Tell us what Dead Pixels is about.
Dead Pixels is a sitcom based around three gamers, Meg, Nicky and Usman, and then Russell. Meg and Nicky are trying to complete a game called Kingdom Scrolls which they’ve been working on for two years. It’s kind of a comedy about gaming but it’s also a bit more amusing on how you spend your life and the benefits and losses of playing a game and letting that take over your spare time.
Alison is a bit different to all the other characters in the show. What’s her story?
I’ve quite ignorantly said that Alison is really mainstream and the others are in this niche world, but the gaming industry is absolutely enormous. The amount of people online who game is huge. It’s a community that’s not very visible but is in full force. Alison is basically like an article from Cosmo about how best to live your twenties. She’s got a nice job and seems to have a nice balance and gets a nice boyfriend eventually and plays a musical instrument and does yoga and goes outdoors and turns her phone off and cooks nice dinners and makes sure she has a healthy balanced diet… she’s the antithesis of Meg and Nicky who spend all of their time thinking about the game, don’t go outside, don’t eat nutritiously. They don’t have any proper relationships that aren’t in the game. They don’t touch anyone else or have them that close to their proximity. They couldn’t be more different. They all have completely different belief systems I think.
Alison’s not smug or cruel really, is she?
That’s nice of you to say! I feel like the assumption she has that Nicky and Meg are wasting their lives is a slightly smug one. It is a little evangelical, her need to bring them over from the dark side. I feel like she genuinely cares about them. She can see there’s a repression in Nicky and Meg that is allowed to go on because they’ve got this outlet that means they don’t really have to face themselves. There’s great strength in having to face the reality of who you are. She probably wishes Meg could find other outlets that weren’t this fantastical. But equally I think she underestimates the value of being in something that you care about with people that you consciously of unconsciously really care about. Meg and Nicky have their own way of finding new things. I agree she’s not terribly smug, but she’s a little bit annoying!
What made you want to take the role?
The main thing was the writing from Jon. I’ve worked Sam Bain before, who was one of the executive producers. We worked together on Fresh Meat and I loved what Jon wrote in that show. Some of the stuff he wrote was some of my favourite stuff across the whole series. He’s just great. He’s very funny and he’s very involved. His writing is very specific. I liked that he knew this world so well. That was the major appeal. I think Alexa and Will are completely brilliant. It was really exciting to be a part of what they’re doing. They really bring the characters to life and they make me laugh. That was the big draw.
Both of them reported corpsing was a problem on the show. Did you find that as well?
I did. It was quite a nice element to the show. It was amazing to come to work and be made to laugh a lot. There was a lot of corpsing which is always a pleasure. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Alison, as we’ve established, is the most ‘normal’ and together of the group. Is that quite a difficult role to play in a comedy?
One hundred percent. She’s very much the straight woman in the show which is quite an interesting thing, especially as having come from doing comedy. It can be quite hard but it’s a real joy to play against these completely ridiculous people who are so self centered and so ridiculous. It’s just been really fun. I enjoyed working out how Alison would respond to a person like Meg and how she rationalised that.
I loved watching her really trying to show enthusiasm and saying things like, “Well done for stopping a genocide.”
It’s quite sweet. She’s like how I imagine what a supportive parent to be. You’re just like, “Wow!” I think it’s how a lot of parents feel about their kid’s culture. It’s wanting desperately to be supportive but having absolutely no idea how it could be taking up so much of their time. My mum probably thought that about me on MSN, like, “What are you doing with your life?” But Alison isn’t their parent, which is what’s so funny about it. I don’t know how this dynamic was created or how it’s tolerated because she’s not their mum or dad, she’s a person their own age.
Have you ever been into gaming yourself? Can you understand how people get sucked into that world?
I wouldn’t claim to be a gamer. I have played video games in the past. I used to play Grand Theft Auto when I was an early teen, between eleven and thirteen. I got given a Playstation. I used to play a tiny bit of Tony Hawk and Splashdown, which was a jet ski game. But I’m the worst sort of gamer because I don’t stick to things and I don’t really care about winning. It’s the same with sports and stuff like that. If it’s too difficult I’ll stop. That’s the worst trait for someone to start playing a video game. I just don’t feel the attachment that other people do and I sometimes get a bit jealous that people have that ability to be passionate like that. I don’t think I can quite relate to that but I do envy it.
As you say, gaming is not that niche anymore. Has it become cool to be a bit of a geek?
I think so. The internet has diversified what it is to be cool, which is great. It is definitely a force for evil, the internet, but everything’s diffused. Because online is such a huge thing, things that live online are not a strange taboo, people who live in their computer aren’t in the minority, most people live in their phones. I think therefore people are much able to relate to a person who had spent four hours on a console because most people spend fifteen hours on a computer now by choice. It’s definitely less of a taboo for sure.
Gaming might be cool but do you think it’ll ever be cool to be a flautist?
In my eyes it’s incredibly cool to play any instrument! It’s the coolest thing. It brings a lot of people joy.
Alexa and Will got to dress up in some ridiculous outfits. Were you a little bit jealous?
I was jealous. Definitely. Also because Alison is so together and she’s always looking really nice. I prefer it when you get to dishevel a character or they’re flawed. I’m jealous they get to be so awful. It’s always fun playing an awful character and the cosplay is such an extension of them getting to do that fun stuff. But of course it was mainly fun to see them in it. It wasn’t a deep jealousy.
You’ve got slightly more experience of the world of cosplay and massive fandom, having starred in the New Year’s Doctor Who. How was it?
It was so recent I haven’t experienced the cult fandom so far. I was really nervous in a way I haven’t been about anything else actually because I was aware that not only is Doctor Who enormous but the Daleks are massively important part of the Doctor’s history. I was really terrified about that. I’m on Twitter and I know how awful people can be on Twitter. I was really bracing myself but I think people really enjoyed it. Some people were simply not agreeing with elements they don’t want. Other people absolutely adored it. It’s interesting to kind of witness the discussions that happen on my timeline. People include me in the episode and I look through thirty messages people have sent back and forth about whether Chris Chibnall is a big enough fan of Doctor Who. It’s really, really interesting. I sort of feel like it’s a shame in some ways people can be so hateful about something that’s so joyful, but equally without that passion you wouldn’t have the love that people have. If you didn’t have people hating you also wouldn’t have people who are die-hard fans. It was a genuine honour to be a part of it.