Damned. Image shows from L to R: Natalie Moore (Isy Suttie), Rose Denby (Jo Brand), Nitin (Himesh Patel), Al Kavanagh (Alan Davies), Denise Donnelly (Georgie Glen), Martin Bickerstaff (Kevin Eldon), Natalie Moore (Isy Suttie). Copyright: What Larks Productions.

Damned

Channel 4 and Sky Arts comedy drama about a social services department. 13 episodes (pilot + 2 series), 2014 - 2018. Stars Jo Brand, Alan Davies, Himesh Patel, Kevin Eldon and others.

Damned. Nitin (Himesh Patel). Copyright: What Larks Productions.

Himesh Patel interview

Himesh Patel, who plays Nitin, says it was hard not to corpse on set.

Tell us a little bit about your character...

He's an authoritarian and he just wants to climb the ladder and be what he thinks he is - which is some sort of saviour for people, when in fact he's just a muppet.

What was it about the project as a whole that attracted you to it?

It was the fact that Jo Brand had written it, having seen Getting On and loved it, that was a big pull for me. And then hearing about the other cast that were involved as well, they're all just actors who have been in the best comedy of the last 10/20 years... so it was an amazing thing to work with all these people. I learnt so much from them.

As this is your first big comedy role, how does it compare to other things you've done in the past?

It's completely different I guess, obviously I had quite a few years on EastEnders which was a whole world unto itself, so I guess I can't really compare it to this at all. And then I did a short film a couple of years ago which was a comedy, but this was a whole other discipline. It was really fun but there was so much else that I had to learn.

There was quite a bit of improvisation on set - had you done much of that before, how did you find that experience of riffing off your other co-stars off script?

I hadn't done a lot of it before. I haven't done the sort of things that allow that to happen. I was excited to do that stuff but then, when it comes to actually doing it, I suppose that's what I mean when I say about discipline. One thing that I struggled with was not corpsing when you're being thrown stuff that's absolutely hilarious by the other actors. And, with it being improvised, you have no anticipation so it's a really tough thing to stay in the moment and not allow yourself to be too aware of the comedy, of what you're doing, and just play the reality of it which was a really fun thing to challenge myself to do.

At its heart, Damned is a comedy but at the same time it explores and delves into quite challenging issues and environment. How was that a challenge for you or did that play into how you portrayed the part?

I think, for one, we didn't have to because Jo, Will and Morwenna had written such a fantastic script it was all there, the comedy was there with the sensitivity to the subject matter as well. We trusted them to be thinking about that, but when it comes to the character you play, you've got to maintain a level of humanity, even though I say he's a bit of an idiot, he's a bit of a muppet - his heart is in the right place, he just has other things going on as well. But I think it's is something you have to consider, because you can't just go off in the deep end with it, you need to consider how your character is going to be perceived. You're not necessarily representing all social workers when you do this, but there is an element of thought that you have to give to that, yes.

It's a workplace comedy, set in a social worker office with all the office politics and relationships that that entails - have you ever worked in an office? Is there any recognisability to the characters that are in the show?

There is yes - even though I've never worked in an office. I think an office is just a microcosm of life and the different kinds of people that you will come across and interactions there, and I think if you all sit in a room together then it gets a bit more intense and fun for people to watch maybe. But I think we all know someone a bit like Nitin and Al - it's one of those things where people can genuinely look at and relate to it.

What other projects are on the horizon for you? Anything that we can expect to see you in soon?

I've got nothing lined up but I just did a play at Fringe so I'm looking forward to doing more theatre if that comes my way, and I want to write some stuff as well, if I can pull my finger out and get on with that. I've also written an essay for a book that's coming out at the end of the month called The Good Immigrant, but that's a whole other avenue. Plenty of stuff to keep me entertained and keep my creativity going.

More Damned interviews

Published: Monday 26th September 2016