The cast of Ghosts on their horror sitcom | The BFI + Radio Times TV festival

– It must be a huge relief, even though you kind of know it’s funny, when you hear the long time, I guess they start to
rub off a little bit, when you hear an audience
like that just laughing away, – Yeah, that was the best.
– Really nice. – do you feel relieved?
– A real thrill. – Amazing, thank you for laughing. – Thanks so much for coming. – Also with television, you usually don’t. – Well, that’s true, yeah.
– Yeah. – Really, you don’t know what people are making of it at home.
– No, you don’t. – So the last time you
kind of all worked together as an ensemble was on Yonderland and you’ve continued to go
out and do your own projects in the big, wide world, but what was it that brought
you back for this project, were there other things you’d talked about or how did you get to Ghosts? – We talked about a number of ideas, we thought of, when we were
still doing Yonderland, you know, we were always
sort of thinking about what would be the next thing,
what would be the next thing, nothing sort of lasts forever and we talked about doing a sketch show, we talked about various
other narrative ideas and then I think just after we’d made series three of Yonderland,
we were sort of thinking about whether or not, if the
offer came to do a fourth, whether or not we’d do
it and at that point, we kind of rented a room and sat down and went well, what
would be the next thing and Ghosts, we wanted it to be sort of to some degree multi-character and to do all the silly things we do and Ghosts came up sort of on day one and because it came up on day one, we went well, that
can’t be the right idea. – No. – And so chased a number of
other dogs down Dead End Avenue. – We should have gone with my Brexit idea. (audience laughing) – I think someone’s kind
of doing that comedy. – Oh yeah. (audience laughing) – And in terms of, the
BBC obviously gave you the sort of development opportunities, then go away and sort of
do something with this, you write sort of in little
groups or individually, but you together come up with the concept for the whole series, do
you, how does that work? – Yeah, we sort of bash ideas
around, don’t we as a group? And then so we kind of come
up with an outline basically of the episode or the whole series and then by the time whatever
combination of people are going off to write their episodes, you kind of have a really clear outline, you sometimes have whole
bits of dialogue, don’t you? – Hm-mm.
– Yeah. – And jokes and stuff, so you
kind of piece it all together and then we come back to the room and we sort of bash that about again, so it’s quite collaborative, even though people have
written their own episodes, you kind of ideas will roll.
– There’s material in everyone’s episodes,
– Exactly, yeah, yeah. – from other people’s hands.
– Which is great, ’cause it means if something
gets a really big laugh, you can claim it as your own.
– Yeah. (audience laughing) – No one will ever really know. – [Martha] Yeah. – Or if that was me and Jim.
– Yeah. – I know exactly the jokes I’ve written, ’cause there’s three. (audience laughing) – And in terms of deciding who
would play which characters and what would play to your
strengths, how is that decided? (audience laughing) – I think that was perfectly obvious. – Some came easier than others. – Yeah, you’re right.
– I suppose so, yeah. – I think we knew pretty early on, when we started talking about
what periods and what ghosts, what characters rather,
it was pretty obvious. – Yeah, I mean, I was really keen to, initially when we
started talking about it, we were all going to play
an awful lot of characters, we realised quite early
on that was gonna be, production wise quite impossible. But my sort of main character, when we were initially developing it was gonna be the Headless
Humphrey character and I said, you know, a caveman, we liked the idea of doing
ghosts that were outside of that sort of traditional
Elizabethan up to World War II, – Yes.
– chunk of history and so we liked having
really modern ghosts and really old ghosts, we
said we should have a caveman, for some reason no one ever thinks of there being cavemen ghosts
and I was like I’ll do it, but I don’t wanna do it every day, ’cause that’s too much
makeup, so we’ll do a– – Cut to.
– Yeah, yeah. – Every day.
– Yeah. – And so both the roles you took involved an awful lot
of makeup presumably, but actually probably not as
many lines as the other guys? – Yeah, I mean, it’s
swings and roundabouts. I mean, the good thing actually
with Headless Humphrey, I’m the head, but we have
another very lovely man called Yanni, who’s the body, so whilst it looks like
an awful lot of work, from the neck down, I
am taking the day off. (audience laughing) – Also Robin actually is
surprisingly articulate, – Yeah.
– Yeah. – not in this series, not in this episode. (audience laughing) We have a five series outline, (audience laughing) he studies for his PhD in that. (audience laughing) Yeah, he’s been around the longest, so he’s actually the wisest one, so there are moments where his wisdom suddenly shines through and
he makes all of the others look like the idiots they are. – We liked the idea, yeah, he’d take in a lot of information, but the speech centre of
his brain is that big, so it’s kind of a bit of a struggle. – And of course it made sense that with Simon being the
most attractive of you, that yet again,
– Yeah. – he should be the one
without his trousers. – He’s got the best legs.
– He’s got great legs. – They’re great legs.
– He does have good legs. – He does have. – He’s an incredibly sporty man. – He’s very athletic. – Is he? It’s surprising.
(audience laughing) He plays a lot of golf.
– Sport. – That’s not why he’s sick today. – [Matthew] Darts, darts. – It’s interesting he should
have to say that though. – He’s good with balls.
– He’s good with balls. – Alright.
– Jim! (audience laughing) – What?
– He’s good with golf balls. – He’s good with balls.
– Why is this happening? – Ping pong, football.
– Sh! – Oh, Martha! – Justin held the gutter. – Presumably you have a
script you’re working from and when you’re actually then moving to sort of rehearse and
film, do bits of it change, particularly ’cause it’s a new show, where you’re establishing your characters for the first time, as you kind of get into
your characters a bit more, do you find that bits
are changing on the hoof, – A little bit, yeah.
– or are you actually sticking to it very rigidly? – We’ve always tried to
leave room to ad lib, it usually tends to be
at the end of a scene, you just sort of leave the cameras rolling and see what comes, but
actually there’s a whole bit from Katy, that was at the
beginning of the basket, we’d written I think the last two lines to give an impression that
there’d been a long speech about how to make wicker baskets and Katy improvised a load of stuff, that was too good to leave out. – Five potatoes high.
– Five potatoes high. (audience laughing) – Course she counts in potatoes. – Oh, God.
– Yeah, so there is, yeah, there is a lot and we
learn a lot from doing. I mean, we actually
made a tester, a tester? A taster tape, kind of
a mini pilot of the show and at the time we
thought we were gonna do a real multi-character number and that final scene, where
she can see the ghosts and they’re all behind Mike
was gonna be 100 ghosts, it was gonna be us
multiplied all over the place and then the more we
thought about the show, the more we realised the
theme was it was purgatory, it was about being stuck with people that you
really don’t get on with and you’re stuck there forever and if you have a community of 100 people, you can escape the people you don’t like. So that’s a massive change
that came from doing and yeah, so things are kind
of always open to change, I think if anything felt wildly wrong in the first week of shooting, we would go back to the scripts. – And talking of change
and I may be wrong, but as I understand it, the initial kind of premise of the show was actually Ghosts was a more
family orientated audience, is that right? Or was it always gonna be?
– It kind of went, I think, we originally
thought we’d do something that was adult and then were persuaded probably rightly to keep it family. – Yeah, yeah.
– Hm. – It’s got a post-watershed start, it’s got really scary
moments in it, hasn’t it? – Well, I think it was going
to possibly be pre-watershed and I think the reason it
couldn’t be was the scary stuff, you know, we haven’t written
lots of Effing and Jeffing. – No.
(audience laughing) – In fact there’s no Effing
and Jeffing I’m aware of. – No.
– Unless it comes later on. Who are you?
– This is Eff or Jeff. – No, somebody does–
(audience laughing) somebody does call me a prick, but I don’t know whether
we got it on camera. (audience laughing) – Right, sorry, in the show?
– That was at lunch. – In fact the line was meant
to be lucky bitch, wasn’t it? – Yeah.
– When she. – Lucky bitch.
– Yeah, lucky bitch, yeah. – It could have been bitch.
– Now you’ve got it. Now you’re lowering the tone.
– There’s series two. – Series two will be Robocop essentially, (audience laughing) and The Shining. – Obviously one thing
that’s really important is the sort of the feel of the show and I know that finding the right director for you is very important. Can you just tell us a little about that? – Tom. (audience laughing) Tell us why you’re the right man. (audience applauding) – Tom did this incredible pitch, I mean, he pitched to us
with this enormous document that just spoke to what
we wanted from the show, he referenced loads of horror, tropes and at the same time explaining
how he could film everything in camera and things. – Well, we’d started to have conversations about how to practically
achieve what we wanted to do, how to capture the tone, you
know, sort of asking questions, going well, how will we do
that, how will we do that? And without then having had
the conversation with Tom, it was like we were
presented with a document which was all of the answers
and so at that point, we were just–
– This kind of, it was almost, spooky.
– Spooky. (audience laughing) – How he sort of–
– He’s a ghost. – had references, that most
of us hadn’t ever met Tom. – No.
– No. – There was one in there, was
a film called Les Visiteurs, – Yeah.
– which we talked about a lot, which is a great film about–
– We sat down and watched it, didn’t we together?
– We did, we did. – Yeah.
– It was good. (audience laughing) – Happy times, happy times. – Yeah, it was like he’d read our minds. But also he’s a real technical whizz and having the confidence to be able to do those visual effects and not have a sort of
whole team of people holding up production every day to have conversations about
those things endlessly. I mean, this is the
most challenging shoot, I think we’ve–
– Yeah, yeah. – All of our shoots have been challenging, but this is the most, most scenes have eight
or 10 characters in them and it’s a TV budget, a TV schedule, we would look at the schedule every day and say no, we’ll go over today and then Tom would
deliver the whole schedule every day, I’d say bar two. – Consistent grouping, as the captain would say,
when he was hitting the bowl. – On a very practical level,
– Yeah. – one of the things he
talked about when we met him was let’s not make it a
school photo every time, because you can’t do singles
of everyone in every scene, you have to group them together and that’s a really simple thing, but incredibly well thought through to be considering how he would group us in ways that was visually interesting and didn’t just become flat and boring. – Jim, I wonder whether I
could ask you about the, – Sorry.
(audience laughing) Miles away, sorry.
– That was a long and boring. – You alright down there? Do you want to talk to me about the sort of writing groupings, in terms of, I know with
Yonderland you did the same thing, you’d kind of pair off
with different groups of you and so forth, how is that decided as to
who’s gonna go work together and are there particular pairs of you that work well together?
– Post code. (audience laughing) I don’t think it’s set in stone really, who we work with writing wise.
– So how’s it decided? You know, how do you do that?
– Well. – Put your keys in there.
– Yeah, keys in a hat. No,
– Something like that. – I think that it really comes down to who’s available at
the time and who’s around and I think that Matt and I had sort of quite a
quiet summer last year, and we live the closest to each other, so yeah, post code I suppose
is right in that respect. – Little bit.
– But yeah, I mean– – We’ve written in various configurations, – Yeah, yeah.
– for films and things. – I mean, Larry and I live
nowhere near each other, – Yeah.
– but we just make it work, don’t we love?
– I just, you know. (audience laughing) – Matt and I wrote some
episodes for Yonderland in the last series together
and it seemed to work well. – What you’re inferring there, Jim is that you chose to work
with me, ’cause I live nearby. (audience laughing) – It’s a marriage of convenience. – Yeah. – This is why I–
– I made you great lunches. – We’re gonna do this in
front of all these people? – I mean,
(audience laughing) I made you some great lunches. – He did. – And I, anyway, yeah, no, it’s all really I think to do with– – Just stop, Jim.
– Yeah. (audience laughing) – It’s too late. – But yeah, it’s not
set in stone basically, it could be anything, it could be any– – I don’t think you’ll be
writing with Matt again now. (audience laughing)
I think that’s over. – Well, one of you is gonna have to, – Yeah.
– I’m not moving to London. (audience laughing) – And I know that this is
a very premature question bearing in mind the first
episode hasn’t even aired yet, but have you thought about
where you might go to, were it to be recommissioned? – Yeah.
– Hm-mm. – Yeah.
– Oh, yeah. – You can’t help but do that with everything that you create and write, you’re always thinking longer term story. – There were conversations
where we’d be taken to a room, waiting to go on when we were filming and someone would go, you
know what we could do? And the number of things that came up, where you go of course, yes, I was about to say one, but
then you go, no, don’t do that, because we might get to film it, a terrible spoiler, there was
a lovely idea with a phone, that’s really funny.
– Yeah. – But also this feels like
the first thing we’ve done as writers, that it’s classic
sitcom, repeatable sort of. Yonderland was a serial, you know, had a series arc and while we were making series three, we were aware that it wouldn’t get better, if we made another one,
that’s run its course really, – Yeah, I agree. – This feels like it could
go on for a really long, we’ve got this huge
ensemble of characters, whose histories we want to explore, some of their deaths are
revealed as the series goes on, but there’s a lot of mystery
as well around some of them. – Yeah.
– Yeah. – So we’d love to do this a lot. – Please.
(audience laughing) – I mean, it’s partly, because
as well as being as you say, it falls into sort of the sitcom mould, but it has got that kind of
horror sort of genre influence and it has got a really strong narrative running through it as well, in
terms of you do want to learn more about these characters,
you want to learn, I mean, beyond just being
lots of funny things going on, you really wanna know the story of whether it’s gonna become a hotel, what they’re gonna do now
that she can see the ghosts, where that’s gonna take them and there are other twists I
think throughout the series, that continue to, I think the first two and already in the second episode, there are more kind of twists undeveloped, I can only imagine are gonna continue. – Yeah. – So I think that’s kind of,
definitely sort of speaks well in terms of its future, doesn’t it? – Yeah, and we have all the
ghosts’ backstories as well to investigate, there’s a
nice sort of box to open. – Yeah.
– If we really want to, ’cause of course we see
Martha’s in the first one. – There’s a very beautiful
episode that Ben Willbond wrote, – Stop it.
– because he doesn’t live close enough to Jim.
(audience laughing) – And then go south of the river. – Because of the way Uber
works, Ben writes on his own. – Yeah, he does.
(audience laughing) – But despite the natural enmity, he wrote a really lovely
episode for Jim’s character, – For Jim’s character, yeah.
– Which sort of just explores, – It’s brilliant.
– how he came to be, who he is and where he
is and it’s very lovely. – It is.
– Yeah. – Ooh! (audience laughing) – Anyone take that one?
– That’s a big one. – That’s a big one.
– I’m trying to think of a big creative one for you. – The Houses of Parliament probably, (audience laughing) just to see how all
this mess all turns out. (audience applauding) You know, watch the comedy. I don’t know, no,
seriously, I would, yeah. – Does anybody else wanna go for that or should we plough on? – Come on, guys.
– Sorry. – I don’t think I can beat Ben’s answer. – I think Ben’s was so great, wasn’t it? – Yeah, it was excellent.
– I need to think about it. – Jim looks like he’s
gonna take the challenge. (audience member speaking
too far from mic) – Spurs, okay, okay, yeah.
– Yay. – Football stadium, yeah, yeah. – Something to do with Spurs.
– Yes, Spurs, yeah, of course. – He’d spend the whole time crying. – The audience in the dressing room. – The dressing room? (audience laughing) Good luck, guys! Can you come out onto the pitch or is he stuck in the dressing room? (audience laughing) – No, the pitch.
– Wait for them to come back. I guess they won.
– Yeah, I could. (audience laughing) – Well, he’s great,
– He’s brilliant. – we loved his work.
– Brilliant, yeah. – I mean, really good.
– Yeah. – He did excellent work
on a show called Flowers, that we all love. (audience cheering) Yes.
– Flowers. – Absolutely right. – So yeah, he’s a really
nice guy and really talented and got the project.
– I think also, yeah, find the themes that play
well for the comedy moments, but also capture the horror.
– Yeah. – I think it would have
been easier to find someone, who kind of could play one or the other, but struggled with the one
that wasn’t their strength, but I think he’s very good.
– Yeah, it needed to be, it needed the drama and the dramatic and all those little fills
that serve the drama, but at the same time it
still serves the comedy, it’s a very clever thing to do, he’s excellent, he really is. – Because of the fact that you obviously have all created the show
and you’re acting in it and you’ve sort of got a
showrunner kind of type of credit, all of you together, does
that mean that you were over a lot of those kind of
details like the music, – Yeah.
– the casting and so forth? – I think we were over more of the details than it was fair to Tom to be. Tom will one day get a knighthood for dealing with six idiots. (melodic cinematic music)

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