Three are about to launch their third comedy since moving online, Witless. I caught up with stars Kerry Howard and Zoe Boyle to find out more.
Kerry Howard (Him & Her) and Zoe Boyle (Sons Of Anarchy) play Leanne and Rhona, two ordinary flatmates whose lives are thrown into disarray after witnessing a gangland shooting.
They find themselves whisked into witness protection, given new identities and left to fend for themselves in a grubby flat Swindon - and all before they can so much as collect their toothbrushes.
Staying undercover doesn’t prove easy… B-Tec qualified actress Leanne can’t resist embellishing her backstory, whilst telling the simplest of lies leaves Rhona paralysed by fear. Any slip up could prove to be fatal.
Unbeknown to Leanne and Rhona the criminal gang have despatched two teenage underlings, the self-styled ‘DJ Sound as F***’ and ‘Appraisal’, to track them down. With the criminals hot on their heels, their cover stories slipping, and a chance meeting dragging them further into the criminal underworld they’re running from, the girls find themselves in even more trouble than they first thought.
It’s been over a year now since Witless was announced, so it must feel good to finally have it out there?
Kerry: It’s actually been a two year process for me. I’m so proud of the series that I can’t wait for the audience to see it, because I think it’s going to be EPIC!
I’m really excited. It’s so left field, no one is going to be expecting this kind of comedy from me and I’m so excited.
How would you best describe Witless then?
Kerry: I guess, it’s an action comedy thriller. It’s not a domestic comedy at all, even though there are domestic issues with me and Rhona, but there’s so much action that it’s a whirlwind! It’s got a real pace which is down to the incredible director Andrew Chaplin and our DOP (Director of Photography), so we’ve been very lucky.
It’s such a broad show that I think it’s going to appeal to a range of people, from 14-year-olds to 45-year-olds and above! Everyone is represented in the show and it’s such a good narrative, such a good plot, that it’s not age specific.
I think the writing is really sophisticated as well, I mean it sits well within the remit of BBC Three, but it would also fit in on BBC Two.
Zoe: I’ve only just watched episode one, and I watched it with my mum who is in her sixties, and she was laughing her head off! And I was thinking, wow, you don’t even have the cultural reference but you can see the comedy in it. I thought that was a really good indicator.
Kerry: I don’t think the show patronises the youth/the audience. We’ve just gone out there and created a very funny show. Our remit was to make an amazing show and I think we’ve done that, and hopefully the audience, whatever age, will find it and go, I really love this show.
How would you describe Leanne?
Kerry: I would say, she is a puppy. She’s just so positive, bounces into a room, doesn’t really understand what’s going in and opens her mouth before she should.
Everybody knows a Leanne, she’s an “Aw, shut up” kind of girl, so there’s no malice to her. It was quite nice to get my teeth into a character that was so liked and positive.
I found myself bouncing back home happy so it was quite nice to have that kind of positivity in my skin.
She’s absolutely the opposite of Laura from Him & Her, she has been put to bed... thank God! (Laughs)
What type of character is Rhona?
Zoe: Well, Rhona’s the opposite. (Laughs) She’s one of life’s cynics and really rather uptight, but she’s independent which is great!
When I read it, she’s the one I felt a sort of affinity with. I would be closer to Rhona than Leanne in that sort of situation. I would be terrible at the lying, I would not find a joy in it and I would be freaking out.
What was wonderful was that Rhona is pushed into sort of uncomfortable situations that she’s never been in before, and oddly gets an exhilarated kick out of it.
What’s the relationship like between Rhona and Leanne?
Kerry: Rhona has lived with Leanne for a few years. She’s struggled, and she’s an independent girl. She wants to live on her own so the idea of her having to spend all this time with Leanne is horrendous.
Zoe: Leanne’s very co-dependent. She’ll wake up in the morning and ask what we’re going to do for dinner, and Rhona is like - Oh can she please go away!
But as the show develops, they have more dependency on one another. Rhona actually has a lot of affection for Leanne and that comes out more and more throughout the five episodes. They need each other.
Kerry: There’s a vocal warm-up scene which is a lovely insight into their relationship. That’s where we see them playing, that’s where you can see why they’re friends.
I love how Leanne just isn’t fazed by having to become Lisa...
Kerry: Yeah, she doesn’t see Lisa as a stranger, she sees her more as an opportunity to flex her acting muscles! When I read the first script, I was like “Yes! That’s what I want to do."
Zoe: I have to say, one of my favourite scenes is in the first episode is the party. The contrast between the way the two characters approach to it is just brilliant, I love it.
Someone I wasn’t expecting to see in the series... John Inverdale?!
Kerry: Yes, John’s in it throughout. But it’s so funny, because we’ve never actually met him! He’s like a ghost to us. Maybe we should never meet him... that might break the magic!
How would each of you cope of you were under witness protection?
Zoe: Terribly. I would be awful. I would be like Rhona.
Kerry: I think I’d suck it up and get on with it! I’d be alright... but probably at home doing a lot of crying. You’d miss your family wouldn’t you?
I think because in Witless we are in danger straight away, and the series is set over the course of a week, we don’t really get a chance to miss our families. That theme hasn’t really been explored yet. Obviously as the series develops we’ll get insight into their backgrounds but it’s really cool actually because they’ve barely scratched the surface of these characters so there’s a lot to look forward to if there is a second series!
So the series leaves it open then for another run?
Kerry: You’re on the edge of your seat. I love episode five, it’s brilliant. When you think the worst has happened... it gets a whole load worse!
Witless is the third BBC Three comedy to launch since the move online. How do you feel about the move?
Kerry: I think it’s brilliant for new talent. It’s great that there are no rules, you don’t have to give in to an episode that’s 30 minutes, so those kind of rules have been broken down which is great. I feel like I need to maybe step down a bit and let other people break through.
I think maybe now I’m going more BBC Two.
Zoe: I have to say though, I watch most of my television online. I’m never in watching stuff when it’s on. I’m constantly watching things online, so I think this is the logical next step.
Kerry: Everyone is their own controller, so I don’t see it as a negative thing, I just see it more as that’s what’s happening so the channel are very forward thinking in joining in with the whole Netflix way of formatting their shows.
But I’m really excited about BBC Three doing podcasts, mini little sketches - for me that’s exciting because nobody wants to commission a sketch show, but they’ll let them have soundbites, so the nation will see some of the exciting sketch performers that are on the circuit now. They’ve got a platform to showcase themselves and then hopefully get on telly. Without BBC Three, I wouldn’t have broken through. I think it’s a really important channel.