Jane Horrocks Talks About New Series Bloods

How would you describe Bloods?

It’s a comedy drama about paramedics. We’re very much embracing the dark humour that these amazing people often use to get them through tough situations. It’s looking at how they manage to find a coping mechanism so that they can shut off from the things that they have to deal with because otherwise if you took everything home with you, you’d be an emotional wreck.

What drew you to this project when you were sent the scripts?

I liked the partnerships because all paramedics come in pairs. I just liked how the writers had captured those partnerships, they’re all very different. I like the situations that the writers have put the characters in. I liked the warmth of the characters as well. They’re really sympathetic characters. Each of the partnerships really grows to accept each other. There’s struggle within these partnerships, they’re not matches made in heaven, put it that way. But through their work they really grow to trust each other and accept the other person for the way they are.

How do you decide what to take on and what to turn down?

Well, I think the writing plays a massive part. I’ve never gone for stuff where I felt like I’m being typecast because I’ve always wanted to play a character and bring something new to a role. The last part I played on television was a colonial wife in The Singapore Grip. So I just try and do stuff that is going to be a bit of a challenge for me and a bit different from the last role I played, it means you can’t be pigeonholed as only playing one kind of role in one particular genre.

Is comedy the genre that has your heart?

Yeah, it depends on the character though. I’ve always returned to comedy. I think that’s where I started, and definitely where my strengths lie. I haven’t done any comedic roles for quite a while, so it was really nice to come and play this role in Bloods. What can you reveal about Wendy? Wendy is a good-hearted soul. She’s come down from Nottingham to work for the South London Paramedics. She’s got a bit of a secret life that she’s left behind that nobody really knows about. She’s got a new found freedom, she has decided to make a brave choice and move to a different city without knowing anybody. She’s a very good, competent paramedic and sees the best in everybody. There’s a positivity and real generous spirit about her.

There is a secret she’s carrying, so do the audience see the real Wendy or is she playing a version of herself?

I think that maybe there is an element of reinvention to her, but I think she’s, unless the writers come up with something that’s pretty surprising, still the same person. She’s free to be more of who she is and less of a mum and a wife.

What does she make of Maleek when she gets paired with him?

Well, I think that she’s very forgiving of Maleek’s behaviour! At first you might judge Wendy as being a bit of dimwit. That’s how he sees her, as this bumpkin from Nottingham. She has to convince him that actually the streets of Nottingham are just as ripe with crime and danger as they are in London, and that she’s had many challenges to face as well. She’s certainly not a bumpkin. I think through the series, you realise that Wendy has a way of dealing with Maleek that’s not confrontational, even when he dismisses her. She coaxes him into a different way of thinking in a very left-field way, which is lovely. She’s also quite motherly towards him in a sense because although he’s quite Y mouthy and larger than life, he actually doubts himself a lot, and through the series you see her almost pushing him to better himself, if you like, and be more confident.

Why does she do that?

I think that she believes in people’s potential, massively. She believes in other people. You’ll see her kind of take Jo, her boss, under her wing because she sees that there is a potential romance between Jo and Lawrence. But sometimes when she advises people or tries to encourage them, it goes horribly wrong. For example, trying to encourage Maleek to follow his dream to be an air ambulance medic. That goes horribly wrong! But she does have his back, and she really does care about Maleek.

There’s this North-South divide between them that’s a source of banter...

He calls her Emmerdale! He thinks of her as some sort of country bumpkin. And she misreads all his South East London patter. She’s trying to ‘get with the kids’ but it always seems to backfire! He finds that absolutely repellent. It’s not something that he wants to engage with, and he thinks that she’s just an ancient. Why would they connect with each other when there’s such a difference in age? But by the end of it, she surprises him in a lot of ways.

She’s a bit of a minx in the bedroom department, isn’t she?

Yeah, she is a minx! Sexually, she wants to be a bit more free. She surprises him in one of the episodes because he’s talking about wanting a girlfriend, while she’s just getting on with it having one-night stands. Sex just happens for her because she’s open to it. She’s open to the experience because she’s open to life. That’s what’s so brilliant about the character. She’s open to anything happening. She loves the experiences and adventure of not knowing what’s around the corner and just taking a leap of faith. She’s a lovely character to play in that respect because she’s not closed in any way. She doesn’t judge people, for start. But she’s tough as well. She’s definitely not a pushover.

There is a huge car crash scene with lots of walking wounded and over-turned cars, what was that like to film?

Oh, it was amazing because the art department did such a superb job creating the scene. It really did look like a proper road traffic accident with overturned vehicles, smoke coming out of them, and people with hideous injuries. It was really very, very impressive, incredibly realistic. There’s also a big stunt with a man who’s set on fire, what was that like? When it actually happened I was waiting on the sidelines thinking, “Should I go to loo now, or is it going to happen when I’m in the loo? Should I go to the loo? Should I not go to the loo?” I was actually desperate when it finally happened and nearly wet my pants..... worth the wait though! It’s not every day you get to see a man set on fire. The stunt coordinator was at hand to extinguish the flames. There’s an element of nerves, thinking “Gosh, I hope this doesn’t go wrong!” But it had been so well prepped, really well rehearsed, that you knew it was actually going to be all right.

Wendy is quite the champion of the other women around her, particularly Jo, what does she make of her?

She likes her! Wendy’s very pro Jo getting together with Lawrence and tries to advise her on how to go about it, because Jo’s very army in the way she approaches things. She has a military background so she has this big, tough exterior of not showing any emotion. Wendy can see she’s been softened by Lawrence and tries to help her.

They go on a girl’s night out and get hideously drunk, what was that like to film with Lucy Punch, who plays Jo?

I loved working with Lucy because the characters are so different. We were allowed to improvise a little bit which is always good fun. The night that they have out together goes a little bit awry, shall we say! Wendy ends up sleeping over at Jo’s, and the scene when they wake up in the morning is very funny because it’s just carnage! Lucy really goes for it!

What type of drunk is Wendy?

Well, she couldn’t keep up with Jo. Like I said, Jo’s a tough army type. Wendy’s just absolutely nowhere near keeping up on that level. In fact, she says to Maleek, “Can we actually go out one night and just drink a normal amount?” What was it like working with Samson? On our very first day we were corpsing, I thought, “Oh, gosh this doesn’t bode well corpsing on the first day.” Throughout the series, there were moments where we couldn’t get it together. It’s hard to get yourself back in the zone, especially if you’ve got a whole crew who are getting fed up waiting for you to pull yourselves together. That makes it even worse! It sounds like there was really good camaraderie on set? Oh, yeah. It was fantastic! There was a communal sense of gratitude from everybody that we were lucky to be working. Also, Samson is a really fun person to be around. He creates a nice relaxed atmosphere.

Going into playing a paramedic, did you do any research?

I read a book as well, called Can You Hear Me by Jake Jones. That was very helpful. A lot of the things he covered in the book we actually did in the programme. Like the RTAs being the things that paramedics are most excited about because obviously they get to their job during those incredibly tough situations. But then the time wasting. The series really touches on that too. A lot of call outs are time-wasters.

How was it filming during a national health crisis when the NHS was very much on people’s minds?

It felt poignant that we were representing the nations heroes. Samson was offered free sweets in one shop because the shopkeeper thought he was the real McCoy. I think it takes a certain type of person to be a paramedic, on the front line. What they see day in day out doesn’t bear thinking about. I just don’t know how they cope.

The last 12 months have been extraordinary, what impact has it had on you?

I think it’s given me a real sense of appreciation. Being able to do this job was such a fantastic opportunity during these challenging times. I think environmentally the lockdowns were rewarding, to have that time actually to see nature, to see what an amazing planet we have. For me, it was like a wake-up call of “Let’s stop abusing our planet.”

Did it also make you want to find a work/life balance?

Yeah, it allowed me to focus on what I value about life. You’ve played so many different characters, when people stop you in the street to chat which show do they most want to talk to you about? Well, I was speaking to somebody very recently, and he wanted to talk to me a lot about Red Dwarf. He was really funny! He knew exactly what series and what episode I featured in. He was just asking me what it’s like to play a hologram. What it was like to be in a sci-fi TV series. That’s not a regular one, but that happened very recently! I think what most people want to talk to me about is Ab Fab. I think people have taken that character into their hearts.

Have you got a type of character that you haven’t played that yet that you’d like to take on?

No, not really. I’ve never had ambition like that. I’ve always been open to what’s come along. That’s worked for me. I’ve gotten to that stage in my life where I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to prove anymore. I’m just quite happy to see what comes along and see if I fancy it. There are no characters that I have a burning ambition to play. As far as theatre is concerned, goodness knows when that’s going to be up and running again.

If there is a second series of Bloods, what would you like to happen to Wendy?

I think more of the same really. The partnership starts to really gel between her and Maleek, they really start to bond, I think it was getting to a place of banter by the end. I think that’s what I’d hope for the character. I don’t think the character has any ambition to go up the ladder and be the boss. She’s happy where she is. I don’t even think that she’s looking for a relationship.

Have you thought about what might have happened in Nottingham that led to her coming down to London?

I think that she just got to a stage in her life where she felt she had been a good wife, a good mum, but she wanted something for herself. Sort of a mid-life crisis, but not in a negative way.

Are you a bit like Wendy and ready to take risks in your own life?

Yeah, I don’t think I’m shy of doing outrageous things. I’m very aware of not being stuck, but I think it is a common feeling for women in their 50s. If you have the bravery to try something different, sometimes it turns out quite nice.

Bloods will be available from May 5 on Sky One and NOW TV.

Jane Horrocks is on The One Show on Tuesday May 4 at 7pm. 

Interview supplied by Sky

 

 

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