The BBC’s hit sitcom Miranda returns on Boxing Day for a Christmas Special and third series.
It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the last series went out. How does it feel bringing the highly anticipated new material to BBC One?
It is hard to take on board the fact that the show is on air, let alone liked and watched. All that STILL feels slightly extraordinary. So to take on board that it might be anticipated is hard but if I do think about it then I feel terrified I suppose! It is a huge pressure to keep up the standards we have for the show, particularly on the writing side. But you just have to knuckle down, try not to think about it being on air, and write what you find funny and hopefully do your best.
How long was there between finishing filming series two and writing series three? Do the stories flow easier when you know the characters and the actors who play them so well?
We finished filming series two in November 2010, as it was going out on air in fact. And I wrote a bit of series three in 2011 for a couple of months but soon realised I needed a break from it. So I took the rest of 2011 off from the sitcom and started writing it proper in January 2012. It was the right thing to do creatively. It’s a hard show to write, takes up a lot of material with the to-camera sections and flashbacks for example, and I wanted to come to it fresh and with joy, not with tiredness from the previous series. I was very lucky to have the chance to do Call The Midwife that year and then I felt ready to get back to the sometimes unnervingly serious job of comedy!
Did you know exactly where you wanted to go with the storyline for the new series and did it end where you’d imagined?
The sitcom has usually been very episodic, taking a subject or two per episode that the characters have to deal with and in true sitcom style, having them learn nothing along the way and end up where they started. So there hasn’t been a big story arc in each series, except for the Gary and Miranda relationship. And I knew how I wanted that to end very early on. How we got there took a bit of working out and it’s hard to find new and interesting ways to keep the ‘will they, won’t they’ story alive. But it is the easiest and most fun part of the writing process, that storyline, and it came to me pretty quickly.
What’s new about series three? What can the viewers expect? Anything new/different?
I think the difference with series three is that there is more of a story arc. The first two episodes are quite slow moving establishers compared with previous series’ and they set up what happens from episode three onwards. There are two new regular characters, quite a few kisses, a couple of celebrity cameos. And that’s all I am saying!
The public response to the series and characters is tremendous. How are you affected by this attention throughout the writing process?
Knowing the series is liked is just amazing. It’s hard to take on board to be honest. The main reason I got in to comedy was in the hope that I could make a few people laugh and feel better about life and the fact that I do that is quite overwhelming really. So when I struggle during the writing process it really spurs me on that people want to see more and I try and work as hard as possible to honour the support of audiences. It can feel like pressure too as I don’t want to let people down. But I have always thought of comedy as an important job and medium and so I put pressure on myself to do the best I can.
Do you feel pressure to buckle to the public’s eagerness for Miranda and Tom to have a happy ending?
It’s lovely that people have engaged with the Miranda and Gary relationship and I am aware that we all love watching a bit of romance on the box. But I couldn’t possibly reveal whether I give you all what you want!
It’s well reported that the whole cast get on extremely well. How often do you get together outside the studio?
We see each other a lot. Sarah Hadland and I are best friends outside of the show too. We met on the show – she just auditioned, I didn’t know her before – so it’s very special that we have become such good friends throughout the process. We spend a lot of time together and speak all the time. She is one person who I laugh with and feel utterly myself with. But all the girls on the show (and I include Tom in that!) are very close and catch up as often as we can.
Do you spend all day laughing and having fun when filming the series with this group of people?
In short – no. Not because we don’t get on, because we do, and with the director Juliet May and all the crew, but because it is incredibly hard work. Doing a studio audience show is extraordinary hard pressure. You have three days to rehearse a half hour show in a rehearsal room and then a day to do pre-records and then only one day to rehearse on the studio floor with the cameras before the audience come in at 7pm. And you only get the chance to do the scenes twice maximum, so if we aren’t rehearsed and truly precise then you won’t get the laughs or won’t feel in control on the night. So we do laugh, particularly in the read through when we first read the scripts, but after that we knuckle down and don’t have time for anything else really. We are a hard working cast and I think that and our friendship shows. There are certainly lots of laughs when all rehearsals are done before the show to alleviate the nerves. Lots of laughs and lots of wind.
Have you got a personal highlight from filming this series?
I have a couple yes. But I am not telling yet as it would give things away.
It’s been in the press about Gary Barlow’s appearance. How did he get on with filming? Any anecdotes from his time on the production?
Gary is such a lovely guy. ‘Annoyingly Perfect Barlow’ we call him. And as a cast we are massive Take That fans so there was much excitement on set. We tried to act cool. I don’t think it worked. But I’d met Gary a few times before and knew that he and his wife watched and liked the show so it was all very relaxed.
What can we expect Miranda and her friends and family to get up to during the series, this Christmas? Will it be celebrated as part of the show?
Episode one starts at Christmas. It’s not a Christmas special, it’s episode one that happens to be Christmas themed. One of my favourite moments to film was dancing to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Enjoy my natural dancing in that scene.
What are your plans this year for Christmas?
I will be at my parents’ house in Hampshire and after a busy year I will be looking forward to lying around by a fire and watching lots of TV and films. I might spend the whole time in a one-sie and hopefully half the time asleep. I will basically lie by the fire like a dog!
Did you ever imagine that the show would be such a huge success when you first began writing the storylines for the pilot?
Not for a second. I thought I was taking a risk in doing a show that was combining the light entertainment shows of the past with the looks to camera and the ‘you have been watching’ sequences, as well as trying to route the stories in some kind of contemporary reality. I just wrote the show I wanted to write and what I found funny and hoped for the best. I am still shocked by its success and feel very lucky indeed. I am grateful for all the audience’s support.
What’s the best and worst thing about being so recognisable?
The best thing is that you do feel a sense of professional confidence and achievement. It was a dream of mine to get into comedy, so when people recognise you from doing that, it’s a lovely moment. The worst thing is that when you are feeling tired or quiet and just want to walk the dog or pop to the shops, you might get interrupted and I don’t want to ever feel rude or boring. I used to write series one a lot in my head by walking the dog or wandering around looking at people and experiencing situations. That’s harder to do now.
When can we expect more Miranda?
Give me a chance! I have only just finished series three, I will then have a holiday and wait and hope that people stick with the show. I never expect that audiences will stick with me, I can’t plan that to be the case in this business. So if people like series three then I would love to do something more with the characters. We shall see.
Tell us some things we never knew about Miranda – the series, the actress and the character?
Gosh. Ummm… About the series – for anyone who still believes in canned laughter, it really is filmed in front of a live audience. About me – I used to want to be a PE teacher, and kind of still do. About the character – in my mind, she has never been on a plane before. Those weren’t very exciting, but there you have it.
Miranda returns Boxing Day at 9.00pm on BBC1