The undead are forming an orderly queue in Roarton village hall (aka, a Salford scout hut) and being handed their bright orange ‘Community Payback’ bibs. Clearly there’s work to be done in the Lancashire village. Bib work.
Outside, and without a bib, In The Flesh‘s star zombie Luke Newberry takes the time in between a full day’s filming to stand in the rain and talk to us, with great eloquence and thought, about how his character Kieren Walker has developed since we last saw him in series 1. Caked in his PDS sufferer make-up he’s a cheerful shade of pinky-orange against the grey surroundings, brightening up wintery Manchester by a whole half-Winton on the celebrity tan Pantone scale.
Towards the end of our all-too-brief chat we’re also joined by series newcomer Wunmi Mosaku, who plays Roarton’s new MP and chief bib-hander-outer-er Maxine Martin, who plans to get the undead serving their community. Does she have more villainous, non-bib related plans beyond that though? We’ll just have to wait and watch.
Where Kieren is at the start of series 2…
It’s nine months on and he’s got itchy feet. He just wants out of Roarton and he’s got all these ideas about travelling abroad, starting afresh. He’s not running away from his problems but he just wants to start again and be somewhere that understands him a bit better. And not just him a him better but all PDS sufferers, and he thinks that in Europe they’re more tolerant and have a better understanding of it. He’s an artist and he wants to go be artistic and express himself. He’s desperate to go to France.
On the change between Kieren in series 1 and 2…
The first series was him coming to terms with himself and everyone around him, and it was all new. It was a real rollercoaster journey accepting himself. Now he’s settled and things have moved on and changed, but he’s now facing different dilemmas, and just this sort of open life that doesn’t have a sell-by date on it. He’s going to be young forever. What do you do with no time limit? How do you spend your time?
So he’s got all these things going on and then there’s new people coming in, making life even harder for him, and he just feels trapped by everything.
On the reaction to the first series…
I was a bit taken aback, really, by the response. It really reached the people it was hoping to reach. A lot of people were really affected by it. And that’s really heartening; to get messages from people saying ‘the character really inspired me’, or ‘I can relate to this and that’. When it’s such a high concept show, for it to speak to people on that level, it’s great.
On Kieren’s relationship with the show’s new characters…
With Simon (Emmett Scanlan) it’s suspicious. Kieren feels better about himself after the first series, and then Simon appears, and he’s so at ease with being PDS. He doesn’t care, doesn’t mousse-up, and [Kieren’s] a little intimidated by that. Suddenly Kieren doesn’t know what his role is; his best friend (Amy) comes back and she is in love with Simon, and there’s this weird triangle that forms.
With (sister) Jem, he’s got really really close now and it’s back to the relationship before he died. It was so heartbreaking that they were so close and then there’s this horrible ‘alien in the house’ kind of feeling. Now they’re really tight again.
It’s intense, but in a different way. Last series was coming to terms with everything and having all these emotional confrontations with family, whereas this is ‘how does Kieren deal with all these new scenarios knocking him off course all the time?’, people coming in and messing things up. Because it’s a longer series you get to see a few different colours of Kieren. And the new characters reveal different things about him; new sides to Kieren.
Wunmi describes her character Maxine of the pro-life, anti-PDS Victus party…
Maxine’s a Victus MP, she’s been voted in for the whole of Roarton and she’s pro-life. Politically [the Victus party] is starting off a scheme nationally; a PDS give-back scheme. They’re getting all the PDS sufferers to work, to ‘volunteer’ to pay back their debt.
She’s a politician, so she has to be welcoming to all. But even the most conservative, right-wing politicians still try and be accessible, don’t they, regardless of their policies. She’s been taught how to be a good politician; how to be welcoming and encompassing, but I don’t know if that actually comes across.
I think the thing about new politicians now is the younger generation are trying to be more accessible, more empathetic, and the days of gestures and such aren’t prevalent. Maxine’s trying to be accessible and modern. But she’s chosen a party that’s pro-life because she doesn’t agree with re-integrating [PDS sufferers] completely into society.
Is she a villain?
Politically, it depends if you’re on the Right or the Left. Personally, I think I might agree with her. But sans zombies I’m quite Left! With zombies I think it’d be quite Right. So I think she’s a baddie in so many people’s eyes because she’s not pro-PDS sufferers. She thinks they’re sub-human and that you can’t treat them the same. They may look and sound similar but they’re not.
Will she be sticking around Roarton for a while?
I’d hope so! I don’t want to wear those contact lenses anyway! I hope she’s in it for the foreseeable. I love this job!
On series creator Dom Mitchell’s scripts…
Luke: His words are so easy to say. It’s something about having a Northern accent and Dom’s writing…it flows and you don’t feel like you’re over-egging anything. And now he knows us as well he’s writing for us, and that makes things easier. He just writes completely human things everyone can relate to: little human scenarios through fantastical situations.
We’re back in that kitchen sink setting but it’s broadened into wider areas. We go to different places and there’s whole new other concepts. It’s just expanded the world, which is so exciting.
Dom hasn’t created a scenario, he’s created a world. So the possibilities can just run on and on.
Wunmi: He’s just really clever. He’s really clever. He’s made a genre that I would never be interested in interesting, and emotive as well. Series 1 is incredible. It really hit you hard. And then you think ‘he’s a zombie, this is atypical. It’s really exciting to be a part of and it’s a privilege.
Luke Newberry and Wunmi Mosaku, thank you very much!
In The Flesh series 2 starts on Sunday the 4th of May at 10pm on BBC Three.
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