Wednesday 21 December 2011, 10:00
Lapland covers quite touching issues that are affecting the Lewis family - like the loss of their family patriarch - and then my character, the holiday rep Jingle Jill interrupts with quite hilarious material. It's very much a comedy drama.
I remember when I read the script how moving and touching it was, it really jumped off the page.
I think Michael Wynne, the writer, is really clever. His script has the kind of themes like humour, loss and family conflict that definitely affect people over Christmas.
I was just really drawn to Jingle Jill potentially for what she doesn't say. A lot of her lines are about the tour around Lapland, "Come and see Santa at the Christmas village", that sort of thing, but there is an awful lot going on in her head.
Jingle Jill takes the family on a quad biking trip
I wanted to embody someone like that, especially at this time of year when all those reality TV shows are rife.
There's something interesting about those people, those contestants who are like "Sorry? What do you mean four no's? I don't understand. I'm a star, clearly! Who are you Gary Barlow? Who ARE you?"
I was creating as much of an inner life for Jingle Jill as possible, she is extremely warm and sweet, just maybe going the wrong way about pursuing her ultimate fantasy of glamour and potential fame.
She'd rather be stalking fit ski instructors in Val D'Isere than be in Lapland.
I wanted to make her as much of a three-dimensional character as possible. The director Catherine Morshead let me improvise a bit with the lines so that people at home can see Jill is a real person with feelings.
You can see that when Jill's mask slips and she admits to being sick of Lapland and desperately in search of Mr Right.
I haven't done a job like Jill's, but I used to conduct my younger brother and sister's birthday parties.
I would make the games up on the spot and the younger kids didn't clock it, they just thought they were actual games.
I learned a lot about delivery from that, as long as you're having fun, other people will have fun by proxy.
The kids had no idea that I was just making them run to various corners of the room because as long as you make it sound exciting, they'll buy it.
I wouldn't have gone for a job as a tour guide like Jill's because I'd find it hard to be so cheerful 24 hours a day.
Also dealing with the general public and lots of children takes a massive amount of skill, which I think I can do, but not for a long period. And not at Christmas!
Saying that, I Iove being cheesy. I was actually able to set free the Butlins redcoat within me. I love singing cheesy music, air grabs, air punches and I love a power ballad!
I watched lots of Butlins audition tapes online when I was preparing the role, there are some amazing singers! Much better than Jill! But what she lacks in vocal styling she makes up for in fun. Kids like her.
My audition for the part was relatively painless, as sometimes auditioning for comedy isn't. I just kind of went in and did my best.
I was recovering from laryngitis and still had this really deep voice when filming began, but it sort of worked for Jill. It sounded like she was a hard-living girl after hours, someone who drank too much reindeer wine.
Jill has some funny lines. One of my favourites was probably, when talking about the do's and don'ts of the Ice Hotel - "No contact lenses! They WILL freeze to your eyeballs and you WILL be blind for life!".
Jill's sauna scene with Pete was very, very funny, we did that in one take because we had to run out in to the woods in Norway and it was freezing!
We filmed Lapland in October/November time. It was nice being close to Christmas and getting in the spirit of it all without it actually being Christmas and feeling stressed out, which is how I feel now.
When I arrived in Norway, it was just-awe inspiring, so beautiful. We all came home with albums of photos on our mobile phones, we were like "Here's a mountain, here's another mountain, oh there's a reindeer... ".
No people, just an album dedicated to mountains, streams and huskies. I loved the huskies, I've always wanted a dog. I have a gorgeous pic of Sue Johnston with a husky, I must send it to her.
Jack (Adam Scotland), Ray (William Ash), Mandy (Julie Graham), Eileen (Sue Johnston), Pete (Stephen Graham), Liam (Ellis Murphy), Paula (Elizabeth Berrington), Melissa (Georgia Doyle), Ethan (Connor Dempsey)
Working with Sue was brilliant, she's the most generous actress in the entire world.
She's so lovely, the star on top of the Christmas tree, so composed. It was really inspirational that after a career like hers, she still finds so much joy in it which is so infectious.
I've not been doing this for half as long as her and I'm already a bit moany!
Really inspirational woman. I loved her in The Royle Family. I never expected to be doing comedy really, so I don't think I ever thought I'd work with comedy actors necessarily.
Sue's able to do something really truthful and sad, and still be hilarious - a real skill. That's what moves me, when comedy and tragedy are side by side like that.
I didn't really have any expectations of what the cast would be like to work with. As an actor, you know that acting personas aren't the real person.
But it was so great to work with such a stellar cast. Stephen Graham was the sweetest man, in complete contrast to a lot of his amazing roles so far.
Will Ash... I just want a mini Will Ash in my pocket, such a lovely man.
I was the only southerner in the cast. But I felt like an honorary Mancunian after going to drama school there, I love Manchester, I actually had a Northern twang when I came back down south after studying.
I learned so much watching all of this cast at work. And the kids were so sweet!
Filming wasn't stressful, really, with so few hours of daylight in a day in Lapland, we were against the clock but we managed it!
What was a bit stressful was having 25 Christmas dinners one day when we filmed the Christmas Day lunch - that was stressful on the brain and the stomach.
Zawe Ashton plays Jingle Jill in Lapland.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
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Friday 16 December 2011, 12:55
Friday 23 December 2011, 09:29