For anyone unfamiliar show, explain a little about it?
It’s about some builders called Lee and Dean, who are best friends. It’s about friendship more than anything. They’ve been best friends since school and there is, without giving too much away, an underlying love story going on as well. There’s a bit of a bromance. They love each other to bits. It’s a lovely exploration of male friendship. It centres on them and all their friends that are builders. In terms of the women in it, there’s myself and Camille, who plays Nikki. I play at the beginning a love interest, one of the clients that ends up falling for a builder. My character is from a very different world but her world ends up entwined with theirs. Through that she learns a lot about herself, makes new friends, loses friends… it’s very funny but it’s also very poignant, I’d say. A bit of a comedy-drama as far as I’m concerned.
Pippa is a complex character. How would you describe her?
When you first meet her, you think she’s quite stuck up and cold. She’s middle class and comes from money. She doesn’t really give a lot away but as the series goes on I think she’s actually quite lonely. She’s been through a bit of a rough time with her marriage. She hasn’t got many friends; she found herself quite isolated and underneath the surface there’s all sorts of things bubbling away. At the end of series one she’s got no children, they had trouble conceiving. I feel really sorry for her by the end of the first series because she is quite complicated. She’s not quite what you see on the surface, which is at the centre of Lee and Dean; you make assumptions about people, you probably have assumptions about builders sometimes, but when you dig deeper with all the characters there’s so much more going on. She just hasn’t got anyone to turn to. That’s why she ends up in the world of the builders. It’s very refreshing for her. At first she’s not sure what to make of it and then she becomes friends with Nikki by accident. She wants to hate Nikki but ends up really loving her. I think in series two you might feel even more sorry for her.
We know a bit about Pippa, but do you invent a full backstory for her?
I absolutely do. What was lovely was Mark, Miles and Sam who created it very much allowed us to help create our characters. That’s really unusual. They had some ideas on what had happened with her character and I’m a writer as well and Camille is also a writer. So we very much came up with ideas of what we thought her backstory was. As we went along we sometimes came up with stuff. Stuff would come out of my mouth as we were improvising that was quite poignant or added to the story. It’s quite a serious character for me. I normally do big heightened comic characters. She’s the kind of person that says one thing but is thinking the other. There’s a scene in series one she tells Lee she’s got no feelings for him and she never did, but that was a really hard scene because they were trying to say behind her eyes make it look like you do. That’s really hard to do without looking a bit sarcastic or a bit fake. For series two we sat for hours and just talked about what the characters had been doing and where they were at and why they were doing certain things. That’s been really nice. We’ve all been part of the process.
Does that make it an exciting atmosphere to work in?
Absolutely, yeah. You feel so involved. You feel part of what’s developing. It is exciting because we’re not sure sometimes what’s going to come out of our mouths or what the emotion’s going to be, sometimes there’ll be a scene and it’ll go really sad. A character will say one thing that’s quite poignant and then laugh it off but there’s an element of truth in it. You never know what they’re going to keep in. Sometimes you’ll do a long scene and you’ll think, “God, that was quite heart-breaking or poignant,” but you know they can’t fit it all in. But at the same time you might have stumbled across one line that is really important or really funny. It’s comedy, so if you come out with a line that is really funny and you don’t know where it came from, it’s quite nice if that stays in. That’s the only problem with filming as well. It’s really exciting but we all do burst out laughing quite a lot. We’ve been much better in series two at behaving ourselves but in series one we were, Mark particularly was really struggling not to laugh. Because you’re improvising a lot of it, one person would say a line that was ridiculously funny and I had to bite my cheeks and really try not to lose it because you waste everyone’s time if you laugh for about ten minutes.
The last series ended in absolute chaos in Great Yarmouth. Where do we pick things up with Pippa?
At the end of the first series she’s announced that she’s pregnant. We’ve moved on a bit and she’s in the early stages. She’s got a bit of a bump. She’s at a bit of a transient point. She’s made changes, she’s moved house. It’s hilarious; in the first episode she says she’s ‘downsized’ but it’s still another massive house. To her she’s downsized. She hasn’t even got a boot room! She’s not with Jaunty anymore, her ex. She’s also rediscovered her career, she’s invested in property with her father’s money. She’s a partner in a big flashy property business. She’s enjoying her role in that. She’s cut herself off from everyone. She’s lost Nikki as a friend, which is really sad. She’s at a very vulnerable stage because she’s pregnant. You’re not quite sure who the father is at the beginning and I don’t know if she’s quite sure. She’s trying to be really independent but I think she’s quite vulnerable and really needs some help.
How do you see her relationship with Lee? Where did it come from? What does she want from it?
I think it’s changed quite a lot. In the first series I think she’d fallen for him a bit without realising she had. For her it was a bit of fun. She’d come out of this relationship with a banker and he was obviously very different to Lee. So it was a bit of attention and a bit of fun. I think she was quite lonely as well. They were around quite a lot doing the building work. She was making stuff up that was wrong with the house to have them around. I think Lee was just a breath of fresh air to her. She’d never met anyone like him, he said what he thought whereas her ex was a bit evasive about things and got going when the going got tough. When she found out he was with Nikki she realised she really liked him. She thought she wanted a relationship but actually when she got to know Nikki and realised they were a lot more compatible, she realised that’s not what she wanted from him. Being part of that world was enough for her. And of course the pregnancy happened and you’re not quite sure who the father is. At the beginning of the series two she doesn’t want anything from Lee. She’s totally cut herself off and he’s tried to get in touch. But as she gets more pregnant she does get more vulnerable and need someone. Interestingly it’s Dean who ends up becoming a really close friend, which is kind of lovely. That was my favourite bit of series two. There’s some really gorgeous scenes between Pippa and Dean, which is so unexpected because they’re so different. Weirdly, he’s quite vulnerable as well. He’s been left with nothing. The two of them are quite an unlikely pairing but suddenly find common ground to talk about. She finds Dean really caring and refreshing and genuinely he seems to care and she’s been messed around quite a lot.
Am I right in saying you’re also currently writing with Mark?
I am, yeah. That came out of when we were filming series one we’d get chatting and realise we had really similar humour. We started playing around with characters and Mark has seen my live shows and really liked them. We just decided to start working together. It’s nice finding someone I want to work with who has the same humour as me and really likes my stuff as well. That’s really exciting.
You also do a great deal of stand up. Out of writing, acting and stand up, which is your first love?
That’s really difficult. It changes all the time depending on what mood I’m in or what I’m enjoying. I think Lee and Dean has to be my favourite job because that actually is the acting I love but also because you’re improvising on the spot. You’re writing as you go along. Improvising generally, I really love because it kind of combines everything. You’re kind of writing a little bit and you’re also acting. It’s a really unusual skill. You’re combining two things spontaneously. Whereas when I write and I sit on my own in a room and write, you over egg it. You think too hard about gags and it’s not funny. When you’re improvising if you know the character really well and you’ve got the right cast around you, it’s really funny. Improvising would be my number one. Writing can be lonely. Writing with Mark has been lovely. I’ve really enjoyed working with other people on this because I’ve been working on my own for so long. You’re out doing shows on your own, doing Edinburgh on your own, actually doing it as an ensemble cast is really nice. Also you’re not taking the rap for everything. When you do a live show and you get reviews and you’re doing it on your own, you’ve only got yourself to blame. With this, we’re all in it together.