UNDER STRICT EMBARGO UNTIL TUESDAY 6TH JULY
What was the process like for you to recapture the essence of Shona when you returned to filming after the break between series one and two?
It was kind of easy to find her again. She’s not that far from who I am but she has an extra layer of neuroses because of her sister's situation. She's a much more ‘put together’ person than I am. Shona is more concerned about appearances and as soon as I’m on set and smartly dressed, sitting in her office or apartment, I’m her. And then of course, there’s the banter between the sisters. That’s what Shona exists for, to bounce off her Aine, her sister – that makes it so easy to slip back into her world.
Can you describe Shona in three words?
Oh god, loving, neurotic and ambitious.
As you already mentioned, This Way Up is made by Merman, your production company with Clelia Mountford. What were some of the biggest challenges working throughout the pandemic?
Everything took longer, especially due to the strict health and safety guidelines which we followed to the letter. Making sure our cast and crew were absolutely safe, both on and off set was a priority. But people who were part of the production lost loved ones, and there were times when it was overwhelming to be living through that and trying to just ‘go to work’. Also, all the crew having their faces covered so you can’t see smiles created a distance. It was all rather strange and difficult.
The pandemic did affect some aspects of the show’s narrative too – for example, Aasif Mandvi’s character, Vish. Aasif was actually in New York during the whole time as we couldn’t fly him back. Aisling thought it could work really well and give the show more of an international feel. I think it worked really well and it helped to foreshadow what was to come. In the series, the pandemic hasn't hit but it's around the corner.
The distance between Vish and Shona and the fact that their relationship only took place over the phone and online added to the relevancy of the show.
There’s a brilliant new karaoke scene in series two, what’s your go-to- karaoke song?
I only do karaoke drunk so I can’t remember. But I normally choose karaoke songs from people I can impersonate, badly I might add. My go to’s are Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield. Cher, I’d have a go at but not very well.
Do you have a favourite Shona moment/anecdote from either series one, two or both?
For series two, I loved the scene where Shona and Aine try on wedding dresses. I've done the whole trying-on-the-wedding-dress-scene before, in a documentary I made for Channel 4 and I just loved it. It was so much fun and so girly - something I would never normally do.
I like the moment because herself and Aine get a bit drunk whilst they try on different styles and they’re a giddy – it felt so real. I never did that for my own wedding because I got married in a suit – like Shona plans to in the end - which might have had an impact on the scene.
In the first series, as you could tell, we just liked doing karaoke together, singing Zombie [by The Cranberries] and trying to keep our shit together and not laugh was so hard.
What TV shows do you think Shona would binge-watch during lockdown?
Oh Jeepers. Shona works really hard so she would watch reality TV to take her mind off things. Something like Selling Sunset, maybe a bit of Ru Paul’s Drag Race?
Without giving too much away, what do you think the audience will take away from series two?
I think they'll take away the fact that it's a beautifully written series and I think there's a real message of hope in it. It's hard hitting when it needs to be, but even when there's tough subjects being discussed, or, scenes enacted, there is a message of hope.
This series sends a message to hold on to life because it’s precious. I think maybe, after the year we’ve all had it’s a good message to put out there.