Vod is fiercely independent with the type of fractured background Oregon wishes she could have invented for herself.
She exudes an intimidating cool in abundance, unwilling to ever reveal a chink in her emotional armour.
Interview with Zawe Ashton
Zawe Ashton had to undergo a radical change in appearance to play the coolest house member, Vod; she had to cut off her hair.
'They had to get me drunk on champagne at the hairdressers' to get this hair cut!' recalls Zawe. 'I had much longer hair when I got the job but it had to be done. Oh my God, was I nervous. It's such a big deal having it done and then you have to live up to the haircut. I love it but you've got to be brave and sure you can use it to get into the character and not just feel like Zawe with short hair - when I got it done I knew Vod had arrived; it was a massive help.'
And Manchester was the perfect place to remind Zawe how to be a student.
'I went to drama school in Manchester for three years and then did a young writer's residency at the Contact Theatre for another six months. I love Manchester but when you're a student you don't do half the things you do when you're a professional person earning money so I spent time rediscovering the place.
'But I also revisited old haunts - within a week of being there I went back to my old drama school to watch a show, I did a reading there the following week and was back over at the pub opposite - all these memories came back to me. I was a different person then. It was weird coming back but it's been amazing; we couldn't have filmed it anywhere else. Manchester has the student vibe, such a student atmosphere. It was great for doing research for Vod; I was eavesdropping on conversations all over the place. I couldn't have asked for a more authentic backdrop.'
Describing her character, Zawe says: 'It's weird but I see Vod as like an ageing rocker trapped inside a young student body; extremely cool but at the same time extremely insecure, same as the others. That's what is so nice about the whole group - they're all trying to put up some kind of front or mask to the rest of the world.
'The others are a bit scared of her; they're not sure what she might do. She has this real extreme dress sense - punk, verging on heavy metal, maybe slightly gothic. It's obvious straight from the start that Vod's had a really different life from everyone else in the house. One of her first lines is about spending her year off working in a fish factory in Arbroath - whoa!
'Her real name is Violet; Vod I imagine is just a nickname. It's never really explained so it's left open. She strikes up this close relationship with Oregon who is also using a different name to hide behind.
So does Zawe recognise Vod from her days as a student?
'She is an extreme version of lots of people that I definitely knew as a student in Manchester. From age 16 I had a musician boyfriend so I was around music a lot. I spent a lot of time going to gigs and hanging out with musicians, being backstage at shows. At Manchester I was still going out with my first boyfriend and tours brought him here a few times. So I know a lot of the scene that Vod's into, I definitely see parts of me from back then in her. That thing musicians have - a care-free attitude, not thinking of consequences. She's an amalgamation of me as a student and lots of people I knew at that time. Also, I think people will really identify with that feeling of wanting to protect yourself, of being the loner. Thinking you don't fit in and creating a persona for yourself so don't have to engage with other people.
'Life has imitated art and vice versa on this shoot. We all arrived here six different people not knowing each other and had to start a series about six different people not knowing each other beginning to find out more and more about each other and finding a group dynamic. It sort of happens in the stages of the episodes. None of us wanted it to end because the final dynamic is that we really like each other and find each other funny. Everyone's come from such different backgrounds in terms of acting and life experience, and that has all fed into how the characters come across. I think there's a lot more to be explored with everyone's characters.'
And Zawe has found working on Fresh Meat has heightened her creativity.
'Since starting this show I have written a lot. My creativity has been off the chart. Being in a comedy, being around funny people and acting out these scenes every day has really helped me with the script I'm working on. Acting for me is the first thing; writing is such a solitary enterprise it goes brilliantly alongside the acting. To get to work with a group of people, express myself in a completely different way and then go home and write is brilliant. Writing on its own is way too intense for me.'