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I TALK TO Kiell Smith-Bynoe

"I've never been part of a show that's had fan art before."

With an average audience of 3.6m per episode, Ghosts was one of the breakout new comedies of 2019, so it's no surprise that BBC One are returning to Button House for a second series.

The grand country estate is falling apart and haunted by those who died on its grounds, played by the creators and stars of Yonderland; Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond as well as Katy Wix and Lolly Adefope.

Button House is inherited by young couple Alison and Mike, played by Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, whose plans to turn it into a bustling family hotel were dashed at the end of series one.

I recently caught up with Kiell Smith-Bynoe to talk all things Ghosts including the reaction to the series from fans as well as his favourite scenes to film.

Your two biggest roles to date are in Stath Lets Flats and Ghosts, two brilliant comedies. What is it you look for in a script, because you seem to have a talent for picking great shows to work on?

I pick shows to work on that I would watch. Thankfully, I feel like I've got to a position now where I can pick parts rather than having to say yes to everything. With those two shows especially, Stath and Ghosts - I just remember them really making me laugh when I read them.

Same for Enterprice and Man Like Mobeen actually. These are all shows that I would watch whether I was in them or not. For me, that's mainly what drives me.

When I received the script for Ghosts for the audition I thought 'I have to do this' - it was so funny and I found the character really relatable. I really loved Mike and wanted to take on the challenge of playing him.

For the few who missed series one, what is the main premise of Ghosts?

A young couple inherit an old mansion which is full of ghosts from different times in history. Alison - my wife - has an accident which means she can see and hear them. And I can't. So the series is a lot of her interacting with ghosts and me ignoring them!

Ghosts has such a brilliant ensemble cast and as you say - you have to ignore them - how difficult is that?

It's very difficult. And they don't make it any easier either! Everyone's quite playful on set. These guys have worked together for ages and they know how to make each other laugh - and they do.

The whole filming process is just everyone trying to make it as funny as it can be and that is extremely difficult when you're not mean to even see them them or hear them.

What was it like in coming in to a show where the majority of the cast knew each other from other projects and had worked together for a number of years?

I had only met three of them in the audition and the rest I met at the read-through and I was very nervous that day. It was my first day playing the part. I knew that this was their thing that they'd been working on for ages - and that they always work together. All of their work is of the highest standard so I felt nervous that day but since then I was welcomed in - myself and Charlotte (Ritchie).

We were welcomed in to their family and it's one of those genuine ensemble groups where people don't just pack up at the end of the day and then don't speak to each other until you're back on set. We're all on a WhatsApp group and when we're filming down in Surrey and all staying over, we'll go and have dinner together.

How have you found the reaction so series one?

It's been great and the fans are really dedicated. I love how much they interact with us, especially the fan art! I've never been part of a show that's had fan art before and then Ghosts came along and there are some really amazing pictures and paintings that have been drawn.

Fans just really love the show and when it was announced that series two was coming soon my Twitter has been blowing up ever since! People are really excited about it coming back and so am I actually.

What is it do you think, about Ghosts, that has created such a strong fanbase?

I think it's because it's really silly, it's really fun and can be enjoyed by every member of the family. This is the only show I've been a part of that people of all ages have come up to me to tell me how much they love the show. From schoolchildren to adults to grandparents - they all tell me how they enjoy having a show they can all watch at the same time.

Is the entire show filmed on location?

Yes. It's all filmed in a big old house called West Horsley Place in Surrey - the fans are definitely on to where it is. They've had their own events there and I think they had an auction there as well - like a day out.

It's a real place and the house isn't that much different in the show to how it is in real life. It's dressed down for the show. But there are some rooms that actually have a hole in the ceiling. When we were filming, we had the unwanted visitor of some rainwater.

It is a really nice house and there are still some rooms that I haven't even seen, even though we've been there two years.

At the end of series one, Alison and Mike's hopes of turning Button House into a hotel were dashed. Where do we find them in series two?

In series two, they have both accepted the fact that they have got this house and they're going to have to put a lot of work in.

Their dream of turning it into something which makes them a lot of money is still there but they realise it's a bit harder than they thought. So they start looking at other options, rather than the hotel. They look to see what else they can do with the house so there are a few other money making ventures that they are working on.

The money is mainly for renovations because the house is so big and it needs a lot of work done to it, so they can make a liveable place because they quite like it now.

Have they resigned to their new life now then?

Definitely. Especially Mike. He understands that he's got to deal with the fact that he's got eight other housemates now - even though he can't see or hear them. Which is probably a good thing in this day and age... I mean, they can't really help with the chores but at least Mike knows he's not alone and doesn't have to hear their noise or squabbles.

I mean, Alison does. So it's tough for her. But for Mike, he's happy to accept it now.

Do we get to meet Alison and Mike's friends this series?

Yeah! We get to see their friends in one episodes, so you'll get to meet them and actually a few of them are mentioned throughout the series.

We also get a bit of history into Mike and Alison and how they met and when they met. We see their relationship strained a little bit more because it is a lot to take on and in a relationship you like to think that you can get through things together, but sometimes you can't.

How did lockdown affect filming? Because you were filming in March right?

Yeah we were. We finished five days before lockdown. We were meant to finish on the 18th and we finished on the 17th so were able to finish a day early. We just managed to get everything in the can.

It made lockdown a little bit better knowing that we already had this done and that it'll be out at some point. Rather than having to go back to it many months later which I know quite a few shows had to do.

So I was safe knowing that it would be edited throughout that time and maybe out by the end of lockdown, which I guess is what's happened.

What were some of your favourite scenes to film? Series one and two...

In series one I really enjoyed all the film crew stuff although we filmed that in the first week of filming so when it's the first day and you've got to learn everyone's names, filming an episode about a film crew meant it took me about a week to work out everyone's names and work out who was really part of the crew and who wasn't.

I also really enjoyed all the plague pit stuff and going down into the basement. And all of the haunting stuff actually when the ghosts are trying to haunt us before either of us could see them. That was great and actually one of my favourite things to watch as well - especially when Julian pushes the vase!

As for series two, there are so many fun bits. There's a whole episode of me on the roof and I get to try a few different costumes as well this series. Rather than Mike's usual outfit I got to pick stuff out of the dressing up box which was fun for me.

There's also a whole episode where Mike is trying to communicate with the ghosts because Alison's not there. Which was really fun but also very difficult to film actually. Me being surrounded by them constantly, for the whole episode.

And where do you stand on ghosts? Do you believe in them?

I do believe in them, I've just never seen one. I think it's a gift. Or a curse. And I don't think I've got it. I spent a few moments in the house peering into a room to see if I saw anything - I don't know why, because I'd be terrified if I did - but just in case there was anything going on.

There has been reports of people seeing apparitions in the house so why not me?! C'mon guys!

If you could switch parts and play a ghost from any period in history, which period would you choose?

Ooh... interesting... If it was America, I'd say the 1920s. If it was UK, I think the 1970s - good music, good fashion, some of it, some of it is quite questionable. Also, it seemed like everyone was having a great time back!

The good news is that series three is already confirmed by the BBC. What's the latest on that?

I haven't read anything yet. I think they're writing the scripts at the moment and they're all brilliant writers anyway so I know they'll do that really well. I'm looking forward to finding out what we get up to in series three.

We'll start filming again early next year. Obviously they're trying to work out everyone's schedules because things have been pushed back and moved around - everyone's busy doing other things.

It's a big team so we've got no confirmed dates yet but at some point next year we'll be back and I'm looking forward to running around that cold ass house again!

Did knowing you had a third series before filming series two give you extra confidence this time around?

Oh definitely! Yeah. It takes the pressure off as well because we didn't feel like series three was riding on series two being as good as the first one. Although I do think it is, if not better!

Especially for the writers, I'd imagine it take the pressure off them and they know they can set things up that will pay off in the next series. Which is rare.

And what's next for you?

Myself and Kayode (Ewumi) always work together, ever since #HoodDocumentary when it was on YouTube, before it was on BBC Three - so we decided to work together on something new, a sketch thing and we've been working remotely on that during lockdown.

I've been working on my own project as well. I've finished a script quite recently which is in development at the moment with a broadcaster so I've got my fingers crossed for that.

Filming wise, if Guz Khan decides to bring Man Like Mobeen back and my character doesn't come back I'll kick off. We're still waiting to hear about Stath Lets Flats - but if that doesn't happen I think we'll just get together and do it anyway!

Ghosts returns Monday 21st September at 8.30pm on BBC One with all episodes available afterwards on BBC iPlayer


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