Julia Morris

Julia Morris

How the BBC turned down Hunderby

...and how Alexander Armstrong was ousted

The BBC turned down the chance to make Hunderby, creator Julia Davis has revealed.

And she had sack Alexander Armstrong from the key role of Doctor Foggerty, after she found a more suitable actor in Rufus Jones.

Davis was speaking at a preview event at Bafta's London headquarters, launching the two specials to air on Sky Atlantic later this month.

And asked whether there would be any more episodes in the pipeline, she said: 'I don't know, but I would happily do more. I think we'd probably get some more new characters [if we did].

She said she initially wrote the period comedy as a feature film, but producers got cold feet. 'They did like it, but they thought, "This isn't going to take off",' she said.

So she transformed it into the eight-part first TV series , and pitched it to the BBC. 'So we did visit the BBC, and they "no thanks" and were lucky to go to Sky Atlantic.'

'I don't think Alexander Armstrong will mind me saying this but he came for an read-through and I said he could play Dr Foggerty , but then Rufus came in and read it and I though: 'Oh my God, that's literally it."

'I though, "Oh shit, I'm going to have to tell this other actor sorry but…"'

But Armstrong did not miss out, landing the role of Brother Joseph instead. And Jones paid tribute, calling him the 'best paedophile ever'.

Rufus Jones Hunderby

Jones said he acted like 'a refugee from 1980s BBC costume-dramas' for his grandiose performance in Hunderby, citing a 1983 version of Jane Eyre, starring Timothy Dalton as a key influence. 'The tone of costume drama 30 years ago was just so grand and theatrical,' he added.

Co-star Alex Macqueen, who plays Pastor Edmund, the master of the house, also spoke of a culture shock when he came onto the tightly-scripted show after his success on the semi-improvised The Thick Of It.

Alex Macqueen Hunderby

After being teased on stage by his co-stars and director Tony Dow for not learning his lines, McQueen explained: 'In my experience, on the Thick Of It for example, you don't have to learn your lines. You are encouraged to busk around it; it's quite fluid and if you want to add something, you can.

'So in fairness, when I did come to this, I remember Julia being slightly alarmed that I was sort of busking a bit. She was very clear that each word has been finely crafted – so I then started to learn my lines!'

And when asked whether he had ever done any serious period drama, Macqueen suggested: 'I have done Holby City…'

• Hunderby airs on Sky Atlantic on December 10 and December 17 at 10pm.

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Published: 4 Dec 2015

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