Roger and Val Have Just Got In
Nearly three years ago a card dropped through my door and when I had read it I started running round my house, screaming. This is because the card was from Dawn French, who had seen a comedy written by me and my sister Emma and it invited us to go to a meeting with her. Having grown up as a passionate fan of French and Saunders it's interesting how words come out of you at such a moment. Mine were the standard, "I can't believe it!" but suddenly, and at a very high pitch.
It was at that meeting, at Pinewood Studios, that Roger and Val Have Just Got In was born. Dawn is an amazing artist and working closely with her has been a three year master-class. She wanted a show about the half hour when you've just got in from work, in real time, with just two characters - oh, and the characters needed to be happily married. That is a very difficult thing to write. After three scripts, we secured the brilliant Hugo Blick as Executive Producer and he started encouraging us to dig much deeper. On script, I would say Hugo sees things that other people don't see. What has emerged is a show that is all of itself; it isn't really a sitcom. It is a narrative comedy drama and, when it unfolds, it is about the biggest thing in life.
It now needed a fantastic actor, who could do both comedy and tragedy. Dawn's first choice was Alfred Molina. Here are the emails between me and Pete, the Producer, about that:
"The scripts are now with Alfred Molina. We won't sign him, he's a Hollywood star, so while that pipe dream bubbles along I'll look at more realistic choices."
"Pete? I'm prepared to fly to LA on my own Barclaycard to persuade him if it would help?"
"No Beth. Don't think that would help."
Then we signed him. I got such a shock. I got the news as I was getting on a train to Sunderland (where I'm from) and I kept trying to picture where he would've read the scripts: on a lounger by his swimming pool with a cigar? I imagined Fred would come into the rehearsal room in a baseball cap and dark glasses drawling things like, "is my car here yet?" But no! Fred is shockingly un-moviestar-like and unassuming. So much so that when you do meet him and say things like, "Hello Alfred Molina, I've been told not to be star struck but please can I just say I can't believe you're in my show?" he really doesn't mind. He doesn't have a swimming pool though, because his wife likes a garden...
Being the writer of a new series that is about to go out is not relaxing. You feel a bit like you should go and get your hair done (why?) and a bit like you're going to the dentist and will definitely get a filling all at the same time. We hope you'll love 'Roger & Val' as much as the cast and crew did. It's different.
Beth Kilcoyne co-wrote Roger and Val Have Just Got In with her sister Emma. Watch the first episode on Friday 6th August at 10pm on BBC Two.