, returning to play Jo? Has she calmed down at all?

Roisin: Really good fun, I really enjoyed. It's a whirlwind because she's an absolute loon but a loveable loon. Has she calmed down? Absolutely not! She's just mad, but it's a really nice funny role to play.

And is Jo based on anyone in particular?

Greg: She's sort of loosely based on a friend of mine, who doesn't know! (Laughs) Who has a slipped reality, is the best way I can describe it. She's a fully functioning human being, who operates as we all do, but everything's just been knocked to the left a little bit. So she sees things strangely.

Obviously I love the way that Roisin plays it, but I love the character as well, because she's so relentlessly positive.

The last series saw Jo struggle to find and hold down a job. Is that the same this series?

Roisin: I think she's one of those people who will never find a job. I don't think she wants one. She likes the idea of the first day of anything, she gets off on the initial thought but she doesn't actually want to do anything.

Greg: And when it collapses in fire, she never goes - "Oh, I wish that had worked out."

Roisin: It's great fun, working with Greg and Mike (Wozniak) and obviously Gwen (Powell) an Stephanie (Cole). It's a really great team.

Greg: I mean her character (pointing at Roisin) is just going off like a Catherine Wheel starting things left right and centre, but with Mike's character there's something else going on there that unfolds during the series.

Let's talk about the outfits. I always remember the salsa outfits from series 1, any more crazy outfits this time around?

Roisin: Oh the salsa one was brilliant! Do you know what, Jo's outfits were meant to be crazy but they've actually become quite fashionable. What she wore last series is now just mainstream fashion. I think I might be a game changer to be honest.

Greg: Basically, you are.

Roisin: We're buying this stuff that's meant to be bad and my cousins come around my house and just dress like Jo! They're like, that's not mad, that's just really nice! So, she's just mad but for different reasons.

Greg: For series three we'll be dressing Jo up in troupe suits! (Laughs)

It sounds like it was a lot of fun to film. Was it?

Greg: Well, the whole reason I came into this, and I hope Roisin will tell you the same, is that it's about laughs, and getting laughs. I am in no position to tell people how to live their lives. Everybody says it, but the team of the people that make Man Down, every single one of them is brilliant. And they're all there for the right reasons. Every time we have a cast and crew screening they all come because we had such an amazing time on set. Constantly laughing.

Roisin: Laughing, snoozing and eating. That's all we're doing, and if we're not doing that, something's gone wrong! (Laughs)

Greg: There's no tension on set. I mean I feel like my head's going to explode with the stress of coming up with it, but once we're there on set there's just no stress. We've got a new director this time who the most relaxed... to the extent that I thought he wasn't bothered! (Laughs)

Roisin: I thought he was going to explode. I thought he was going to be one of those who's really quiet and then explodes, but he never did.

Greg: He sits with his little hat on in the corner and then just goes "Yeah, I think we'll do this." He doesn't stress at any point, but he's always thinking. I'll be interested to hear what people think, but I think he's done a beautiful job. It looks beautiful.

I remember at the launch of the first series you said how you drew on your own experiences as a teacher to influence Dan, is that still the case in series two or have you run out of teacher stories?

Greg: There's not such an emphasis on the teacher side of things this series. We're in the classroom less, but there's a kernel of truth in all of it I guess. I'd love to tell you it was by design, but as the writing went on, we were just in the classroom less. We still feature them, and it's still a great stress in his life, but who knows, in another series it might be loads of it set in a school.

Roisin: The kids always on set are always going - "When are you writing series three?" - they all want to be in series three! (Laughs).

Greg: Alfie, who plays Dennis, the angry kid, is such a clever boy... probably cleverer than me!

Roisin: He's definitely cleverer than Greg... cleverer than both of us! (Laughs).

Greg: Yes, he wants to write an episode in series 3, he's got plans! (Laughs). We're not in the school so much, but there's one episode where he's in it the whole episode.

Finally, what about a third series? Is that something you're hoping for?

Greg: I've definitely started thinking about series three and hopefully they'll give us one. For all the stress of writing it, and it is so hard writing it, as soon as you step onto set and start filming I go, I can't wait to go again!

For me, the whole project is a time bomb, and they can't sustain the life they live. How that's going to pan out I have no idea! Dan has no more clue about how to exist in the modern world than he did in series one. But I do think there's more of an angst to him in this series. Something will have to give at some point.

Man Down returns Monday 1st June at 10pm on Channel 4


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