Best-known for playing Miche in People Just Do Nothing, Lily Brazier arrives on BBC Three this week with her own sitcom, Wannabe and I caught up with her for a chat.
Arriving all at once on BBC Three, the four-part comedy sees Lily plays former pop star turned music manager and mother-of-two Maxine Hancock who having never made it to the big time as part of teenage pop band Variety, now finds herself in a new crisis when the girl group she manages, Sweet Gyal, threatens to drop her.
But Maxine has come up with a plan. A comeback. This time bigger, bolder and older. Who cares about a hip young girl group anyway? What the world is really missing is Mum Pop.
How did Wannabe first come about?
Me and Ben Murray who I wrote it with, were just coming with ideas and had been watching a lot of The Big Reunion on ITV2, where they get old bands back together again after they’ve been living normal lives. So it came from the idea of life after fame. You think you’re going to live this dream forever but actually you just go back to normality.
We also both have quite similar tastes in comedy. We both love Alan Partridge and Kenny Powers who have a similar trajectory I think. They both were successful and now they’re not.
How would you best describe Wannabe?
It’s a comedy about Maxine who used to be in a band called Variety who were never really that successful but were promised success and she’s never really let go of that. She’s still fighting for this dream that is never going to happen and impacts her life.
Within the series you see how her desperation to still chase that dream impacts on her relationship with her husband and you see her general dissatisfaction of life because she never got this thing that she thought she would get. She thinks fame is the answer to everything.
What kind of manager is she?
She is amazing because she’s really confident in her own opinion but she isn’t the best manager because she lacks empathy for any other person and she always thinks she’s right. But actually, her ideas are pretty dated. They’re very nineties and noughties.
She’s not destined for success and if there’s anyone important or anyone in the music industry around her then she turns into a massive disgusting sycophant.
Why do you think she chooses to manage Sweet Gyal?
I think with Sweet Gyal, it’s almost like she’s trying to make Variety 2.0 for herself.
She basically just wants to be in a band still and whatever they do is probably not really good enough for her because they’re not Variety. She’s trying to live out that fantasy through Sweet Gyal.
Is Maxine based on anyone?
Not really. We just watched a load of documentaries of old popstars and of course a lot of The Big Reunion and we know a few people who work in music and I guess being a manger is quite an odd job really. You’re not really doing that much creatively, but you’re pushing someone else’s talents. We took inspiration from lots of different places.
As well as seeing her as a manager, we also see her as a mum and wife, how important was it for you to show Maxine's personal life?
Well her professional life is made-up, she’s not making any money. She’s got a sort of made-up job so it’s good to see her home life to understand how her husband is funding everything for all of them. You can tell a lot about a person when you see how they are with their partners and their children.
I think her relationship with her husband is quite interesting because he had a similar career to her but has chosen a very different path to her. He’s dealt with life after fame in a very different way to her.
What sort of mother would you say she is?
She’s a very hands off mother. Our back story for her is that she loves to spend money, so she had IVF and when she got the twins she realised that she didn’t really want them. That’s her all over.
She enjoys the struggle to get somewhere or something , but when she gets it, she doesn’t really want it anyway. She finds the twins challenging and hard work, as children are, and she doesn’t really have the patience for it.
Did you create Maxine knowing that you would play her?
No! When we wrote the pilot, we hadn’t planned that. But when we met with the BBC they suggested it and I was never going to say no to an opportunity so I said yes and I’m glad actually. It’s worked out well. When I’m writing it means that I can test things out in her voice but it wasn’t the plan originally.
I think now, we couldn’t imagine her being played by anyone else!
And she’s different to Miche in People Just Do Nothing...
Yes she is, and it’s quite nice to play someone different because Miche is the only character I had ever played so I didn’t even know if I could play anyone else.
So it’s good to know that I sort of can! (Laughs) It’s fun to do someone who’s unpleasant but in a different way. It’s quite nice to play unpleasant female characters.
Speaking of People Just Do Nothing, Steve Stamp who plays DJ Steves helped you with Wannabe. What was his input?
For the pilot, he script edited and directed with Ben and for the rest of the series he worked as a script consultant. It was good to have Steve’s support because he’s a genius. He has excellent taste so it was great to have his input.
Did you ever want to be a pop star?
Yeah, totally! I loved pop music when I was younger and would always buy Smash Hits and Top of the Pops and had all the posters everywhere. Having said that, I’ve got no rhythm at all and I can’t sing so Wannabe has really helped me with that.
I do a bit of performing in the series and I was so nervous! There’s not too much singing but I had a dance routine which we learnt the day before and I genuinely stayed up all night practicing. I never thought I’d remember it. I just don’t have that sort of brain. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not a musical person, but I wish I was!
I can’t see myself getting asked to go on a tour anytime soon.
Dane Bowers has a cameo in the first episode. How did that come about?!
(Laughs) People like Dane Bowers and anyone from that era are like my heroes that I feel are inaccessible. When someone suggested that we had a cameo we thought Dane would never do it. We actually originally had Ritchie Neville from Five pencilled to do it, but he went to Lanzarote when we were filming so it couldn’t be him. Bloody package holiday!
So obviously Dane Bowers is of an equal class to Ritchie Neville so when he agreed and it happened it was amazing. He’s really good! I feel like his level was really good. He was so professional and does some great embarrassed looks which was great. And he’s aged well too!
Looking ahead, do you have plans for a second series?
Hopefully the first series will be well received but whatever happens happens. When I’m filming I always have so many ideas because you’re living and breathing those characters so much that I have the notes on my phone bursting with Series 2 ideas.
There are quite a lot of characters in Wannabe so there are many tangents we could go on. There’s a lot of scope for a second series.
Have you started filming the next series of People Just Do Nothing yet?
No not yet, it’s still being written. It’s in very early stages. It’s almost harder at this point because it’s the fifth series and so much has happened and you want it to be amazing. You want it to be epic but not ridiculous.
We all have input for our own characters but obviously Miche’s journey has to compliment Grindah’s definitely. I think we all feel quite protective about our characters. We feel like we know instinctively what they would and wouldn’t do. But Steve is the king of plotting so I wouldn’t want to take that away from him!
Outside of Wannabe and People Just Do Nothing then, what’s next for you?
I did a film last year which is a Judd Appatow Nick Hornby adaptation called Juliet, Naked and I play Rose Burns in it and that’s out towards the end of August in America and it will come out in the UK some time after that. That was a such a different to have done so it’ll be interesting to see how that’s received.
Other than that, I’ve just got loads of ideas basically. I spent quite a bit of time writing stuff before Wannabe got commissioned so I’m going to sit there and work on something else. I really want to direct. Ideally my next project I’d like to direct.