Interview with Catherine Tate

Catherine Tate talks about Big School and Miss Postern.

Can you tell us about the show and your character?

The show is called Big School. It’s about a secondary school, focusing mainly on the teachers, of which I’m one of them – a French teacher. She thinks she’s going to come into this school and certainly her methods of teaching are going to blow everyone away. It’s kind of just saying English words with a French accent hoping the kids are going to get interested.

She’s trying to get people to translate pop groups that they like for example, I think it was actually quite clever of her to get a picture of one of the guys from Black Eyed Peas and call him, which is an absolutely literal translation of And then another one is Plan “B” (in French accent) which still they don’t understand.

Your character proves to be very popular with both Mr Church (David Walliams) and Mr Gunn (Philip Glenister). What is it like playing between those two quite different characters?

I don’t think she’s particularly interested in Mr Gunn but she sees a kind of sweetness to Mr Church that’s appealing. They’ve got very different ways of wooing or “seducting” as Mr Gunn says - he’s pretty old school, he’s pretty 1970s.

Whereas David’s character is 19th century more, he’s very respectful but he always gets in his own way. He very much means well but it can often trip him up. So he’ll end up offending me more than anything, and so will Phil’s character but in a different way. He’s just plain wrong.

What has it been like working with the kids and having them on set?

It’s great. We’re really lucky to have been working with all the kids, because it’s hard to make a show in a school if you’ve only got four kids knocking about. The school we actually filmed in, the kids gave up their school holidays to come and be extras in the show which was amazing. You’d struggle to people that amount of background if they hadn’t given up their time to come and do it. They were in their own school so they were familiar with it which makes such a difference. They made a huge addition which was great.

Do you have a favourite episode you’re particularly looking forward to filming or watching?

No. Like a mother who birthed all these episodes I have no favourite.

There is a sense of comic isolation to the characters. Is there a sense that as it’s such a universal subject?

It is of the genre that most people have been to school… There’s a gag throughout the whole show where I always call David’s character by his first name and he always says “not in front of the children” because it is that thing. It is somehow strangely naughty, it’s like a real secret if you find out what the teachers real names are, because they’re never names to you - they’re Miss This or Mr That.

Hopefully there’ll be elements of it that people remember. At one point David’s running around the playing field in his pants though, so I hope people didn’t have to see that from their chemistry teacher.

There’s a similarity between Miss Postern and Mr Church. They seem like they’re quite engaged and there for the kids in a way that the rest of the teachers don’t seem to be?

I think that Mr Church and Miss Postern are kindred spirits in that they do put the children first and they do take their teaching seriously. They do want to make a difference whereas you do get the feeling that Ms Baron needs to get home and watch Cash in the Attic soon, or something of greater importance than the children’s education.

So yes they are kindred spirits. They’re quite suited to each other in some ways that you think well who else is going to have you. It’s quite sweet.

So there’s a bit of a ‘will they won’t they?’ throughout the series?

The seed is planted at the beginning for Mr Church. He’s quite taken with her and of course she’s quite flattered that someone could go to such lengths. It’s nice that throughout the series he makes quite grand gestures that of course all fall completely flat on their face. But everyone likes a grand gesture.

For one of his grand gestures he decides to come to France right at the last second so has nothing, not even a change of pants, which isn’t great seeing as she’s sitting next to him on the way back home from France…