Green Wing BFI Event
The British Film Institute held a 'Behind the Screens' event for Green Wing in London in 2006. This sold out discussion session was led by famous television writer and producer John Lloyd (who, amongst other things, created Spitting Image, Not the Nine O'Clock News, and produced the Blackadder series). Tamsin Greig, Julian Rhind Tutt, Stephen Mangan, creator Victoria Pile and C4 commissioning editor Caroline Leddy were on stage with him. Some of the writers, Karl Theobald and Mark Heap were in the audience.
The talk started with a chat about how the show was commissioned (basically C4 would have accepted anything from Pile following the immense success of Smack the Pony). John Lloyd made the point that women got equal dibs at being funny in GW which he thought was really great. Then he made the faux pas of assuming that Tamsin had been in Smack the Pony... Oops!
Victoria Pile then spoke about the move from the sketch format to more narrative, and how she had made a conscious decision to extend Smack the Pony in this manner. This involved having a team of writers attaching sketches to particular characters, before getting the artists together in the basement of Talkback for months on end to 'become' the characters, interact with one another, and generally progress existing and develop new storylines! Stephen "Steve" Mangan and Julian "Jules" Rhind-Tutt spoke about how they had got involved in the show; Mangan was cast first, particularly based on his immense strengths of improvisation, and JRT being the only actor to audition who could even nearly keep up with him (apparently one other actor told JRT he froze, thinking he was auditioning with Steve Coogan!). Tamsin added that the long rehearsal/development period really showed in the excellent quality of the finished product.
John Lloyd then moved onto the writing and editing and touched upon how speeding up and slowing down the film in post production added to the overall look of the show. VP added that it allowed more material to be used.
Other interesting trivia: Names came from people that they all knew - Martin Dear was VP's first kiss, and Lyndon Jones was the name of the IT guy at Talkback when VP first worked there ("a cocky sod", he apparently really did strut down the corridors thinking the ladies loved him!); the characters' back-story was in place before rehearsals began but changed as the actors got involved; JRT pointed out that Oliver "Oli" Chris (Boyce) had been astonishingly talented to keep a straight face with all of the treatment thrown at him by Mark Heap; Mark Heap gets very cross if anyone corpses during a take; Doon Mackichan had been in the pilot but could not continue because she'd had a baby.
The discussion ended with the story behind the famous Mac/Caroline snog in the loo at the party. Apparently JRT kissed a girlfriend who'd just been sick, and made the mistake of relaying the story at rehearsals! (The cast soon learned to keep quiet, as any such stories would inevitably be in the next script they received!)
The questions then came from the audience: Who was the best kisser? - Tamsin G was very coy.
Did VP want the love triangle to be dominant in series 2? No clear answer about that one, but didn't realise that audience would focus so much on it.
Guyball - the idea came from the "warped and twisted" mind of Richard Preddy and then was developed by the other writers. SM said it was unplayable!
How would the actors have ended it? There had been a heated debate at the end. The actors wanted the 'alternative' ending (and made sure it was included by mentioning in during the commentary on the special DVD!), but the ending shown on TV evidently prevailed.
Focus on death in final episode - VP claimed that there was no particular aim to do this - it just happened that way.
John Lloyd added that, like Fawlty Towers, two series were enough. VP pointed out that the episodes were so long and numerous that they were longer than the 4 series of Blackadder. So we've had a lot for our money!
Stephen was also asked what his favourite scenes were - the operating room ones because he was centre stage, the keyboard scene, and the Jetski.
Mark Heap was asked how much of Statham is him, and how much of him is Statham. The answer? Something around 100%, apparently!
The writers were also asked why it was based in a hospital? Apparently VP made the mistake of mentioning the prospective hospital-based idea (at a very early stage) to another C4 big-wig, who ran off and put the plans to the big-boss-types. And the rest is history!
Thanks go to Sylvia, who emailed us her account of the evening, and the BSG's Aaron who was there too.
Aaron also spotted something which it seems was somewhat overlooked; the info sheet provided at the event stated that JRT played Dr Paul "Mac" Macartney... Mistake? Red herring? The truth?