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I TALK TO Kerry Howard & Zoe Boyle

It was the third comedy to launch on BBC Three when it moved online and now Witless is coming to an end after 15 episodes so it’s only right that I caught up with the show’s leading ladies, Kerry Howard and Zoe Boyle for one final time.

Witless began in April 2016 and in case you’ve missed the first two series, you have the chance to catch up as all episodes are available now on BBC iPlayer ahead of the third and final series launching on Wednesday 10th January.

The series follows Leanne and Rhona, played by Kerry Howard and Zoe Boyle, two ordinary flatmates whose lives are thrown into disarray and witness protection after witnessing a gangland shooting. Left to fend for themselves with new identities and a grubby flat in Swindon, they soon learn that staying undercover isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Leanne and Rhona, fast-foward to episode 11 and the start of series three, and with their gung-ho attempt to frame nemesis Willy Whelan backfiring,  Rhona finds herself trapped in Willy’s secret weapons room as his henchman One-Pack closes in, and Leanne is cornered by trigger-happy teen DJ Sound as Fuck.

I remember interviewing you both for Series 1, then for Series 2 and now here we are again talking about Series 3! Can you believe it?

Kerry: I can believe it! (Laughs) And sadly it's the last time we shall be talking.

So is this the end of Witless then?

Kerry: It's the end of the saga. The story is resolved in this series, so whether or not they want to give it a rebirth with another narrative, we don't know. But the story between Leanne and Rhona and everyone else is wrapped up.

Are you sad to be saying goodbye to Witless?

Zoe: Yeah. But it feels right that the story finishes between them. It was quite an emotional journey because we're such a family, from the director, producer, the whole crew, we're such a team. And everyone came back every year.

It's mainly really sad to say goodbye to the family, because we probably won't all work together again in the cinfguration.

Kerry: It's like we've graduated from university having been on this for three years. And we've all got... first class honours? (Laughs)

Last time we spoke you mentioned lots of ideas you'd had for Series 3 of Witless. Have any of those happened?

Kerry: No (Laughs)

Zoe: Nope (Laughs) Maybe our ideas were a bit too outlandish for the writers.

KH: I've saved it for my own stuff Elliot!

Series 3 then. How does it start? Where does it go?

Kerry: It's really hard to tell you because we don't want to give any spoilers away. But it does start straight away from where the second series left off. Erm... it's a really difficult series to talk about!

Zoe: The one thing we can say is that the girls are separated, they're split up, so we get to see how they fend for themselves on their own. And as it turns out, it's not that well.

Kerry: The girlmance is over in the first episode which is quite shocking because Leanne had a full crush on Rhona, but it's gone! I guess we can say that the series is about the girls finding each other and realising that actually they are best mates and they do love each other really.

Do you think, two series in, that Leanne and Rhona have got used to witness protection?

Kerry: I think they've got tougher for sure. They've toughened up, hardened up and got a little wiser. Especially Rhona who has turned into a bit of a criminal mastermind! She's got ball now. Which is nice.

She's really attacking on how to get out of the situation, she doesn't necessarily embrace her new life whereas Leanne, absolutely loves her new identity and would quite happily stay in a new identity rather than face the problem. Rhona's very much the do-er and Leanne is just enjoying herself!

Will we see more of Patrick this series? What's he up to?

Zoe: He's quite a serious part of the story... and... I don't know how much we can say about that either!

Kerry: He's there, he's around. Lighting up the screen with his beautiful chops! (Laughs)

The cliffhanger at the end of each episode is rare in comedy. Is that part of the show's appeal?

Zoe: Yes, and especially the way it's released as a boxset. The cliffhanger at the end of each ep works so well for this binge-watching culture.

I watched last series with a friend of mine who's a big Witless fan and we just gobbled it all up in one night. He just wanted to watch more which is just really nice. Culturally, that's where we're headed now with TV.

Kerry: It's nice that comedy can now do what Breaking Bad has done. I guess The Wrong Mans was the show that started all these comedy thrillers.

Because of that, does Witless feel like you're working more on a drama than a comedy? It's not a traditional sitcom.

Zoe: Yes! Our stuff was pretty dramatic this year.

Kerry: But we did manage to pop in a bit of comedy!

Zoe: Yeah, we did a lot of crying! Shades of crying. Comedy crying, tragedy crying, angry crying, single tear crying, beautiful crying, ugly crying... (Laughs)

After that epic fight scene towards the end of last series, Kerry will there be any more this series?

Oh yes, there is! I think in episode one I have a little fight on the road with DJ Sound as Fuck. I've not seen any of it, so I don't know what it looks like. Whether it looks epic... or not! (Laughs)

There's a definite cinematic quality to Witless and I think Series 3 looks even better than the previous two series. It doesn't look like a sitcom does it?

Zoe: I do think the production values on Witless are quite special. And you're right, Witless doesn't look like a generic comedy, it looks more filmic and more stylish.

Kerry: One of the last scenes of the last episode, there's a big explosion and it looked like a film and then there's me and you in the village hall in our medieval knight costume with some very funny music.

There's no sound, just this music and all this drama happened and I just burst into tears because it's really scary but beautifully shot. It's really fucking good.

Zoe: That's when I got really sad, because I thought "Oh fuck, I'm never going to do this again"

Kerry: I know... I do think that's probably why I cried! (Laughs) Everyone in all teams across the board go above and beyond to be excellent because they love the project so much. And I think we're really lucky to have that.

We're also really lucky to have our director Andrew Chaplin who just leads the team and treats everyone so well, that we all just want to do our best for him.

Were you surprised by how Witless ends?

Kerry: I was surprised.

Zoe: I think we both were.

Kerry: We thought we'd still be together, but we get split up again, so I was a bit upset about that actually.

Zoe: I was too!

Kerry: I was like "How are they going to do a spin-off with the two of them separated?!"

Zoe: Oh there can always be a spin-off...

How have you found the reaction to Witless? Because from what I can see it’s all really positive.

Zoe: It’s really positive! But also what’s strange is the reach of our audience. My boyfriend’s great auntie, she’s hitting 90, loves Witless and can’t wait for the next series which really surprised me. The scope is impressive.

Kerry: I get stopped by a lot of older ladies. I was pushing my newborn baby along a couple of months ago and this woman was like “I know you don’t I?” and I was like “Do you?” - and she was like “Oh no, you’re on the telly. That show... with the other girl...” Then she looked at the baby and went “Aw!” and she looked at me and said “Don’t you dare stop what you’re doing. Don’t you dare!” (Laughs)

Zoe: I think without the BBC One repeat, it wouldn’t have got to the older generation. They wouldn’t have found it online.

Kerry: It’s everyone waking up from their naps after Graham Norton! (Laughs)

What other comedies are you enjoying on TV at the moment?

Zoe: Motherland I love!

Kerry: Oh yes, Motherland, although it fills me with a lot of anxiety because I’m a mother myself and I’ve just had another one. I enjoy it, but I also need a bit of escapism so I love Maria Bamford’s series on Netflix, Lady Dynamite. It’s fucking brilliant. She’s an amazing Canadian stand-up and it’s just a mental sitcom, kind of about her life being a comedian and an actress in Hollywood and it’s brilliantly weird and kooky.

What’s next for the two of you after Witless?

Zoe: I’m off to Canada to shoot the third series of Frontier for Netflix, which is nice.

Kerry: The writing’s going really well and I’m developing something with Merman who made Motherland and something with Objective who make Witless and I’ve also got another job... possibly... but I can’t talk about it. But it’s possibly going to be a game changer!

Witless returns Wednesday 10th January from 10am on BBC Three and Fridays at 11:25pm on BBC One


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