This interview contains spoilers for Being Human series four and five.
We’re sat in the dining room of the Maedy Hotel, Pencoed, a place that was still being reviewed by guests on Tripadvisor as late as November 2011 (three stars, in case you were wondering). The chairs are upholstered in dark pink velvet, the polystyrene ceiling tiles in cigarette smoke and the ghosts of fried breakfasts past, and the migrainously patterned carpet is quietly throbbing underfoot.
Amongst the trappings of the seventies hospitality industry are Being Human’s Hal and Alex (Damien Molony and Kate Bracken), who are chatting happily to a group of us about the show’s fifth series, Phil Davis’ new villain, topless scenes, Kia-Ora and the best way to clean a maggot…
This is the first season of Being Human without any of the original cast. Does it feel like a new launch?
Damian Molony: It’s a different story, but it’s still Being Human. It still retains the wonderful elements of the vampire, the werewolf and the ghost.
What makes Being Human so special I think is that yes, these are extraordinary situations, but at the heart of it are these fantastic characters who love each other and need each other and who are trying to exist in a world that they don’t necessarily feel that they belong to, but they absolutely want to do good. They want to overcome their disabilities or their superpowers and to try and use – or avoid – those powers to save the world and to assimilate and live normal lives.
Where do we join Hal, Tom and Alex in this series?
Kate Bracken: We kick off where we left off. It was nice to be able to start where we left off and not a sequence further down the line so we could get back into the story as such, but that first week was kind of like, can I remember how to do this?
DM: She just needs to put on the costume now and it’s like a glove, you’re straight back into it.
Hal’s tied to a chair then?
DM: Just with a little bit more facial hair, which I squeezed out about three weeks before we started.
KB: It’s a few weeks that he’s been in the chair, and it’s us, Tom and Alex, deciding whether or not it’s time to let him out and whether it’s safe or not. That’s how we kick off.
DM: On our very first day, Michael [Socha] had to feed me mushed banana – I always hated banana anyway – but Michael was just purposely covering me, it was on my nose and on my cheek… Eight takes of this, I thought I can’t take any more, I’m sure they’ve got it now!
Why mashed banana?
DM: That was my food in the chair. I have a little bucket beside me with a little cloth over it; Hal is trying to maintain his dignity. The house is in complete disarray. I can’t even begin to describe how many takeaway boxes were in that room.
Your two characters meet romantically didn’t they, and then Hal ends up drinking Alex’s blood…
DM: [Laughs] We were on a break!
Can Hal and Alex ever have a romantic relationship then, or has that put the kibosh on that?
KB: Rocky isn’t it?
DM: Technically, Hal hasn’t done anything wrong. Let’s just put that across.
KB: They become close mates, but I think the chance of romance is never fully gone. Living together in such close proximity, there’s always an element of that. Obviously there was an attraction there to begin with, but they wind each other up something awful I would say.
DM: For me, Alex really represents that bad Hal that I’ve been running from. Every day that I see her, that is a victim that I am, whether I like it or not, responsible for, and it’s slightly painful for Hal because yes, obviously, the reason that she’s in the house at all is that I fancied her and we got together. Yes, I fancy her still, but there’s also that constant push-and-pull struggle because of what she represents to me.
Alex must resent Hal though?
KB: There’s a huge part of her that can’t let that go and you do see that bickering come back between them, but she understands how much of a struggle this is for Hal, that it’s something he really can’t control, it’s like an illness. So she is quite forgiving in that sense as well. There’s this kind of battle of emotions with Alex I think when it comes to Hal.
Honolulu Heights’ last ghost, Annie, was the mother figure of the house. Does Alex have a similar role that she fulfils?
KB: I would say Alex brings a sense of normality to the house because these guys have been wrapped up in this supernatural world for a long time and because she’s fresh to this world, she can be a bit of a voice of reason at times. I think she sees Tom as like a brother to her, because obviously she’s not able to see her brothers and be with her brothers any more so all those feelings are placed onto Tom. With Hal, as I said before it’s complicated.
Alex’s family don’t know she’s dead at the end of the last series; do they come into season five at all?
KB: They do come into it, yes.
DM: We had a great little kid playing your brother.
KB: Yes, he was a star who came in and played one of my little brothers. They do come into it and there’s a really nice scene between Alex where she returns back to her family house and she sees her family and it’s a bit heart-breaking.
And Alex is still wearing the same clothes every single time?
KB: Yep! Lunchtimes are the hardest, because I spill everything. I only have two copies of this outfit left, so I have to be really careful, it could be worse though.
You’re not stuck in a grey cardigan at least
KB: That’s it, at least I’ve got a jacket on.
So how do Hal and Tom end up working at the hotel (Being Human‘s major new location for series five)?
DM: Because they spend so much time looking after me in the chair, we’ve lost the job in the café and Alex has found out that this place is hiring, and we come in and we have this great actress called Claire Cage playing Patsy the manager and she takes an instant shine to Hal. It’s like everything else is blocked out, just white noise and all she sees is his heavenly presence, obviously [laughs].
Hal absolutely doesn’t trust himself and it’s really that Tom and Alex have taken the decision that because he’s almost on the brink of normality they think he’s ready to come out. Hal is happy to leave the chair to clean the house or whatever ,but actually leaving the house he doesn’t trust himself at all, so coming to the hotel is difficult, he’s kind of eyes all over the place. We come in and we have an interview – obviously mine is a lot shorter than Tom’s – and we get the job. It’s kind of a wonderful springboard for the relationships to cross over again and get stronger and there are wonderful moments of comedy.
In the last series there was this kind of big impending doom of ‘The old ones are coming, the old ones are coming’, what I like about this series is the enemy, or the big bad is so much more subtle, and so much more under their noses from the very start so that’s obviously where the hotel comes in quite a bit.
What’s it been like to work with Phil Davis as the villainous Captain Hatch?
KB: It’s a bit of an honour really. I find myself watching him and then I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I’ve got to say something’. He is really mesmerising and the character that he’s playing is just disgusting.
DM: He has earwax dribbling out of his ear the whole time, he’s just disgusting.
KB: I wasn’t in for the scene, but there was a scene where Tom has to clean out his colostomy bag and halfway through, unscripted, Phil just reached in and, because they’ve filled this bag full of like, fake poop, and Phil had this bit of poo hiding somewhere and he just took it out halfway through, no-one expected it, and he just dumped it in a bucket and apparently it just made this amazing plop sound. Whether they use that or not, I’m not sure, but he’s incredible.
DM: He is this kind of hidden presence all the time. Even the actor, we find him just, walking down the stairs and you go, ‘oh Jesus’. He’s kind of overseeing this whole thing, he’s orchestrating it like a conductor and it’s so gentle. Obviously he’s in a wheelchair, so when you’re doing scenes you say ‘Phil, I didn’t know you were in this scene’, he’s just hiding, sitting at a table just watching all the time watching.
His performance is obviously so fantastic because it’s so subtle. It’s in his eyes and I think it’s amazing to watch. We get some little scenes with him pulling strings with myself and Tom individually where he becomes more powerful and where he’s like, ‘why are you wasting your time with idiots like Tom?’, so he boosts my ego and he’s also boosting Tom’s ego saying ‘that guy Hal is talking down to you, how do you take that?’ So he’s playing us. He feeds off this conflict and it’s only really by the end of the series that we fully realise what he’s been doing to us. It’s very, very clever.
Now that the show’s reset with a new supernatural threesome, how is it going to avoid retreading old ground?
KB: I think first and foremost, Alex is obviously a completely different character to Annie. She’s not the type of girl to let things go easily, she’s no nonsense. No bullshit. So I think the relationship there between the two is already very different and so the way that plays out is also going to be completely different as well.
DM: The difference from the previous series that there was always this threat, ‘It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming…’ At the start of this series, they’re almost lulled into a false sense of security that actually the three of us can look after each other and can protect each other no matter what happens, and it’s actually that false sense of security that undoes them towards the end. It’s quite sad to see actually because it really springs up out of nowhere.
Is this series concerned with Alex being kept here by her unfinished business?
KB: Very much. From the first episode, Alex is basically saying ‘I’m sick of this, I just want to find my unfinished business and pass over’, and so it is something that she’s very desperate to find, but we figure out quite quickly that it’s not going to be as easy as she originally thought it was. There’s a spanner in the works.
Is Phil Davis’ character the only jeopardy in this series or is there a vampire jeopardy too? Do the old ones come back?
DM: Vampires less so, there is a little hint about the old ones in episode one, but I would see Phil Davis’ character as kind of the puppet master, and he’s sending things our way to try and bring his plans to fruition, so there are several enemies, but he is the big bad that controls everything.
There’s lots to do with Mr Rook, who comes back. Steven [Robertson], who plays him is the nicest guy in the world, but as soon as they say ‘action’, he does something to his eyes, I can’t look, he’s so ambivalent, is he good, is he bad? Even to this day I don’t really know in some of the scenes but he has an agenda that really comes to the fore.
Because we still don’t really know what he is…
DM: This series he really comes to the fore as a threat and as a help to us, and it’s really uncertain until the very end, what he’s about.
Last series introduced a succubus, will there be any new supernaturals in this series?
DM: Other than Hatch? In this series, there’s a little bit of everything, which is great. I don’t think there’s anything new other than the monstrosity that is Captain Hatch.
Will there be plenty of dressing up and flashbacks for you again Damien?
DM: Yep. Oh God, there’s one tomorrow, I’d better not say too much about that. We had a flashback at the start of episode one I think, I think that’s it. You have a flashback.
KB: Yeah. We all have a flashback of sorts.
Kate, are you going to have to face anything as disgusting as Alex’s dead maggoty body in terms of gross moments?
KB: We are yet to see one, coming up. I think I will be seeing the maggots again.
What are the maggots? Are you lying there with bits of Rice Krispie stuck on your face?
KB: Oh no, they’re maggots. It’s not so much the maggots, it’s the smell. As soon as you open that pot it is rank.
DM: They’re so clean, but the smell…
How do you clean a maggot?
DM: [laughs] There is someone in there washing them with cotton buds.
What did you make of the last series when you finally saw it?
KB: Obviously I didn’t come in until the last three episodes so for me to be able to see it from the beginning and find out what had happened previously was brilliant, because I’d heard these guys telling me bits and pieces here and there because I was trying to piece it all together and I was just blown away. I’d seen the show before but I realised then the scale of things and how honoured I was to be a part of it.
When you auditioned for Alex, did you know she was going to become a regular character?
KB: When I auditioned for it, I knew it was for the last three episodes and then there was an option of her being continued into the next series, but I kind of put that out of my head and thought, ‘oh, that’s never going to happen’ and so getting the call when we got green-lit for this series saying can you come back was like ‘yes!’. It’s been incredible.
DM: I was so excited. I remember being so nervous. We don’t have a TV with BBC Three so to watch it, I had to go to a friend’s house and I remember just my heart was pounding from about six o clock onwards and it was airing at nine. I was getting texts from people saying ‘here we go!’.
Did you follow the fan reaction, while you were watching it?
DM: Kind of. People would send amazing messages on Twitter. I was lucky enough to be doing a play at the time and they’d all come to the stage door and say, ‘what’s happening this week?’, and I’d say, ‘I can’t tell you’. It’s just so exciting and I was really touched. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fans anyway, we wouldn’t have a fifth series so it’s really special. When I got the call, actually, you guys [Kate Bracken and Michael Socha] were in the theatre that night, you came to see the play. I’d had some hints of what to expect if we got a fifth series and I couldn’t wait to get back on set.
Did it give you more confidence?
DM: Massively. Hal also has a new confidence, that maybe he can do it, that maybe with the help of his two best friends that he is ultimately reliant on, but again with that confidence comes that suspicion in his own brain of whether he can pull through to the end.
Through no fault of his own, new characters and new ideas are introduced this series that represent for Hal that dark side and Hal has to really push them away. I always think of it as these monsters – as Hal calls them – they are a mirror to him, and he sees his own reflection in them and he has to banish them, he has to smash the mirror. If he goes to that dark side later on in the series, there’s kind of an inevitability to it that. Slowly but surely, he’s on that dreadfully slippery slope.
How much of this season are you going to spend with your shirt off?
DM: Plenty, plenty.
Does that play on your mind on a Friday night when you’re thinking, I could kill for some chips?
DM: It does when it comes to breakfast that morning, I’m like, I can’t have that… I don’t really mind it though, it’s never done rashly or distastefully, there’s always a reason for it. It’s also great fun. It usually means that I’m up to no good.
Does Hal get his hands on any Kia-Ora this series?
DM: Alex asks him, several times I think, ‘Have you been drinking Kia-Ora?’, because you don’t quite believe it.
Have you been sent a lot of Kia-Ora since it was mentioned in that episode?
DM: You’ve no idea. At the stage door I get gallons of it from bloggers and fans, and I don’t actually drink it!
How do you top blowing up a baby? Can Being Human go darker than the series four finale?
DM: I’m sure we can.
KB: I think Hatch has a pretty good go.
DM: Yeah, what he does is so… you’ve no idea. I mean, yes, the big bang was dramatic and terrible and loud and this is just, actually I think this is much more terrifying
KB: Oh God yes.
DM: Because his power is so gentle and the effect of it is so catastrophic, that’s the only word to describe it. There are scenes coming up in a couple of weeks that I can’t wait to film because I’ve wanted to film scenes like that since I started reading Empire Magazine when I was eleven years old, it’s television on a epic scale. When I read episode six, I said to Toby, ‘I can’t believe I have the opportunity to participate in something like this’ because episode six is such a belter, I really hope you enjoy it.
Damien Molony and Kate Bracken, thank you very much!
Being Human series five starts on Sunday the 3rd of February at 10pm on BBC Three. Read our spoiler-free episode one review here.
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