In The Flesh: Season 2 - Emily Bevan interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
EMILY Bevan talks exclusively to us about the forthcoming second series of acclaimed and BAFTA nominated BBC3 zombie drama In The Flesh and what can be expected from the sophomore run.
She also talks about getting back into character as Amy, what the success of the first series meant to her and what makes the zombie genre so enduringly popular. In The Flesh: Season 2 screens on BBC3 on Sunday, May 4, 2014, at 10pm.
Q. What can we expect from the second season of In The Flesh?
Emily Bevan: Well, we’re back in Roarton again and I think everything we established in the first series is continued in this one. I would say it’s the same world through a slightly different lens. A lot of the questions we raised in the first series are explored. It’s broader, there are new characters, the tension… the uneasy tension between the living and the undead is now brought to the forefront and you’ve got these two quite extreme groups – The Undead Liberation Army, which is related to the undead prophet, on one side and Victus, which is pro-living, on the other – and both are quite extreme sides. And yet you can kind of identify with both. Dominic Mitchell’s very clever in giving you things to identity with on either side. You can understand the pro-living argument in a way. Maxine Martin plays a Member of Parliament who quite rightly points out that ‘these things are one dose away from ripping our heads off’. But on the other side, you have this very passionate undead crew of zombies who are proud and not feeling they should have to cover up. So, there’s a lot going on.
Q. And where does that leave your character, Amy?
Emily Bevan: Well, [at the end of season one] Amy disappeared to try and get some answers. She doesn’t have anyone really. She had her nan but she passed away during the time she came back from the dead. And she had this horrible experience, which was akin to a rape in the way that she was duffed up in the first series, as well as a slightly grim experience with Philip. Kieran is trying to keep her there but she has nothing to stay for. So, she goes off to this commune and comes back a bit more confident because she’s found a place, found a family unit and a community to which she feels she belongs and is valued and which has given her some answers as to why she’s come back [from the dead].
So, she’s come back to Roarton to see Kieran but also because she’s on a mission with Simon, one of the undead prophets who she is now influenced by and in awe of. Kieran, meanwhile, is trying to blend in with the community, which is living with this uncomfortable peace. He is working in The Legion, behind the bar, and is trying to keep a low profile, but then Amy comes in and mixes things up and makes life a little bit difficult for him. It’s the same Amy, although she has better hair and is prone to these odd moments. In the first episode, for example, Kieran uses the expression ‘zombie Buddah’ and she says don’t use that word, we’re redeemed. So, she comes out with some slightly weird stuff that stops and makes you think, especially when I read it in the script!
Q. Were you surprised by the success of the first series?
Emily Bevan: Well, it was my first series so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. But I knew from the moment I read the script that it was something very special and unique. And I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of it and to be working with the people I’ve been working with, such as [director] Johnny Campbell and Dominic’s scripts and our wonderful cast. I felt really, really lucky. So, I guess you could say that I did have a feeling that maybe we had something special because I was very moved by the story and thought it was very powerful. And I continue to be very passionate about it because this is about young people who are not all glossy and sorted and know what they’re doing.
Certainly, when I was a teenager, I didn’t feel glossy and cool – so, it’s a good thing that this series is happy to focus on characters that are vulnerable, unsure and uncertain in terms of how they are feeling. People can really identify with that vulnerability and that sensation of not feeling sure of who you are. I’m proud to be part of this show and exploring those feelings of being an outsider. And I was so delighted to get to work on a second series and have more time to explore this world and my character and to bounce against new actors and to work with Luke [Newberry] and Harriet Cains and Steve [Evets] and to have that chance. Also, getting to hang out with the make—up and costume department again…
Q. Did you find the whole make-up process at all arduous?
Emily Bevan: Well, for series one the longest I was in the make-up chair was three hours and that was when I was rabid and had prosthetics. That was really disgusting! But generally in this series I’ve been in the chair for about an hour and there’s been no prosthetics this time. But I really enjoy it. It’s quite fun undergoing this transformation – from applying the make-up and seeing the colour disappearing from your face, to then going and putting on my costume and then returning for them to do my hands and nails. My nails are bedded in with this bruised looking, blackey red colour. And my fingers are deadened up too, so there’s no visible inch of me that isn’t partially deceased! [Laughs] The contact lenses are the final part and I’ve got used to wearing them now. In fact, it’s other people who are less used to seeing me in them. My mother, when she visited the set, couldn’t look at me because she said they were horrible [laughs].
Q. Didn’t you suffer a corneal abrasion?
Emily Bevan: I did! It was one of the most painful things I’ve experienced. But there were none this time. I’ve never worn contacts before, so it took me time to get used to having something in my eye. And they’re quite big… much bigger and thicker than normal contact lenses. It was like putting a spoon in your eye!
Q. What makes zombies so popular, in your opinion? They’re popularity never seems to die, if you pardon the play on words?
Emily Bevan: They don’t. I think what’s disturbing about them is the fact that it can be your mother or your brother or your sister but it’s not quite them. There’s nothing more frightening than something that’s familiar but not quite normal. I know there was a memorable scene in The Walking Dead, for instance, where this little boy was looking out of the window at his mother. And that’s so tragic because it’s his mum, but it’s not his mum. So that’s why it’s really interesting. It’s something familiar being turned on its head. And what’s fascinating about In The Flesh is that it’s exploring the family unit – it’s your son and he is still your son, yet he is also partially deceased and there is a real fear around him that he could go rabid if he doesn’t have his medication. Jem, for instance, has been in the ULA and had shot down loads of rabids during the rising and yet her brother is one of those people she had been killing. There’s that uneasiness surrounding everyone but all on such a personal level. This genre offers a wonderful vehicle for exploring so many things – what it’s like to be an outsider, attitudes to sickness, etc. It can be representative of anyone in society. And ours is a programme about acceptance and how it is important to accept who you are as well as other people. It’s when you don’t that problems occur.
Q. What did you do when you found out about the BAFTA nominations?
Emily Bevan: The BAFTA nods were really, really exciting. We went out and had a couple of drinks with Luke Newberry and raised a glass to him. I’m absolutely delighted. It was such wonderful news because it’s such a uniquely lovely, passionate group of people who made the first series – every single department was extraordinary. I’m so proud to have been nominated [as a show].
Q. What has the success of In The Flesh done for your profile and your career? Do you find that it has started to open more doors for you?
Emily Bevan: Well, In The Flesh was my first series, so I kind of feel very blessed that I was able to learn so much from this experience because everyone was so passionate about it. So, it’s really lovely to go to meetings and find that generally people are really excited about the programme. So, you could say it has opened some new doors. I feel very proud of it and really excited that this is something that can represent me as an actor, especially this incredible script by Dominic Mitchell.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the whole experience?
Emily Bevan: Well, previously I’ve only worked on things where I’ve gone in for a couple of days, so you never really get to feel part of the programme or the community of the show, so it was lovely on this for it to become like a normal job and have time to settle in and feel rooted in the character and the world and to sort of grow in confidence and be able to become a bit braver [as an actress]. For me, it was really a comfort thing. But also getting to work with three different directors across the six episodes was fantastic because each had their own angle on Roarton and their own interpretations of the character and they shone a light on different elements of Amy and pulled me in different directions. That helped to push me on the big journey I feel I go on in this series. It made me feel like I could push Amy in different directions that I didn’t have time to do in the first series. It’s really exciting to challenge yourself.
Q. You’ve mentioned appearing in one-off episodes of former shows. What was it like to be a part of The Thick Of It?
Emily Bevan: I had the nicest time on The Thick Of It. I was already a huge fan of the show – it’s my favourite comedy. So, it was a dream to be dropped into the middle of an episode, surrounded by these characters that I absolutely love. It didn’t really feel like you were being filmed. The crew was so subtle… they’re almost crouching behind the chair in the corner. The way they film it is almost like being in a play. They film quite long scenes and the crew would move around and capture everything that’s going on in the various different rooms that make up the set. They’re just so talented. Obviously, I was very nervous about it, especially given that part of the show is improvised because that’s how get those naturalistic performances. So, it was a little intimidating but I got to work with those two extraordinary and hilarious actors and I ended up having the most wonderful time. I love that episode, with all the stuff at the think tank with Roger Allam. He’s incredibly funny in real life.
Q. You’ve also recently worked with Christian McKay on The Last Sparks of Sundown. How was that?
Emily Bevan: That was great fun too. It stars the Pajama Men, this incredibly zany and hilarious comedy double act from Albuquerque. They’re huge on the stand-up circuit and this is a feature film about two brothers, the Sparks, who are both actors, and who inherit a big country house from their English grandfather. As things are not going well for them in America, they decide to come over to England to sort out the old country house but when they get there they see a light on in the window and I’m living there with my Nan, who is played by Sarah Kestelman. So, it’s about what are we doing there? But Christian is hilarious. He plays a slimy man called Rupert Sword, who is a properly magnate, and he is absolutely fantastic. Miles Jupp is also in it, playing The Sparks brothers’ agent. It’s a film that’s been put together by a wonderful director and producer named James Kibbey, who won the Soho House short film competition last year.
Q. How was the experience of making the film?
Emily Bevan: It was really fun. We filmed it all down in a country house in Sussex. It was a family home with a swimming pool and tennis court and we were all living there, eating there, filming together. It was beautiful weather, so it was just really good fun and we all laughed so much. The Pajama Men are two of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met. They improvise all the time but they consistently produce hilarious stuff. My character is sort of a west country kind of person… she’s sort of a little bit suspicious and very loyal to her Nan and hiding in secret. It was fun to do something really silly. I also wrote a song for the film, a comic song which is hopefully going to be used at the end.
Q. Did you ever get the giggles?
Emily Bevan: There was one scene that I was doing with Mark Chavez where his character was doing an impression… and the idea of the scene was that he’s an actor but not a very good actor, so the impression he is doing is absolutely terrible. But he kept doing this over and over and it takes a very, very clever comic actor to convince that you’re deliberately doing a scene badly. But I couldn’t keep a straight face and we literally ended up doing about 30 takes! I’m normally quite good at not laughing. But he was laughing too. There was a lot of laughing on that set.
Q. Finally, coming back to In The Flesh – could there be a movie version? Or a third season?
Emily Bevan: That’s a very interesting question. I think that after working on series two, again, there is so much to explore and Dominic has so many different ideas. There are more questions left unanswered at the end of this series, so it would be wonderful to go back there as there is still so much more we could do. But it all depends on how series two goes down.