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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Being Human – interview with producer Matthew Bouch and writer Toby Whithouse

Being Human

Being Human's producer Matthew Bouch and writer Toby Whithouse were thrilled when they heard that Being Human was commissioned for a series.

After the success of the pilot the show went into development and the pair worked towards creating six 60-minute episodes.

On the overwhelming response to the pilot Toby says: "It was nothing short of amazing. I was getting emails from people I'd never met, saying how much they enjoyed it! And then I heard that there was a petition, fan groups and forums all going crazy about the pilot. I couldn't believe it!

"I kept looking at the petition and the number of signatures was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I will always feel an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who supported the show."

Matthew adds: "You never know what the reaction will be when you're making a pilot but we were confident about the script and the quality of the production. The viewing figures and audience reactions were great. It's always nice to hear positive comments from the audience directly."

The development of a pilot into a series always presents new challenges to the creative team. One thing that both Matthew and Toby agreed on was that the characters should all be believable, as if they could exist in the real world.

"We had to re-imagine how these supernatural creatures would be if they really did exist," says Matthew.

Toby concurs, and was particularly keen to humanise the vampires in the series.

"The casting of Jason Watkins in the role of Herrick has helped with this, as he looks incredibly normal and human but as soon as he starts speaking he gives across this undercurrent of evil, ambition and cruelty. We wanted to give the vampires a much more convincing and realistic cover story."

Cast changes were an inherent part of the development of the series from the pilot, but it was important to the production team that the tone and style of the show remain the same.

Toby explains: "I didn't make any editorial choices to write it in a different style. I think the series is a natural progression from the pilot."

Matthew believes that a large part of Being Human's draw is the strength of the characters.

"I think Being Human appeals across the board because we have very real and human characters with adult dilemmas, but it's also been placed in a fantasy context. I think we have some really cool characters; great people that you'd want to spend some time with."

Toby agrees that the secret to a successful drama lies in the characters, and Being Human is no different.

"I use the same approach for everything I write. You have to start from the view point of the character; whether they're vampires, werewolves or nurses. If you build up three dimensional characters that are human and by turns sympathetic, unsympathetic and complex, then that gives you an endlessly rich supply of material."

One of the most appealing things about the show is its unusual cross-genre nature, but this also meant a fine balancing act for the production team.

Matthew explains: "Being Human has elements of comedy, horror, soap and supernatural. But what makes it a rich mix also makes it potentially quite tricky as you don't want to allow any one of those elements to dominate too much. I think with a combination of Toby's script and the brilliant cast we've pulled it off."

A combination of Russell Tovey, prosthetics and animatronics brings to life the werewolf transformation, which was one of the most demanding aspects of the shoot.

"In terms of the practicalities of shooting, it's always tricky doing prosthetics," says Matt.

"We were shooting on a relatively low budget and to achieve these results in a convincing way is often expensive – so that required some tough creative decisions about what we did and didn't show. We have [award-winning prosthetics company] Millennium FX on board, who work on shows like Doctor Who, and have been really helpful and user friendly. We're really pleased with the result."

Both Matt and Toby believe the appeal of the show is beyond traditional sci-fi fans.

"Science fiction has become a lot more sophisticated than it used to be so I hope it would appeal to everyone," comments Toby.

"I like the idea of suggesting that there is some kind of underworld, another life, another story that is going on in the world that we're unaware of – that's hidden.

"I wrote an episode of Doctor Who a couple of years ago that was set in a school. The Monday after it transmitted I heard reports that teachers were walking out to the front of their class and saying, 'Physics, physics, physics', which is what the Doctor said. It made the kids wonder if their teachers were really aliens.

"If you can make people look at life through slightly more suspicious eyes then I'll feel like my work is done!"

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