I swing between thinking this is the best thing we've ever done...and it being a horrible mistake | Miles Chapman and Mark O’Sullivan on the return of Lee and Dean © C4

I swing between thinking this is the best thing we've ever done...and it being a horrible mistake

Miles Chapman and Mark O’Sullivan on the return of Lee and Dean

Lee and Dean, the comedy about two builders and best mates, returns to Channel 4 soon. Or at least they were best friends until the disastrous stag do at the end of series one. The show also stars Camille Ucan, Anna Morris and - new for series two – Cariad Lloyd. Here creators and stars Miles Chapman and Mark O’Sullivan reveal what else to expect in the second series.

We left Lee and Dean at the end of the most disastrous stag do in history. Where do we pick things up again?

Mark: It’s a few weeks later, and things haven’t really improved from where we left them at the end of series one. Everyone’s been cast to the four winds, and it’s only when there’s a bit of a tragedy that everyone is brought back together.

Can you elaborate on the nature of the tragedy?

Miles: There’s a tragedy that gives people a sense of obligation to come back together, but we probably shouldn’t say more than that. It was a device to get everyone back in the same room because, as Mark says, no one has really spoken since the stag and hen do. It was such a huge falling out for everyone, and it’s obviously going to be a difficult situation when everyone’s back together again. There are so many things that have been left unsaid.

One of the things that has been left unsaid is the drunken kiss between Lee and Dean in series one. What do you think they individually make of that, and how do they see their sexuality?

Mark: We actually find out later on in this new series where they both are with that. At this point, where we rejoin them at the start of the series, I think it’s not really clear where either of them are in their heads. It seems to be that life is just carrying on, taking turns that you wouldn’t necessarily foresee for them, particularly for Dean.

Miles: I suspect that Dean’s anger towards Lee, and particularly how he behaved at the stag do, and with the job and everything else, it probably transcends how he feels about him at the moment, he’s so angry with him.

Do you like a measure of pathos with your comedy?

Mark: Absolutely. We really, really do. It’s almost impossible for us to write our stories without it. It’s lovely writing the jokes and writing the funny situations and the awkward situations, which we are huge fans of. But the moments where you just know someone’s heart is breaking, but they can’t necessarily say that – we love writing those moments.

Is there any romance on the way for poor Dean this series?

Miles: I think we can say that, yeah.

Mark: And from fairly unexpected quarters. Dean definitely gets a bit more action this time around.

Miles: And interestingly, Lee perhaps less so. I think the shake up at the stag do was so monumental that there have been some lessons for both of them, so you’ll see some slightly different characteristics developing from them during the series.

Mark: The key word for us when we went into writing this series was ‘reversal’. Swapping positions, not just for Lee and Dean, but for other characters as well. Making sure that everyone’s journeys continued, but not necessarily in the direction you’d expect.

It’s easy to dismiss Lee as a bit of a bastard and a lothario, but there’s a lot more to him than that, isn’t there?

Miles: There’s a lot more to him than that. I think we’ll see more in series two. He’s not just a bastard. There’s other sides to everyone, and we’ll see that with Lee.

Mark: It’s always been there, he’s always had that softer side to him, it’s just he’s been a bit of a lad. But you’ve just got to look at his relationship with Dean to know that.

Miles: Yeah, if you look back at series one, he’s really the only one who looks after and supports Dean out of everyone. Even his dad was horrible to him.

You guys had a lot of your mates acting with you during series one. What was that like?

Miles: Well, firstly, it was surreal. To make a comedy for television with your mates? It doesn’t really get any better than that, does it? It’s like some sort of weird dream you’d have, so to have the reality of doing that was ridiculous. It was amazing.

Mark: I think somehow we managed to get more friends in series two. There is a moment in episode five where we managed to pack this one day of filming in this one location with everyone who’s really meant something to me over the last 20 years. I had this quite emotional scene, and I had to turn around and see all these people looking at me, and all the faces looking at me were these people I’d known and loved for decades. It was very, very odd. And lovely.

The new series features Cariad Lloyd – how did you find working with her?

Miles: Oh wonderful, she’s absolutely brilliant. And she slotted straight into that improvisation style that we use. It’s interesting when we audition people, they’re always so keen to do it, because it so rarely happens. And she was brilliant at it.

Mark: She’s an incredible improviser. She’s been doing it for years. She was really superb. And not only did Cariad fit in so well into our Lee and Dean family, but her character really makes quite a splash as well.

Does the improvisation make corpsing that much more of a problem?

Miles: Well Mark – and I don’t say this lightly – is probably the world’s worst corpser.

Mark: I think that was true for series one, but I think you were worse than I was on this series.

Miles: Yeah, I probably was! There was so much stuff that set me off. The thing about corpsing is, sometimes something might not be hugely funny on the face of it, but you get this seed in your head, and once it’s there, you can’t get rid of it, and it gets worse and worse. And you know you’re on time constraints, and every time you do a scene you start laughing, and the director is getting annoyed, and that just happens to be Mark.

Mark: I can be quite hard on you.

Miles: ‘You can’t laugh during this scene.’ As soon as someone says that, the first thing you want to do is laugh.

Mark: When I look back at series one now, I can spot all the moments where I’m on the verge of losing it, and so can all the people that know me. And there are a few points in series two where I can see Miles just about to go.

Miles: Corpsing is rife in Lee and Dean. When you’ve got a script, you know what someone is going to say, but when someone drops some comedy bomb in the middle of a scene, it’s just so unexpected, you just piss yourself. But it’s brilliant, it makes such a lovely atmosphere, when the crew are laughing and you’re all laughing, it’s joyous. It’s fantastic. That’s what reminds you why you’re doing this.

Is it true that the action moves a little further afield during the series?

Mark: I suppose it’s safe to say that we do leave Stevenage, and we go a little bit further than Great Yarmouth this time. By which I don’t mean Lowestoft.

Lots of people refer to second series syndrome, like a difficult second album. How was the experience of writing this?

Mark: Terrifying. I’ve experienced the first real anxiety I’ve ever had in my life over this series. We have felt the pressure to move on with what we did before, to do it at least as well as, if not better.

Miles: Series one was really well received, and you don’t want series two to be less than that. We’re hoping that it’s better. Although conversely, I felt less anxious this time, I don’t know why. Our first series, we’d never done this before, whereas this time we knew what was coming up. It is still worrisome writing the story, and thinking ‘Is this good enough, is this funny enough?’ I think we’ve probably achieved that.

Mark: I hope so. I’m swinging like a pendulum every hour between ‘This is the best thing we’ve ever done,’ and ‘it’s the worst, we’ve made a horrible mistake.’

How did you find the experience of having the first series go out on TV? That must have been phenomenally exciting!

Miles: It absolutely was. We had a really brilliant night for the first one. We hired a room above a pub, we invited all of our friends and family, some of the cast came, and we had a few drinks and really enjoyed it. It was amazing. You can watch the episode time and time again, but watching it broadcast on television with the ads, that makes it real. It’s amazing, you can’t believe it’s happening. And the feedback is instant now, with social media, so watching that grow was interesting as well.

Mark: It was strange. Overwhelmingly the feedback on social media was really positive. But there were, of course, detractors, as there would and should be for anything. It was quite funny watching it over the course of the series. I remember watching it when the first episode went out, we got a couple of tweets saying we were homophobic, because one of our characters says ‘I thought you was a fucking bender’ in that first episode. By the end of episode four, when Lee and Dean kiss, we were getting tweets saying we were pushing a homosexual agenda. So we’d achieved everything!

Did you get people coming up to you?

Mark: Yeah, it’s been odd. Miles gets it more, because I tend not to have my hair looking like dean’s if I can help it, whereas Miles and Lee are just bald!

Miles: But everyone’s been lovely. It’s really flattering.

Mark: My daughter was with me in Marks and Spencer one day when someone came up wanting a photo, and she found it somewhere between embarrassing and hilarious. Weighted towards embarrassing.

Lastly, and most importantly, please tell me Lee and Dean haven’t turned their back on bark rubbing…

Together: No!

Mark: In fact, I don’t want to say too much, but something happens to them by the end of this series which would be every bark-rubber’s dream. The pinnacle, the ultimate.

Miles: No, God, they’d never give that up. Never ever. That’s their Lee and Dean time.

Mark: And there’s new techniques involved. The twist and burn is back, but there’s also the scrape and shift.

Miles: Yep. And the quad rub. It’s quite something to behold.

• Interview supplied by Channel 4 press

Published: 26 Mar 2019

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