Recommended second chance
Zawe Ashton plays streetwise student Vod in Channel 4’s cult comedy Fresh Meat alongside Jack Whitehall and The Inbetweeners star Joe Thomas, which returns for a second series. It’s brought her to a wider audience but the 27-year-old actress is already a veteran, having appeared in The Demon Headmaster and Desmonds as a child, as well as plays and films. TV Choice caught up with Zawe at the start of a new term at Manchester Medlock University…
Did you know any of your fellow ‘students' when you started filming series one of Fresh Meat?
I knew Kimberley Nixon a little bit because we were at the same agency but I’d never met the others before, so it really was like going to your first day at uni. Now we are like a little family.
Do you share a house during filming?
We’re in the same apartment block but, unlike the Brady Bunch, we’re not in the same place! It couldn’t work any other way as we all need to be picked up together in the morning and come home at night.
What’s the score with Vod this series?
She’s back on the course and experiences love. It’s love in the way that only Vod can experience it which was really fun to shoot because I don’t think we’ve seen her have a relationship with someone. To see her in the throes of something with someone has been interesting. It ends up with Vod holding all the cards basically. I really hope it appeals to young girls, because she’s such an empowered character.
And she’s on the hunt for clean urine….
Yes, Vod has to take a drugs test to keep her RAF funding going.
She also goes on a bender with Britain’s greatest living poet who ends up dying…
Yes, Vod is pretty versed in the circle of life and if someone dies after a bender, that’s just something that happens — collateral damage. She may not be a model student but she has a lot of creativity and I think she’s totally existential.
What do you identify with most about Vod?
I can identify with her minimum effort, maximum results lifestyle. She doesn’t put a lot in. My real life Oregon, my friend Lizzie, will tell you that when we shared a place at drama school I’d come down stairs and say, ‘Are we supposed to have read a play?’ and beg to look at her notes.
Have you had much input into Vod’s look?
It’s a hugely collaborative process. The hair especially has been an amazing lease of life, I’m so glad I did it, I don’t think I could have done Vod without it because it was such a departure for me. First time round I used influences I had as a student. I send the costume designers pictures of stuff I like, I don’t just want to walk into my trailer and find a costume hanging up. I can’t bear it if I recognise myself in a role.
You’ve had such a varied career, how does Fresh Meat compare?
I’ve been working professionally since I was six, everything from high profile theatre shows to films but this is the one thing which has given me such a visibility that my other projects will have a platform. I hope people can see I can do a character like Vod and more things will follow because I enjoy playing heightened characters.
You certainly haven’t been pigeonholed.
That’s exactly how I planned it. I don’t want to be pinned down as a young mixed race woman from Hackney.
Channel 4, Tuesday