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Saturday 26 Jul 2014

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Being Human – Toby Whithouse

Can you tell us where we meet each character at the beginning of series three?

Annie is obviously trapped in purgatory and desperate to get out so we don't really see much of her in episode one. Mitchell has taken it upon himself to go and rescue her, so he has to find a way to cross over onto the other side.

Mitchell is now carrying a very deep, dark secret after having committed a mass murder at the end of the last series and so is riddled with guilt and shame at what he's done and is trying now to make amends.

George, I feel, is in a state of denial – I think he suspects what Mitchell has done but daren't acknowledge it, or vocalise it. There was an unspoken agreement they had to get out of Bristol – and they ended up in Barry.

I think Nina is a little mystified as to why they had to make this sudden move. No-one's actually given her an adequate explanation as to why they had to up sticks and leave so quickly. She's now come to terms with being a werewolf, but she's starting to feel it's getting a bit crowded and that there's three people in their relationship [with Mitchell]. I think she's anxious to start a life perhaps without supernatural creatures all around them.

There's some great new characters this series and new werewolf characters Tom and McNair, who span the episodes. Was it a conscious effort to bring in more werewolf characters, as previously there's been a lot of vampires?

I think it was – it was never intentional but the vampire stories do tend to overwhelm the show. And also we've never really done guest characters that are werewolves – not since series one. So we were quite excited to bring in some werewolf characters. And Michael Socha and Robson, who play Tom and McNair, are absolutely stunning and they've made their parts completely their own and we were thrilled to have them on board.

Can you talk about some of the other characters this year

In episode two we have a new vampire character, called Adam, who is a 46-year-old vampire trapped in the body of a 16-year-old boy. He suddenly finds himself orphaned when his birth parents die and so finds himself at the house with Mitchell, George and Nina. They become his surrogate family.

Ever since I've started writing Being Human I've had people say to me you should have a zombie, or fairy, or pixie, or leprechaun, or witch, or something. And, finally, in episode three, we do that. We suddenly have a new kind of supernatural character – I won't reveal what they are just yet!

Herrick also makes a return this series – were you excited to have him back?

I genuinely was excited to bring Herrick back. Writing for Jason Watkins, who play Herrick, is an absolute joy. I think he's one of the most extraordinary actors I've ever written for. His performance of Herrick is genuinely jaw-dropping.

For a writer he's an absolute treat to write for – you know you can throw absolutely anything at him and he'll nail it. He's the nicest guy in the world but on screen he's genuinely terrifying. That said, when we brought him back we didn't just want to bring the old Herrick back, so hopefully we've done something quite interesting with the character, which I think will take everyone by surprise.

The storylines are always brilliant, but this series you seem to have surpassed yourselves – where do you start when you're coming up with them? Is there a process?

We never know where the characters are going to end up. We sit down with no preconceived ideas, we plot out the series on a whiteboard and on that first day it's this very oppressive, worrying, dazzling white. It's a long, very strange, frustrating process to start filling it with stories.

One of us, either myself, or Phil [Trethowan], the producer, or Lauren [Cotton] the script editor, will have an idea for one single story of the week so we'll pop that up, or have an idea for a series arc for a character. The process is ever-changing, every time we've done it we've done it differently.

What are the most fun scenes for you to write – is it when all the housemates are together?

I think the show is a collection of different moods and tones and styles and genres and so I enjoy writing each one equally. I really enjoy the playful banter scenes and the comedy scenes, but also there's nothing I love more than a good fight sequence, or a genuinely horrifying scene.

In episode one there's a very macabre thing that the vampires do to werewolves and there's nothing funny about it, and I really enjoyed writing that scene – it's like nothing I've ever written before. It really depends what mood I'm in. But one of the good things about Being Human is that given it's a collection of different styles and tones, hopefully there's something there for everyone.

The show has a huge following and the fans are very vocal. Does this make it more daunting as a writer, or do you like that you get instant feedback?

It makes it very daunting! I know how important the show is to its fans and so I'm aware that I have a responsibility not to let them down. But I think that's good and quite enjoy the pressure and the challenge. And they know the show almost better than I do and I relish the challenge of coming up with ideas that surprise them.

Have you ever changed something or written something differently because of fans' responses or suggestions?

I'll try and do the opposite, in a way! For example, when they announced the pilot of the show there were people going online saying: "Oh my god, have you heard they're doing a show about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost – it sounds absolutely terrible!" And then the pilot came out and they absolutely loved it.

And then we announced we were going to recast the show and a lot of the fans then said: "Oh no, it's going to be terrible, they're going to ruin it!" And then, of course, they saw the new cast and absolutely loved them.

And then at the end of series one, when I killed off Herrick, the fans were absolutely appalled, saying: "How can the show survive without Herrick?" And then we had new villains in series two which they really liked. And then at the end of series two I brought Herrick back and they said: "Oh no, how unoriginal, he's just repeating himself now!"

So, consequently, I'm cautiously optimistic the fans are going to like having Herrick back just as they've liked everything else they thought they'd hate! So I think it's probably in the fans' interest I don't listen to them.

How do you feel about the US remake – have you seen any of it?

I'm thrilled with it – I think it's absolutely fantastic. They've taken the format and made it their own. What's fantastic is to be able to watch the show as a fan and not as somebody who's sat rocking and dripping and crying in front of the computer for months to make it. I'm thoroughly enjoying watching it. The performances are great, the writing's fantastic – it's terrific.

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