"We didn't want it to feel like a Channel 4 drama."
Jane Horrocks and Samson Kayo star as a pair of seemingly mismatched paramedics in a South London ambulance service in Bloods, Sky One's brand new comedy, created by Samson Kayo and Nathan Bryon and written by Nathan Bryon and Paul Doolan.
Kayo plays tough-acting loner Maleek who's not impressed by new partner Wendy, an overly friendly middle-aged divorcee who's just moved to the capital, played by Horrocks. Their partnership looks dead on arrival, but pretty soon they’re giving each other life support and the series follows their struggle to gain the respect of their fellow paramedics.
I recently caught up with Jane Horrocks and Samson Kayo over Zoom, along with other press, to find out more about Bloods, including their unlikely pairing, what it was like to drive (or not drive) the ambulance and more.
Samson, where did the idea come from for Bloods?
I was going to be a paramedic before I started acting. I applied through the Job Centre to become an ambulance support driver - you could do that back then. Now you have to train! So I was going to do that a while ago but then acting started to take off so I put it on the back burner.
When Seb (Barwell, Producer) at Roughcut approached me and asked me if I wanted to do a short - and what I wanted to do - I went back to that and imagined what would have been if I had actually gone through with it. And that's how Bloods was born.
We wanted to shed a humorous light on paramedics. We didn't want it to feel like a Channel 4 drama, because that's not what we were trying to do.
What about yourself Jane, any dreams of being a paramedic as well?
No, I didn't. They were called ambulance drivers not so very long ago actually, that's how I knew them. So I had no aspirations to be a paramedic, but I have huge respect for them, whenever I've been in an ambulance which, thank goodness, has not been that many times. When I had my first child, I was taken to hospital in an ambulance, and it was great!
It was really great to bring them to the screen in this way and give a nod to these unsung heroes - or not so unsung now - which is brilliant.
How would you describe Maleek?
Samson: Maleek is literally that kind of guy that’s a lone ranger. He feels as though he doesn’t need help when he definitely needs help! He’s one of those people that thinks he can do everything by himself. He’s actually quite shy underneath all the bravado.
But he’s also very good at his job and he knows exactly the lay of the land, especially because he grew up in that area of London. He’s a lovable character once you settle with him. It helps that Wendy comes in and gives him home truths about himself and allows him to find himself.
What about Wendy?
Jane: I liked the pairing between her and Samson's character Maleek. They are a very unlikely pairing. I think unlikely pairings are interesting. It's a challenge to make that work and fortunately Samson and I get on very well and it was easy to play with him.
I like her because she's an eternal optimist. She's actually broken free from a rather dull life in Nottingham. She was a paramedic in Nottingham, that's not the dull part of her life but you'll later discover that she's escaping from something!
She's got the bravery to come to London. She is a brave character and sees the best in people. She wants to have a nice time. She wants to have fun. She wants to get along with people and offer her advice!
Playing optimistic characters like that can sometimes bring people out in hives, which is interesting, that people have that reaction. What is it with us humans - or maybe the British - that we don't sit comfortably with people who have positivity?
Samson: When we created the character, it was about having that conversation with Seb and Nathan (Bryon, Writer) about who Wendy is. What is this partnership?
And it was actually Seb's idea that the bromance has been done, the partnership where they eventually get together - that's been done - so we thought about having someone who is from a completely different part of England and with an age gap.
Jane: What age gap?!
Samson: ...about four years. Three or four years! Maleek and Wendy are complete contrasts so it was about seeing how that partnership, that unlikely pairing, could form. At first I was like "Hmm, I've never really thought about that" so as we indulged in that idea and Jane agreed to do it and came in, we started hanging out, had conversations whilst on set and we realised that we've got a lot more in common, even though we're from different walks of life.
We appreciated each others stories and each others upbringings and each others cultures. We learn from each other and I think that was a great base and a great foundation for the two characters.
What was really nice, is that we were then able to flesh out that specific journey. It's definitely an unlikely pairing and we hope that's what the audience will take to.
And Samson, what was it like driving the ambulance?
You know what Elliot, and this wound me up bruv, the first time - when we did the short - I got to drive the ambulance, I was zinging down the country roads. And then when we got the series, Sky were like "Look. Insurance, sorry. Covid. Not allowed."
So what we did, we were on a low loader and had to do it that way. And I was like "I wish I could get on these roads and just fling on these lights and do my thing!"
There was a certain moment where I'd be in the ambulance and just to scare the crew I'd switch the sirens on and they would all shit themselves! I thought that was cool, but they had to be really careful, especially with Covid. So I didn't get to drive as much as I did before.
Aside from that, was there much you had to change because of Covid?
Samson: No, there wasn't actually. The one thing I was worried about was the big pile-up in episode one. Because everything was so limited, in terms of the amount of people you're allowed, the rules change on different jobs - because of the insurance.
So before we started, I was wondering if we'd still be able to shoot the pile-up. It's a massive thing. You can't just have one car and one extra with a neck brace or something! It's not really big scale.
Thankfully, Roughcut were like "No, we're really going to do it. We're really going to go big and take as much precautions as possible. Make sure everyone's tested." - and yeah, we were able to get things done.
Because of Covid, I didn't want to date the show. I didn't want people to always remember Bloods as the time they made that show during Covid. So we reference it at points as it being in the past. More so than in the present.
In terms of the script, we didn't have that many obstacles creatively. We were able to do near enough - 90-95% of the things we wanted, which was nice.
Was there a lot of laughter on set?
Samson: Every scene! There was one scene where I couldn't stay. There was a singing scene and I just kept laughing so I decided to not be in it. So when we start the scene, I just walk off and let them do their thing!
Jane: I do remember the second scene on the very first day, we were laughing... which didn't bode well for the rest of the series!
Samson: Us two were the worst! I'm bad. I'm really bad. And openly admit that I'm bad. Jane is equally as bad as me! So it felt nice to not be the only one getting in trouble.
Where have you each drawn your comedy inspirations from for Bloods?
Samson: Just the comedies that I grew up watching. You take a nugget out of each one and see where you can filter that into your own project. I grew up on a lot of Kenan & Kel and Sister Sister. I also watched Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld.
In those shows you see how the individual characters are so important and so different to each other. If anything, I think that was the main inspiration for Bloods, making sure everyone had their favourite superhero in our characters. They all go off on their own journeys and are all so specific. That was cool to flesh out.
Jane: Well, Wendy's hair was inspired by Wendy Craig in Butterflies!
What is it about comedy that keeps drawing you back, Jane?
It's nice to make people laugh, particularly during these times. What you give to the audience, feels really good. To lift their spirits.
Certainly when I've done comedy on stage and you get that immediate response, or Ab Fab where you film in front of an audience and get that immediate response, it's a really wonderful feeling to be able to see that you're lifting people out of whatever they're dealing with.
And obviously now, a lot of people have been dealing with an awful lot during these times so it's a nice feeling.
And Jane, you've got a fear of blood. How much of a problem was that?
Jane: Not a lot because I realised that it wasn't real blood, and strangely there weren't that many occasions when we came across blood in the series. I was spared!
Samson: I'm glad I didn't do any blood pranks, otherwise it wouldn't have ended well! No one told me.
Jane: Yeah, you could have got the Makeup Artist to do a horrible cut on you! I would have fallen to the ground.
And there's a great ensemble cast in this, isn't there?
Samson: Yeah! When I found out that we had this cast, I was like "Yeah, Covid's definitely hit everyone. No one's working! Because there's no way we're getting Julian Barratt, Lucy Punch, Jane Horrocks and bloody Adrian Scarborough!"
But then you realise that they genuinely loved the script. They genuinely love the world that we were trying to create and they thought it was funny. I thought that was really warming to see.
For me personally, Adrian Scarborough is a G. I'm a big fan of Adrian, so when he came on, it was a really nice feeling. With KG (the Comedian), KG's my friend and that's one of the main reasons I create these kind of shows. To inspire the youth that it is possible but also to create roles for people that are around me. My talented friends.
I feel like I'm blessed to be in a position in comedy where I'm able to create all these shows. And I'm being given the chance to create all these shows. So for me, to be able to bring all my friends in, who are equally as talented and also doing amazing things themselves, is really inspiring.
The two Darrell's are insane! Over the series, you see how hilarious they are! Sam Campbell is brilliant. He was the prankster on set. He built a shrine of me in his trailer and didn't tell me. Then one day I went in there and I was like "What the fucking hell is this?!" He just had a bunch of pictures of me in there, which i never saw. It was nuts.
There was a lovely vibe on set and everyone was a team player. It almost felt like a college/university common room. We had table tennis - and Jane was smashing everyone at table tennis which really wound me up!
And finally, were there any memorable moments during filming?
Samson: Yeah! There was one day where we were shooting a scene and I went off to the shop to get a drink. Whilst I was in the shop, the guy came up to me and was like "Yes brother! Brother, thank you so much. Thank you! Thank you so much!" - and I was like, what's the matter with him?
And then he went "For you, it's free. Everything is free!" - and then I realised that I had my ambulance uniform on and he just gave me a bunch of chocolate! It was too long to explain that I'm acting, so I went back to set and told everyone the chocolate was courtesy of the shop over there! It was so weird. I felt so bad, but he was like "Take it! Take it! Go!" - It was nuts.
Also there's an air ambulance episode which was a really fun one, where we got to go to new heights and Wendy gets in a bit of trouble!
Bloods starts Wednesday 5th May at 10pm on Sky One with all episodes available at launch