The League Of Gentlemen
Last month the League Of Gentlemen came to Manchester to introduce a double bill of "Don't Look Back" and "The Wickerman" for a Halloween special at the Cornerhouse. We caught up with Steve Pemberton (aka Pauline) to discuss what influence these films had on him and to get the low down on the next series.
Q: "Don't Look Back" and "The Wicker Man" - how did the Cornerhouse double bill come about?
A: When we were on tour we were at the Cornerhouse and we wanted to see State Of Men, the David Manner film, and missed it by 10 minutes. In the end we decided not to bother because there's nothing worse than wandering in after a films started. How it came about was we were just hanging around in the foyer and this woman came up to us and told us about the double bill they were planning and asked us to introduce it.
Q: Both films are big influences on you aren't they?
A: Particularly "The Wicker Man" which fed into the local shop storyline really nicely. But there's something about both of those films where the endings just completely pull the rug from under your feet and you just can't switch the telly off because your so frightened. And there's something of that we wanted to get in...that people didn't quite know what was going to happen next and you just went into this world...and both of those films are like that. We have used particular lines from the films but in a homage rather than just stealing.
Q: When you first started did you ever imagine you'd have this massive success?
A: Not at all. There were times when we were in the freezing cold packed into Jeremy's mini with a little bag of pop and thinking is this ever going to lead to anywhere. I really didn't think it would happen so quickly, you hope it will happen, but I didn't really think we'd have our own TV series just two years after we went to Edinburgh. Its just been incredible.
Q: It was strange how people took to it because its not your straight in your face comedy?
A: It was something a bit different and I think that's as much the format we came up with the town - that just same to give it an extra level. The characters we did were always the same but they were never in the same place. And then when we did the radio show we thought because of the success of the Fast Show and things like that, that had lots of disparate characters, we wanted to have more of a story to it that that really.
We were really quite surprised when people found the humour dark though because it was just our sense of humour really. I think the first person to say it was Sylvestor McCoy, who knew Mark through the Doctor Who connection, he came to see us in this little fringe venue in London and said "You are very, very Dark!!!!!". We've been branded dark and gothic and now we play up to it I suppose.
Q: The tour seemed to last for an eternity. Wasn't it originally planned for about 30 dates?
A: Yeah, it was originally booked for 30 dates and we ended up doing 111 including London so it was absolutely amazing. It was really the first time we realized just how many people were into and how into it they were. Something goes out on the telly, you get a few good reviews and you get the viewing figures but it doesn't really translate into knowing who your fanbase are and just how passionate they are.
Q: I believe you're in the process of writing at the moment. What can we expect from the new series?
A: Well were just going through some ideas at the moment and it goes into production in February next year. There are going to be some new characters but I think if you're going to keep the integrity of it being a town then you've got to keep the ones you've got in order for people to know where they are. Also we've got about 60 characters and there's still some ideas left in them yet.
I think sometimes there's too much of an obsession with new characters and people always say "well, it won't be a new series unless its got new characters". Even Tubbs and Edward, who were in the first and second series, if you add up their screen time it will only add up to about half an hour so I don't think we've flogged the characters to death.
Were doing longer narratives in each episode, so rather than cutting across the whole town, we will spend longer with maybe Pauline or the Joke shop man Lance. It will be a bit more like the Christmas special and also were trying are best not to have as much horror in it this time round - just to bring it down to real people otherwise it will just end up being a spoof of itself.
Q: There's always been talk of a movie. What's happening with that at the moment?
A: Well, that would be after the 3rd series. We haven't got any ideas for that at the moment to be honest though. What often happens is that people will give you development money and from the moment you take that money you are beholden to them to come up with an idea. We really want to take our time coming up with an idea and then take the money. It may take a year or two to develop but its definitely are next project after the 3rd series.