Recommended second chance
Acclaimed actress Gina McKee plays a mum in a new six-part sitcom set in the north-east. When prodigal son Jack returns home with a young woman in tow, he has to find the right time to tell his parents that, actually, he’s now a married man…
How did Hebburn come your way?
My agent emailed me over the script for the first episode, and I liked it. So I went to meet the writer, Jason Cook [a stand-up comic] and we talked about my character, Pauline. They then checked me out to decide if I’d do a decent enough job and I asked some questions — and then we were on.
What did you like about the script?
Well, I only read episode one, because the others weren’t ready. So what you’re doing is your saying I have faith that the other episodes are going to be as good as this. So it’s an actor’s faith on your part and obviously it’s an act of faith on their part, that they’re employing you hoping that you’re going to do a good job. It’s a mutual jump, a leap into the unknown.
Vic Reeves — billed here under his real name of Jim Moir — plays your husband. Did you know about his casting beforehand?
When I went to the audition they said Jim was cast so I knew he was doing it. And I knew [stand-up comic] Chris Ramsey was also on board, playing Jack. It’s quite a diverse cast [also including Fresh Meat’s Kimberley Nixon as Jack’s bride]. We had one week before we started shooting largely just to get to know one another. And it was interesting. All the different approaches made you really tune in to what was going on. You had to be very intuitive.
Would you say Hebburn is a traditional sitcom?
It has been described as that, and when we read the script it was a sitcom. Now I’ve seen it — I don’t know. I would describe it as a comedy but I don’t really understand what the definitions are these days, do you know what I mean? I always thought sitcom was when you rehearse for a week and then play it in front of an audience. We don’t have that on this show, so I think we’ve got a kind of hybrid.
This series grew out of a BBC initiative to find new writers. Is it important TV does that?
I think that however we do it, we have to support writers, both new and mature. Unless we look after our writing talent at whatever level they are in their careers, then we are not feeding the pyramid, if you like. They are our foundation.
You’ve been in this industry for a couple of decades now…
I was thinking about this the other day. I started in 1979.
Blimey! You’ve been around!
Is it tougher now?
I don’t think it’s got easier. I think that like every industry we’re having to be more and more resourceful. Budgets have been cut, so that has a knock-on effect. We can’t keep relying on the kind of investment we’ve always had. But, then, one of the good things is that this is an industry where people are forever resourceful and energetic and dedicated and talented. So I don’t think it’s a crisis at all. But I do think we have to careful.