Director Matt Lipsey writes...
If you have a great script then the first thing you can do as a director to f**k it up is cast it badly. So here I was with a script where the two central characters are, at least in part (and in no particular order): dysfunctional, neurotic, sexist, quarrelsome, self righteous and paranoid.
Couple these elements with a need for them to be sexy, bright and warm people you genuinely want spend time around. As you can see that this was going to be more than a little tricky to cast. Cast it wrong and they will just be irritating, but get it right and all the glorious flawed humanity will shine through and you will fall in love with our duo.
Jack was his own particular challenge since someone so self-absorbed and cocksure could easily end up grating. Also, this is a comedy drama and so we had to have someone who had funny bones. Enter what for me is a really refreshing and surprising choice: Toby Stephens.
Here's an actor largely known for his dramatic work, period pieces and theatre. Having had the pleasure of working with him on Vexed I can't think for the life of me why he has never before emerged as great comic talent. He manages to imbue Jack with a likeability by allowing just enough vulnerability to seep out, his arrogance is delivered with such charm that it's nearly impossible not to like him and he is, for my money, a very funny actor.
Then there is Kate - slightly neurotic, headstrong, somewhat stuck in the mud. As written she very much plays the straight guy to Jack. So we cast a consummate comedic performer Lucy Punch. It was a gamble that pays off, for she both found comedy where we hadn't seen it and humanity where it was crucial for gaining empathy. She sets Jack up beautifully, paving the way for full comic payoff.
As for chemistry, well I can only hope the rest of you will feel as I do. You can't cast for chemistry, I don't think. You can take an educated guess but I think most shows that have it just got lucky. Apparently Bruce and Cybil hated each other off the set of Moonlighting, so how can you possibly know? Time will tell but I think these two have it.
Vexed continues on Sunday 22nd August at 9pm on BBC Two.