The Version Interview... Zoe Boyle on BBC Three's Witless
After accidentally seeing a gangland shooting, Leanne and Rhona are thrown in to witness protection. But when a corrupt cop leaks their whereabouts to the gang, they’re forced to go on the run...
Witless follows Leanne (Kerry Howard, Him & Her, Young Hyacinth) and Rhona (Zoe Boyle, Downton Abbey, Sons Of Anarchy), two ordinary flatmates whose lives are thrown into disarray after being forced into witness protection.
Written by Lloyd Woolf and Joe Tucker, the first series was heralded as ‘sharp, character comedy’ by Total TV Guide, and saw unwitting Leanne, and uptight Rhona, given new identities and left to fend for themselves in a grubby flat in Swindon. If being in ‘wit-pro’ wasn’t hard enough, the girls were then faced with two teenage underlings, the self-styled ‘DJ Sound as F***’ and ‘Appraisal’, sent by a criminal gang to track them down.
After becoming deeply entangled in the criminal world they were trying to escape, series one ended on an out-and-out cliff-hanger. Series two kicks off with the witless wonders facing their biggest scrape yet: with their ‘safe house’ no longer so safe, and unable to trust the police, Leanne and Rhona are on the run, again.
BBC Three have a strong legacy of comedy, including Little Britain and Gavin and
Stacey. What does it mean to you to be part of the channel?
The BBC really does have a standout legacy in comedy and I'm thrilled to be on their roster! I grew up on Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous - Kerry (Howard) and I actually have not so secret ambitions of being the new Eddie and Patsy. I'd be Patsy obviously. She's my hero.
BBC Three of course is also online only now. What do you think are the benefits
of that for Witless?
I only ever really watch TV online now. The benefits are that you can watch things on your own schedule. And for shows like 'Witless', the online format gives you the chance to binge watch the whole series in one sitting if you want to. That serves 'Witless' really well as each episode ends on a cliffhanger so you keep wanting more!
Many new comedies fall at the first hurdle and never make it to a second series.
How did you feel when you heard the news?
I was completely over the moon! Shooting 'Witless' is one of the most fun experiences I've had on set - we all get on so well as a cast and crew and basically don't stop laughing. I was so happy when the audience seemed to love it as much as we do!
What’s it like working with Kerry?
It's a blast. She's so full of energy which is exactly what you need when you're shooting such long hours. She's also a super talented comedienne and I've learnt a lot from her.
What is in store for Leanne and Rhona this time?
This time the stakes go up even higher. Leanne and Rhona start to take matters into their own hands a bit more and it all gets pretty frenetic. The whole series takes place over 3/4 days so there's no letup. There's also an added test to their friendship. Very dramatic - but still funny!
You were In Downton Abbey previously, which must have been very different; how
does filming Witless compare to that experience?
Pretty different! I came into Downton Abbey in Series 2, having been a massive fan of the first series, so I knew what I was letting myself in for. It was a huge success and I felt really privileged to be working on it. Witless was a step into the unknown for me. I loved the scripts and thought they were hilarious and I'd seen and loved Kerry's work, but I'd never done any comedy before so I was pretty nervous about it. Didn't last long though - we shoot so quickly that you just have to get on with it and have a good time.
You also have Frontier coming up, what can you tell us about that?
Frontier is a co-production between Netflix and Discovery Canada and is all about the fur trade in the New World. It's the polar opposite to Witless! It deals with the bloody struggles between British, American, French, Irish, Scottish, and Native people to lay claim to territories in Canada. I play the Scottish manageress of the ale house. She's highly ambitious and uses her position to mine people for information that could advance her. She wears britches and is a proper tough cookie. Couldn't be more different to Rhona in Witless!
And finally back to Witless, how would you like to see the show panning out in the future? How long could it run for?
I think the story would need to be resolved - we don't want to see them on the run forever. But I definitely think we've got another season in us! And then maybe a comeback a few years later. See where Leanne and Rhona readjust back into the real world. I can just imagine Leanne living in Rhona's basement and wreaking havoc!
Witless Series 2 is available on iPlayer from Wednesday 25th January.