Q&A With Toby Whitehouse
Hello Everyone! Phew! Where did series 4 go? Obviously it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Lenora. She's been with us for a colossal thirty episodes, illuminating every one with her beauty and vivacity and humour. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think her performance in this series was her best ever. If you want to see a masterclass in comic timing and delivery, watch her in episode 2 of series 4. I'll never forget seeing that for the first time in the executive screening in Cardiff. It had us in stitches. But sometimes loving and respecting a character means knowing when to end their story and we all felt, Lenora included, that once you've saved the world, anything else is going to seen a bit of a comedown. But we'll never forget Annie and we'll miss Lenora lighting up the set with her grace and charm.
Toby has answered your questions and they are listed below. I think we are about to break the world record for longest Being Human blog post!
What would have happened to Cutler if Annie had invited him in AFTER he started to burn? Would it have been too late? And just how long have you wanted to do that to a vampire?!
Obviously I have no way of proving this, but I think the process of him immolating would stop immediately. We’ve never really thought about it – it wasn’t something that we always wanted to do, or had in our back pocket - but the story threw up that opportunity so we thought we’d grab it. Often we’re constrained by budget in terms of what we can achieve – but if we really want to do something we find away.
Will the new trio stay in Honolulu Heights, or find a new place for a new start?
No, they are going to stay there. Partly because we can’t afford to build a new set and, to be fair, we genuinely love that set. Our designer, Andrew Purcell, is a genius.
With every series, the Being Human world gets bigger and the story lines get more epic. Do you ever look back at the first series and yearn to alter the balance back towards the more character-driven, quirky stuff you were doing then? Like, for example, when George and Mitchell end up laying on top of each other on the sofa while trying to be casual. Not that I don't think you aren't doing the characterful stuff now, but I think it sometimes seems to get lost in the broader sweep of the story.
No, we never yearn to go back to that because if we wanted to then we would. We have to be moving forward, and if we were still telling predominantly small scale and domestic stories, I think a) the show would have been cancelled, but also that b) people would have got bored. Being Human isn’t a sitcom - sitcoms very rarely evolve. With most sitcoms the episodes can be viewed in any order and you can drop in and drop out – where as drama needs a forward momentum.
This must already have been a challenging series to write due to Aidan Turner leaving. I wondered if the decisions of Russell Tovey and Sinead Keenan to leave as well caused further complications or if there was sufficient time to plan for this?
When we started story lining we knew that we would only have Russell for one episode and we wouldn’t have Sinead at all – but that was just the beginning of the nightmare. Choreographing a decent exit for Russell and explaining Sinead’s absence, as well as getting the new characters in place, all within one episode was incredibly tricky. At times it felt like episode one was a shopping list of requirements rather than a story. It was a difficult episode to get right, but we were really happy with the result.
Can we please see Hal tied to a chair again next series? ;))
At the moment there is a possibility you will.
Apart from Mitchell and Hal, we have seen other vampires, such as Carl, try to abstain from blood. Are these cycles as described by Hal something that a lot of vampires go through or was it always meant to be something that only very few vampires have ever attempted? Will we ever see any vampire accomplish to overcome their addiction entirely?
I guess it depends on the Vampire. Hal, Mitchell and Carl are all vampires who wish to reform and part of that reformation is abstaining from blood – but I can’t imagine someone like Herrick or Cutler or Fergus going through that process because they have no intention of converting to the side of the angels.
@lycan666 What's the difference between an Old One and a New One?
It’s partly to do with age and partly state of mind. For example Ivan was well over four hundred years old, but there was something about him – his innate grandeur and status made him an old one. Whereas Regus is probably around the same age but somehow it’s difficult to think of him as an Old One.
Will Alex be in series 5? She has become one of my favourite characters! I like her spunk. Plus, Kate Bracken is an amazing actress! I think she adds something new to the show!
She is our new ghost! So yes, she will!
Which Vamps voice do we hear on the radio in ep 1?
I’m really pleased you asked! It isn’t HAL, but I wrote It originally to be Hal – but then we cast Damien, and he has such a distinctive voice that it would have revealed so much of the story straight away, so when it came to the point that we had to record the voice we decided to use someone else. But yes, it was intended to be Hal, to the point that even at the read-through I almost asked Damien to read it out – which would have confused him enormously because he didn’t know where the series was going to go at that moment! But like I said, his voice was so idiosyncratic it would have given everything away, so we changed it.
How much of the (at that time only potential) series 5 did you have mapped out by the time that the end of series 4 is written, and in how much detail? I'm assuming you must already have decided some of the story arc involving the men in grey (unless you're really winging it and that I don't believe!)
Next to nothing. I’ll set up scenes up like the men in grey, and we’ll option that actor just in case, and when we sit down to develop that storyline we might find that it lasts for an episode or a full series arc. But when I’m writing episode 8 I have next to nothing in terms of material in mind for the new series. Consequently, when we start storylining the next series, we have a blank white board which is terrifying!
Whats your favourite episode you have written? or any of the others?
I would say ep 7 of series 3 or ep 7 in series 4. Damien as evil Hal was such a joy to watch.
If the men with sticks and rope slam shut the door to creativity, leaving you staring at a blank page, do you have a particular trick you use to open the door again?
By the time I sit down to write as script the storylines are already vaguely mapped out - so I always know the destination it’s just a question of how I get there. I tend not to hit a brick wall in terms of the big ideas, more often than not the things that hinder me are things like ‘how can I get this character to find out this information in this scene?’ rather than the big questions like ‘who Is the villain?’ - You have to keep hammering away. It’s the small things that prove problematic.
Have you (or one of your characters) ever written yourself into a corner, and if so, how did you escape?
Constantly. Again it’s the small things – reaching a certain scene and realizing a character doesn’t have the info they need, and your heart sinks and you have to back and seed it in earlier.
Now that S4 is complete, a great success, and S5 is commissioned, what will you shop for?
Another Tattoo. Yes, seriously.
Is Cutler, Nick Cutler "Proper dead"? Yes. Where on earth do you find all these wonderful actors? (Especially as you seem to cast a lot of newcomers & well as established stars)
We have a fantastic casting director who we’ve had since the pilot – Di Carling, who found us, amongst others, Aiden and Sinead. But now retired, Becca is now taking over and she will be casting series 5. Di and Becca would do the leg work. They’d go to audition showcases at drama schools. They watch endless showreels. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of the industry. Last year alone they found us Damien and Kate and Gina. But with the established stars, the thing that gets them on board is the scripts and the characters. We’re a humble little show! We can’t afford to pay very much. So people like Mark Gatiss or Robson Green or James Fleet all came because of the scripts.
At what point do you start writing/developing the new series? (I imagine you must have to have some rough ideas while filming the previous series in order to insert the 'teaser' at the end of the last episode.)
As soon as we stop filming the last scene of the previous series.
Who decides how many episodes there will be in a season? Is there a specific reason (other than budget) that the next series will have six?
The young girl who accompanied the OOs - was she Hetty? Yes! She is supposed to be Hetty. The girl who played Hetty in the Ivan / Daisy prequel had the temerity to grow up so we had to find a new one – but I had completely forgotten until I did a phone interview with some American press the other week, that the Hetty character is led out of the warehouse before it blows up. So theoretically there could be an old one other than Hal who is still alive. Don’t get your hopes up as to what that means, though!
How goes the plans for the sort of Super Hero series you were working on?
Oh that’s dead. But I’m still really keen on the idea so one day in the distant future when I have some time, I might rework it as a film.
Are you planning on making a prequel for Alex, assuming she's a new resident at Honolulu Heights?
Maybe not a prequel but we could be seeing more of Alex online…..
She's a brilliant character - did you invent her the same way you did Allison, by finding Hal's opposite?
It wasn’t just a question of Hal’s opposite but also finding someone opposite to Annie as well.
Was Hal's singing your invention or written in after Damien had been cast?!
That was a stage direction in the scripts, but he turned it into a musical number. Which surprised me! But it was a pleasant surprise. He’s got quite a nice voice, hasn’t he. Damn him.
As Yvonne is the daughter of a demon, does this mean we will one day be properly introduced to a demon? Will we ever meet the Men with Sticks and Rope? When are we going to see Trolls in the BH universe?
In regards to all those of questions – anything is possible …. EXCEPT Trolls.
I recently heard an interview with the lovely Damien who explained the premise behind the show was originally about a recovering sex addict, outsider and agoraphobe with a twist and that those character ideas became Mitchell, George and Annie. That in itself is just brilliant - how did you come up with that idea?! With that in mind how would you describe Alex, Hal and Tom in non-supernatural terms?
In terms of how I came up with that – it was a weird moment of inspiration that happens not nearly frequently enough. I was walking home from the train station and the characters arrived all at once, fully formed. This was back when the show was going to be a non-supernatural drama. George wasn’t an outsider but someone who compartmentalized his life with anger and emotion – and it was just pure luck and serendipity that those same characters lent themselves to the supernatural archetypes. I wish those moments happened more often.
Big question was Mitchell waiting for Annie? Everyone is asking everywhere, twitter Facebook etc.
Annie deserves a happy ending – and what ending could possibly be happier. Was ghost Pearl connected to the other Pearl- Daisy's daughter? No not at all. I just have a lack or originality when it comes to names.