Following the premiere screening of No Offence series three at BAFTA, there was a Q&A that gave great insights into the creation of Friday Street’s mad world. Here are some selected soundbites.
PAUL ABBOTT (CREATOR AND WRITER)
ON THE THIRD SEASON’S STORY ARC: “We were looking at resetting the button on No Offence. When we look at the original formation of No Offence it was imagining cops who would have to look after the families in Shameless!
We wanted a story that is a vessel for our sense of humour and we usually find the best of those by finding the darkest. The kind of society these cops would be looking at would be tormented by racism and it’s the perfect mouthpiece for that very dark, jet black humour that we get out of all kinds of things that we definitely need to look at in society but we relish looking at as a comedy! The darker the material we tackle the funnier we seek to be allowed to become. We don’t shy away from much”
ON THE REALISM: “Detectives and police officers don’t actually talk to each other so that would have screwed up our entire show. We turn it through a really good prism. We get moral stories and a sense of humanity out of it. We’re too funny to be a procedural and too procedural to be a comedy so we sit in that frequency somewhere in between”
ON JOY’S DEATH: “We’re very untypical of most dramas because we killed a member of the cast in the first act and anybody else would have milked that to the end but we didn’t have time because one of the main fixtures of this show is teamwork. They had to recover their teamwork. It becomes a professional imperative”
ON BEING TOPICAL: “I seem to hit the zeitgeist quite a few times but with this kind of topic, it’s never ever going away. For as long as it’s part of our five a day newsfeed then with racism there will always be an event”
ON THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW: “It’s got a really high narrative metabolism and we deliberately designed it like that because this is the speed with which the police have to accept their load. I don’t think we’ll run out of stories for this because you just have to read the papers every day to see your baseline. We’re not going for sensational stories. They’re the stories that give us the longevity to tell our jet black comedy version of any headline you care to present us with”
ON THE WRITING PROCESS: “Breaking a story is normally done in a room once we’re all together. We’ll have several stories each to pitch and the story that has the most impact across the board, that shows some germination for story, for future developmental stories from it. So you’ve got your core, spinal story. We negotiate over weeks and months. It’s a bit like that’s the title of the album, we’re going to do the far right is the title of the album and then each episode has its own single title, stories of the week that give each episode a different complexion but you’re attending to this totem pole that you’ve set up. The way we break stories is by talking stuff to death until something clicks”
ON THE SHOW’S INFLUENCES: “We wanted to appeal to a crime addicted audience, it had to work as a procedural. It really was like writing two shows at once. I didn’t use many shows as a reference because I knew we hadn’t seen anything quite like it. I hadn’t seen any comedy cop stuff that worked for me before. You have to imagine this little world before it exists and see whether you can make Viv storming into the office looking like R2D2 funny!”
JOANNA SCANLAN (VIV DEERING)
ON THE SHOW’S APPEAL: “For me, it’s always about the moral centre. In an old-fashioned sense, there is right and wrong. There are elements of a western in it. The series starts with this huge event, we lose a member of our family and you can never lose sight of that but the lesson is that life is really tough. You lose people, they die”
ON VIV’S APPEAL: “Someone drew up a t-shirt with the slogan”when I grow up I want to be Viv Deering’. She’s a good mother. There’s a maternal, feminine nature as well as the masculine and they’re very well balanced. I think that’s something people can trust”
ON THE POLITICS OF SERIES THREE: “What’s really prescient is how the right are hijacking the democratic process. So here we’ve got a mayoral election as the structure for the democracy but it’s not within opposition or through terrorism, it’s actually within the voting structure”
ON THE EVOLUTION OF WOMEN’S ROLES IN THE MEDIA: “There’s a cultural space that seems to be changing. The day I received the script to audition for this role I read this incredible monologue that Deering started with, which was actually cut and never appeared in the end result, I thought “THAT is something else”. Martin Carr said to me very early on you’ll be playing Paul Abbott in a dress!
I got very lucky with this part. I’ve not seen any other fat, middle-aged women playing leading roles, particularly as detectives. A lot of those characters usually go off in a different direction. They usually become about being nice or warm or evil or whatever and here she’s complex.
That psychology is given to her by this production, by Channel 4, by Paul Abbott writing it on the first place, by the whole team supporting that. I think there is a statement in that. It’s a statement about diversity actually and I’m very lucky to be the one inhabiting it for this moment. Long may it last”
WILL MELLOR (SPIKE TANNER)
ON WHAT MAKES THE SHOW UNIQUE: “It’s made detectives and police human. A lot of the time they talk in a language that people don’t understand. It’s us versus them but these are real people. They call a spade a spade. We say things other people don’t say and we do things other shows don’t deal with. I think we’ve got the perfect platform by being on Channel 4″
ON THE UNIQUE PACE: “When you see Deering coming back (post-Joy’s death) she hadn’t even got time to compose herself and dome crazy thing has kicked off. Crime doesn’t stop for anybody so you haven’t got the time to feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to pick yourself up and move on. The pace of this show, it doesn’t wait for nobody. My mum says “I have to watch it twice!” Well, that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing worse than being repetitive”
ON VIV: “She’s got more bollocks than most men! She hasn’t got time for p’s and q’s. It’s refreshing. What’s amazing is the way that Joanna plays it, she doesn’t over-egg the comedy. She just lets it slip right in there. We’re not setting up gags they’re there for you to find”
ON PAUL RITTER: “The way he plays Miller, I’m in awe of the man when I watch him on set. He turns dialogue into fluid water, it’s unbelievable. I look forward to every scene he’s in. He’s the most non-human out of all the characters. You just don’t know where his brain is but he always comes up with the goods. I think he’s a genius”
CATHERINE MORSHEAD (DIRECTOR)
ON JOY’S DEATH: “It’s funny and dramatic and the big thing is to keep the tone. That episode particularly as there’s such a sad moment in it but we didn’t want to dwell on it. I think that’s one of the things people love about the show. I’ve never seen anyone dies like that on television. It was Paul’s idea that the ambulance turns the lights out. I don’t think you see it coming”
ON THE CAST: “It really is a team. We all work to make this show as good as it can be. They’re all distinctive, Paul has written a group of really fantastic characters. They’re all very clear, even in the first season we knew because they were so well written instantly. There are fantastic guests to this year”
ON THE CHALLENGES OF FILMING EPISODE ONE: “Joy’s death probably would have been quicker if we hadn’t of had such shit weather! We started off day one with storm Caroline and it didn’t really get better. We had snow, ice, rain, we had a tornado. We had everything do it took four or five days but even then we had to go back. I was shooting the first scene on day one and I was shooting a bit of the first scene on the last day!”
No Offence Continues Thursday at 9.00pm on Channel 4