Heading Out

New six-part comedy for BBC Two penned by Sue Perkins

Joanna Scanlan plays Toria

I just loved [the scripts], I thought they were everything Sue is: brave, funny, quirky and totally individual and honest." Joanna Scanlan

How would you describe Toria?

Toria is a divine character of enormous enthusiasm, optimism and hopefulness but perhaps lacking in technique or skill in her chosen area of practice, which is ‘Life Coaching.’ She believes that anything can happen if you believe it can happen. Toria’s certainly convinced herself that she’s a life coach though others may think differently! But despite her slightly dodgy qualifications she does try to help Sara complete her mission.

She’s quite a larger than life character. Was she quite fun to play?

Toria was enormously good fun to play. I love everything about her free and open expression. She has no embarrassments about her body at all and she likes to share it with as many people as she possibly can. She is the living embodiment of liberation.

Would you say there are any similarities between the two of you?

Absolutely, there is an alter ego in me. I would love to be like Toria, and there is a little bit of me that can be like Toria from time to time but essentially I’m more of a head person than a heart person and Toria is all heart.

There are numerous fertility symbols adorning her place of work…

Toria is somebody who has been on a permanent gap year who has experienced other cultures and has collected objects from all over the world. She has amassed quite a collection over time and they come in quite handy during some of her sessions.

What made you decide to take the part in Heading Out?

Two things. I happened to go and see a radio show Sue did in the Nineties for Radio 4 and I just thought she was amazing. I was literally blown away by her the very first time I ever saw her. And then when I got the scripts through and I couldn’t believe that I was being asked to read them. I just loved them, I thought they were everything Sue is; brave, funny, quirky and totally individual and honest.

Was it strange to have Dawn French play your mum?

Well I played Dawn’s sister in the past. We did Murder Most Horrid together, she was the older sister and I was the younger sister where we kill a man. It was all set in the 1940s and was a very beautiful piece. So I’ve been cast with Dawn before on a similar resemblance capacity, maybe we’ll be cousins next time!

Have you ever experienced the old adage about working with animals?

I’ve never had anything go wrong with animals; I have loved working with them. When I did the film Stardust I play a witch who owned a zoo and in that zoo, there were most phenomenal animals. There were about 30 different types from a dormouse to a man-killing baboon! In one scene I had to pull a fully grown alligator out of its cage. I had to get its tail and pull it out, obviously gently because I didn’t want to hurt the creature. The crew had to tape the mouth together because they quite rightly knew it was dangerous. I didn’t think it was dangerous at the time - I thought it was good fun! It was amazing to get so close to such a wild creature like that.  

Any nightmares off set with animals?

I have a nightmare every day with my dog. I really love animals and you’re always going to take some risks if you’re going to get up close and personal with them. Things can go wrong form time to time and I’ve fallen off many horses; it’s just one of those things. I once worked for an African safari park and I was involved in a night watch; the next morning when I woke there were leopard paw prints right behind my head! It turned out a leopard had just casually walked behind my head while I slept. I thought that was an amazing thing to have happened!