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24 September 2014
Wild West

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  After creating one of the best British comedies of the nineties, Simon Nye returns by heading off into the Wild West...

Simon Nye
Why is the show called Wild West?
There is something wild about Cornwall and it’s in the West. Yes, I’m that sophisticated. Titles can be a nightmare. You always feel there’s something better out there, funnier and pithier, but there usually isn’t. My favourite sitcom title ever is Fairly Secret Army.

Wild West is a lot darker than your previous sitcoms, what was your inspiration for the comedy?
I wanted to show life in a small community because there’s nothing like an inward-looking village for paranoia, jealousy and fear, and these emotions can be horribly funny. They say writers’ work gets darker as they get older, but in fact mine is generally getting sunnier and sillier.

Can you describe any differences between writing about principally two men in Men Behaving Badly and two women in Wild West?
Tony and Gary are very deluded about themselves, particularly Tony, whereas Mary and Angela are rather too aware of their weaknesses and desires. And Tony and Gary don’t sleep with each other - or if they do, they’ve been doing it very discreetly.

Dawn French and Catherine Tate
What was it like working with Dawn French?
She is a complete nightmare. Utterly selfish and terribly, terribly drunk all the time. No! She’s charming, very funny off as well as on screen and knows what to do with a joke, which is all you can ask, really.

Reading a description of Mary and Angela's relationship it seems as though they're only together until a suitable man comes along. Do you think that some lesbians might be offended by that?
They’re not waiting for a suitable man, they’re waiting for anyone. In fact I hope it’s clear that they are basicalIy very happy together, even though they only got together originally because there was nobody else available.

How did you strike a balance between really strong authentic Cornish accents/grammar and something suitable for mainstream audiences to understand?
Let’s be honest - this isn’t a documentary. These are actors, many of whom aren’t prepared to leave the bar at the Soho House for half an hour, let alone spend three months in Cornwall acquiring a fully impenetrable accent.

Apparently you'd never been to Cornwall before writing Wild West. What was your first impression of Cornwall and what's your lasting impression after making the show?
It’s a stunning county, visually, but the villages are quite introverted and turn their backs on the sea. There was a certain wariness of strangers - not to say weariness - among the Cornish people I met. I hope we’ve captured Cornwall’s beauty, especially its coastline, and I love the lilting cadences of the Cornish accent.

Men Behaving Badly was synonymous or even set the tone for the ladish nineties, what contemporary themes do you hope Wild West will tap into?
Devolution. Paranoia. Sexual ambivalence. The importance of a good pasty.

How would you compare Wild West with other sitcoms? Was there a conscious effort to make it very different?
Half of the series was filmed on location in Cornwall, so it feels different to shows filmed in a warm BBC studio in Shepherd’s Bush. I didn’t consciously strive for weirdness but a certain weirdness settled on me and the characters so I went with the flow. Actually the characters in Wild West are no stranger than most of us, they’ve just got a camera pointing at them.

How would you measure Wild West as being a success - ratings, critical acclaim, peer praise, personal satisfaction, second series...?
If I ever start to measure my success by what TV critics say, please tie me to a tree and shoot me. I’m not crazy about audience ratings either - my favourite series was How Do You Want Me? which was watched by three men and a dog, although this was partly because it went out on BBC TWO at a time when most people were either asleep or at a lap-dancing club.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m translating Accidental Death Of An Anarchist for a theatre production at London’s Donmar Warehouse, and writing a sitcom for ITV called Hardware. Oh no, I just mentioned ITV on a BBC website. There goes my invitation to the BBC Writers’ Annual Outing to Alton Towers.

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