Interview: Steve Pemberton On Worzel Gummidge

Interview: Steve Pemberton On Worzel Gummidge

Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy will be screened on BBC One this Christmas Eve. Rejoining Mackenzie Crook are Steve Pemberton as Mr Braithwaite, Rosie Cavaliero as Mrs Braithwaite, India Brown as Susan and Thierry Wickens as John. Plus Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter) as Saucy Nancy and Vanessa Redgrave as Peg.

Mackenzie Crook says: “I'm excited and grateful to be making a new episode of Worzel Gummidge after a difficult year for everyone. We're heading out of Scatterbrook for this story, on a day trip to the seaside, some fresh air and some wide, open space.”

Read an illuminating interview with Steve Pemberton below

What reaction did you get to the last two Worzel Gummidge films?

Well I was actually away over Christmas so I wasn’t here to drink up the reaction unfortunately but we recorded it and I watched it when I was back.

I have a little niece, Pearl, who was five at the time and she became a little bit obsessed with it and watched it on a loop. And my mum – who’s much older than five – loved it as well. It’s something that reached every generation of my family. I think children loved it because it’s not patronising, it doesn’t talk down to them.

Did you enjoy getting back on set again?

The script arrived in the midst of what has been a really horrible year for all of us and it just put a smile on my face. I just thought, ‘I can’t wait to get out and do this’.

We did the read-through online so that was funny, seeing everybody in their little boxes, and seeing this amazing cast they’ve put together.

We didn’t have that many filming days but it was lovely to catch up, especially with the kids. They’ve not changed except that Thierry’s a little bit taller! They’re still the same unaffected, lovely kids that they were.

Rosie and I stayed two metres apart with our masks on to have a good gossip. It’s a lovely set, everyone really wants to be there and Mackenzie is such a calm presence at the centre of it.

What’s the story this time around?

The kids are back on Scatterbrook Farm and we get to see a bit more of the world beyond, including a lovely trip to the seaside.

Mr Braithwaite was very irascible and grumpy originally and didn’t particularly want the children there, but already he has become very protective of them.

When they say they are going off to the seaside he’s very worried about them and very worried about the roads and how dangerous it might be. It’s actually Mrs Braithwaite who says, ‘Let them go and have their adventures’. That’s partly what this is about: letting children have adventures and have a great time.

When the kids go off for their day out, he confesses he really misses them. As soon as they phone up for a lift home, he can’t wait, and he goes off to meet them for a family day out.

He describes the kids as ‘keepers’ and has clearly bonded with them.

How did you enjoy filming at the coast?

We had a few troubles with the weather! It was very typical British seaside weather. I’m sure in between the storms and the rain and the wind they’ll have got some magical shots.

We hadn’t managed to get away with our families obviously because of Covid so for Rosie and it felt like a little holiday! We had some lovely walks and ate our fish and chips, and the work didn’t feel like work at all. It felt like a real pleasure.

Did you enjoy filming with your new guest stars, Vanessa Redgrave and Shirley Henderson?

We were really thrilled to be sharing a screen with acting royalty! Vanessa was wonderful. We got to talking straight away, and she was great with the kids. We were in this beautiful place, listening to The Unthanks and having a free concert, sitting with Vanessa. It was an incredible moment. Vanessa looks amazing – people won’t recognise her.

We only saw Shirley in passing, really, because as the humans we don’t have any scenes with her sadly, but she looked incredible as well.

Why do you think Worzel attracts such good guest stars?

You can tell when you read the scripts that they’ve been written by an actor because they have great dialogue and the characters just jump off the page. It’s testament to Mackenzie’s great writing that he can attract these amazing cameos. It looks like fun and it’s the kind of programme you watch as an actor and think, ‘I wish my phone would ring when they cast the next one of these’.

Does this film have an environmental message again?

That’s one of Mackenzie’s real passions and I think the care with which he shows our countryside and our coastline shows it off in the best possible way.

He celebrates the great outdoors and this is less of an overt environmental message compared to last time – it’s more of a rollocking adventure – but it’s set in these amazing locations so hopefully it will still have that impact. It may make people want to seek out the areas where it was filmed or just find their own open spaces to explore.

I think this one will have extra resonance this year, in fact, because a lot of people have reconnected with nature over the last few months. This film hopefully will reflect that and also be a great Christmas escape for everybody.

Pictured: Steve Pemberton as Mr Braithwaite, Rosie Cavaliero as Mrs Braithwaite (BBC)




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