My fare ladies
As I join the female cast of Candy Cabs (a new BBC1 comedy drama currently in production) it’s clear the actresses have bonded with one another. As they sit down together, it’s a little like watching women gather for a hen night. They’re a little bit loud and giddy, but all of their banter is gentle and affectionate.
‘Come on Sweeney!’ they shout, encouraging Claire Sweeney to join the group interview, taking place on a catering bus in a Matalan car park in Stockport.
‘Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise,’ says Claire, provoking laughter.
The bus is a converted double-decker, with formica tables installed, and we’re gathered at the back: four journalists facing seven actresses. Apart from Claire, there’s Jo Joyner (who plays Tanya in EastEnders); Lisa Millett (who starred with Steve Coogan in Sunshine); I’d Do Anything winner Jodie Prenger; former Emmerdale actress Danielle Henry; Lu Corfield (recently in Rev); and Melanie Hill (The Street).
Jo and Lisa are the main stars in the three-part series, but it’s also an ‘ensemble piece’. It charts the ups and downs of female friends who set up their own cab firm, run by women, for women. ‘It’s like a female Auf Wiedersehen, Pet,’ says Melanie.
But how did the actresses manage to become so friendly in real-life? Perhaps it’s because – in a similar style to a Gok Wan show – the drama includes scenes of them stripping down to their underwear for a weight-watchers’ club. Naturally, that kind of filming makes you lose your inhibitions. ‘It was a big bonding experience,’ says Jo.
Their male co-stars include Paul Nicholls, Denis Lawson and John Henshaw, but it sounds like they’ve been the victims of a female-dominated shoot.
‘I have to say all the men look very good on this show,’ says Jo. ‘They have been slightly harassed by the rest of us – mercilessly, really. It wouldn’t be stood for the other way round.’
And they all become animated when talking about a guest appearance from Ricky Whittle, the former Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing star.
‘My mum’s got a picture of me and Ricky as her screen-saver,’ says Lisa. ‘She’s only just bought her first laptop, at the age of 65, and she adores Ricky. I sent her a picture I’d taken of me and Ricky in a tango-esque pose, and she rang me last night, and said, “Guess what I’ve put as my screen-saver?”’
Candy Cabs is created by Jane Lush – a former BBC bigwig responsible for commissioning Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice – and she’s also on-set, making sure that everything runs smoothly.
But other people present include Johanne McAndrew and Elliot Hope (no, not the Holby City character). They’re the drama’s writers, and are as excited as the journalists to be witnessing some filming and meeting the cast.
Earlier in the day, I arrive with the other journalists at the first location, a car showroom in Stockport, and Johanne McAndrew is quick to welcome us, as we stand around, looking slightly awkward and out of place.
She even fetches us cups of tea, and says, in a strong Liverpudlian accent, ‘I bet you wouldn’t get Jimmy McGovern doing this for you.’
Johanne McAndrew and Elliot Hope’s credits include writing episodes of Hollyoaks, Holby City and creating the Ricky Tomlinson drama Nice Guy Eddie. They’ve been writing together since the mid-Nineties, after entering a Granada writing competition – other aspiring writers take note.
Outside the showroom, there’s a fleet of pink cabs, but inside Jo is getting ready to film a scene. She’s shorter than you imagine, and her surprisingly-long hair is being shaped delicately by a hairdresser. Then she leaves the building to stand in drizzling rain, and someone (I’m guessing the director) shouts, ‘Turnover and action!’ And Jo comes running back in and delivers some out-of-breath dialogue to Lisa, who seems a bit panicked.
Naturally, you’ll have to wait until the drama is out (probably later this year) to find out how this scene fits into the show. But you can also read more in TV Choice and Total TV Guide nearer the time of transmission.
By David Collins