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I TALK TO Johnny Vegas, Elsie Kelly & Selina Griffiths

During my visit to the set of Benidorm I caught up with Johnny Vegas, Selina Griffiths and Elsie Kelly by the pool at the Solana as the Maltbys make their return.

Last week saw the Maltby family make their return to Benidorm and the episode ended on a cliffhanger. Is Pauline pregnant?

Sadly, this is the last series (for now) that will see all three of the Maltbys, Geoff, Pauline and Noreen, as it was recently announced that Johnny Vegas won't be returning for series ten.

It's a real shame as the three of them together work so brilliantly, but of course, Johnny was absent for three series  from 2010 so never say never.

The following interview was conducted before the news of Johnny's departure.

This is series nine of Benidorm, why do you think people still love it so much?

Johnny: This is the hardest one isn’t it?

Selina: I know. You shouldn’t be asking us. You should be asking the people who watch it really.

Elsie: I just can not believe, when we’re stopped, it’s just amazing the variety of things they say. When we were on location in the old town, Janine (Duvitski) decided she must have an ice cream. So we climbed up to find the ice cream and there was a golfing group, English men, who went bananas. One of them said "Please let me buy the ice creams” and we were like “Oh no, we couldn’t possibly do that.”

And he said so seriously, “The amount of joy and laughter you’ve brought in to our house in the past nine years, please, it would be a privilege.”

Johnny: Initially, I think it was a very relateable topic, as we’ve always said. Everybody’s been on holiday. Everybody can relate to characters in the show. I’ve said time and time again, everybody sort of recognizes people who are in the show, but never recognises themselves.

I instantly got here and went, we are the Garveys. My family are the all inclusive masters. In fact, my son came on a set visit, went in the pool next door, made friends, and came back with seven doughnuts! He befriended one of the lads and said it’s all free. It took him twenty minutes to twig how to use the system!

I think as well, because you know that they’re here for a week, the storylines don’t become too drawn out where you lose that intrigue do you know what I mean? Things have got to be wrapped up and dealt with before they go home. So you know there’s not going to be six months down the line they’re still worrying about this and that. It’s all in a nice watchable bundle.

You venture off and it showcases different bits of Benidorm but it hasn’t moved from the original model of most things happening poolside or in the bar. We haven’t suddenly took it off and put everybody on a cruise ship.

There’s some SAGA love sites out there where men of a certain age… Are still waiting to see you (Elsie) in a bikini.

You should embrace it Elsie. You do it for them. The day we do put her in a bikini we might lose half our audience, do you know what I mean? We could lose a big chunk of views. Nine years, but it was worth it.

Elsie: Oh my God. No.

Elsie, you’ve been in it since the very beginning as Noreen. Can you believe you’re still here in series nine?

Well originally, I thought I had a very very funny scene at the end of the first series, which was, she was so often asleep, she’d fallen asleep on the lilo and was floating around the pool here for two days and nights and nobody had missed her. So she was dead.

And I thought that was a fantastic ending, but then he (Derren Litten) said there was some connection didn’t he? Between us. So he would have to sacrifice that scene in order to develop their relationship, to my astonishment.

So how’s the relationship going between the three of you in this series? Last time we saw you, you’d all bonded nicely…

Johnny: Well that didn’t last.

Elsie: He’s joking.

Johnny: Well no, off screen we’re building bridges aren’t we?

Elsie: Yes, yes we are.

Johnny: Elsie likes to lord it over us that she’s very busy in musical theatre and gives us the impression that she’s carrying us.

Elsie: Don’t believe a word he says.

Selina: There’s still a lot of friction as you’d expect.

Because they don’t get on so well, it’s very odd for them to go on holiday together isn’t it?

Johnny: Yeah, but that’s the suspended disbelief isn’t it? It’s gonna be odd that everybody goes on the same holiday, the same week, every year.

I think my character is trying to be a better person and circumstances surrounding Pauline is thwarting our bonding process. She is inadvertently pushing me closer to mother.

And this series, Pauline has got a man hasn’t she?

Selina: Yes. You say she’s got a man or has he got me? That’s the thing. It’s more that way around really.

Elsie: I think there’s a good element of surprise isn’t there? Right throughout that. You think you know but you don’t know at all really.

Johnny: There’s some controlling issues and we are looking out for Pauline’s best interests but he’s quite manipulative. He manages to manipulate all of us. Although I think Geoff is standing his ground on the distrust front. You (Noreen) sod off to bingo!

Elsie: I’m upset aren’t I? So it’s an excuse.

Johnny: When Elsie’s upset she gambles. In character and out of character. It’s disastrous if there’s a casino within walking distance. The amount of time production has had to peel her off the traps table. Elsie’s new nickname is 'Let it Ride’.

Elsie: You see, I have to put up with this all the time. So does Selina.

Johnny: Intellectually Selina would just paste me. I dance lightly around Selina.

Is Pauline sober this series?

Selina: For some of the time yes. For some of the time no. The usual. The relationship is all about sobriety. The gentleman caller doesn’t turn up until later in the series after she’s spectacularly once again…

Johnny: You’re too good at the drunk acting. It’s too funny not to!

Will we see you on the bucking bronco again?

Selina: Err no. I don’t think there are any… Oh there’s one stunt. There is one stunt but yes, not involving any animals no.

Johnny: Mechanical or otherwise.

Selina: No animals were harmed in the making of this programme.

There was quite a lot of warmth between Geoff and Pauline in the last series. Is that quite nice to play in a comedy?

Johnny: Geoff’s gone from being a… Well he’s still an idiot at heart. But from the prat form. I do genuinely think he has turned a bit of a corner. That sort of squabbling is always very nice.

They’ve got over the fact that Geoff’s adopted, he still sees it as a family unit and I feel like he’s trying to grow into the position of being the responsible one in the family, but he hasn’t got a great deal to work with.

I think all the bullying of Pauline has gone. She has brought this new element into the overall dynamic, especially in this new series, it’s these two (Pauline and Noreen). Normally it’s “What are we going to do about Geoff?" Now it’s “What are we going to do about Pauline?"

Pauline’s problems have superseeded that and I think Geoff would like Pauline to get well so that the focus can come back on to him. He’s trawling through mail order brides!

I turn detective a bit too don’t I?

What’s that about?

Johnny: Erm. Oh God. Have I given away a massive spoiler?

Selina: No, I don’t think so. No. Well you know there’s the pregnancy? Well it’s who’s the daddy?

JV: Turns out with drink, sister Pauline puts it about a bit! So Geoff goes a bit Columbo on their asses to try and find out. We are growing as a family.

Is there any of the regular Solana crew that he suspects might be the baby daddy then?

SG: No. It’s been established that it happened away from Benidorm.

JV: That would be good. Who would be? Who… In character? This is a tricky one. Who in character would ya, you know, after a drink? Who would be capable in getting you…?

SG: Well Pauline’s tried it on with Mateo when she’s been pissed. Not that she’s got anywhere. You’re limited though aren’t you?

JV: I don’t know. What about the SA? The guy in the fabulous trunks? We’ve got an SA, he’s very – he’s a good sport. I find myself taking pictures of him and tweeting them. They do put him in the most unfortunate speedos. He looks like he’s been borrowed from a nursing home.

He doesn’t quite know that he’s in a TV show. Without being cruel. Now him as the father. That would be enough to stop you drinking wouldn’t it? You’d have to go onto crack.

What guest stars have you got this series?

Johnny: Mark Heap was here, who’s fabulous. Who else have we got coming into it? We’ve got Uri Geller, but there are certain people they keep me off set when they’re on.

Selina: They’re not allowed to even meet in the corridor.

Johnny: Me in a pair of speedos going “There’s a spoon somewhere. Bend it from there.” I think I was sent to Denia that day to pick something up. It was one of them false "Go get us some of them...". Just keep Johnny well away! But yeah, Uri Geller.

Who else? John Challis is back. I love John.

Selina: Michael Fenton Stevens is back. Amanda Barrie.

Johnny: Hulk Hogan. Make some up…

Is The Oracle still as competitive as he used to be?

Johnny: Well that’s the thing. He’s been kind of distracted by what’s going on within the family now so there hasn’t really been that opportunity for the meaner side of him to come out has there?

Elsie: You do come out with something in the scenes we’re going to do.

Johnny: Oh yes, I do.

Elsie: It’s always there ready to come out at any opportunity. And he’s usually right isn’t he?

Johnny: A true consummate professional. She’s looking at the scripts weeks before. I love that because I said to Selina, I prefer to learn my lines the night before. I only have limited capacity for storing important information.

And when I do learn my lines, something very important goes, like my son’s name, or something. It’s like emptying a boat. So I always learn them the night before and when we’re doing a scene and I don’t know my lines, Selina’s loking at me like “How’s that working out for you? How’s that system?”

Interviewing you all together, it’s clear how much fun you have. How do you get anything done? 

Elsie: We don’t really.

Johnny: You know what, the way things have worked out, we didn’t get scenes together at the start and it was quite funny coming back in and working with Selina. It’s such a really nice, great little trio to work with. I do think we genuinely get on don’t we?

Elsie: Oh yeah. You’d have to wouldn’t you really.

Selina: It’s a joy.

Johnny: Elsie comes out with some crackers doesn’t she?

Selina: We get told to stop laughing a lot. We get told off quite a bit.

Johnny: If you’d have interviewed us individually… oh the bitching! Oh the name calling! Well we’d all be back home by the time it comes out and then a good few months to let the wounds fester. Then we all come back together and go “Hey!”

Elsie: And then we’ll say – “Oh the things these people write. I didn’t say that!”

Johnny: I did not call you an effing thingy. There’s always that moment when the storylines come in. I think you (Selina) have to come to my rescue next.

Selina: Yes, it’ll be about time.

Benidorm continues Wednesdays at 9pm on ITV


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