Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith
Inside No. 9

Inside No. 9

  • TV comedy drama
  • BBC Two
  • 2014 - 2024
  • 55 episodes (9 series)

Dark comedy anthology series from Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. Each episode focuses on the goings-on around something to do with the number 9.

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton interview

Inside No. 9. Image shows left to right: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith

Inside No. 9 creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton talk about winding down the hit format.

What can viewers expect from this final series?

Reece: Well, six more stories of intrigue, horror, humour, and ham acting. More of the same and lots of - hopefully - surprises and funny stories.

Steve: I think our aim going into it was just to make a series as good as the other previous series. We didn't want to do anything wildly different because you know, if it ain't broke, why tinker with it? We have six varied stories that hopefully will send the show off in a fitting way.

Have you got a favourite episode of the final batch?

Steve: I'm really fond of Mulberry Close, which we wrote early on. We had a concept of just shooting an episode through a fixed doorbell camera and the writing of it was really fun and exciting and the filming of it was great, because you didn't have to do lots of takes. It was almost like doing little mini plays, each scene was just one take. And I think it's got all the elements that are perfect No. 9. It's really funny, it's got a great cast, it doesn't go the way you think it's going to go, it's got a different way of filming to the normal television that you see and that means that viewers will constantly be on edge. So yeah, that's certainly one of my favourites.

Inside No. 9. Image shows left to right: Val (Vinette Robinson), Damon (Reece Shearsmith), Larry (Adrian Scarborough), Kenny (Steve Pemberton), Sheila (Dorothy Atkinson)

Reece: Yeah, I liked doing - because we haven't done very many of them in No. 9 - the period episode called The Curse of The Ninth. It's just nice to dress up in not tracksuit bottoms, and the sort of quite mundane clothes that we normally find ourselves wearing. It feels like you're elevating the whole experience of filming when you're in a country house and it's all very lavish. So that was fun to do.

Would you say that was your favourite character to play of the upcoming series?

Reece: I think I got to go on a big journey with that character so that was fun to play. I enjoyed doing that. It's not the funniest character probably but I enjoyed the acting of that because he was in a world with quite a spooky and creepy atmosphere. So, that appealed to me.

Looking back across all of the series, have you got a favourite character from any of the 55 films? Whether it's one you've played yourself or a great guest star?

Reece: I think a character that still tickles us both actually is the character that Lorraine Ashbourne played in Nana's Party called Auntie Carol. She was this really vivacious fun character that was at the heart of it deeply, sort of tragic. But she brought such a quality to it and it was exactly as we hoped. When we do the parts, we often read the parts and we play them as we imagine they'll be done, and she sort of did it exactly as we wanted to do it and brought more to it. It was great to see she brought such a life to it and it's a really funny performance.

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Katie (Eve Gordon), Jim (Steve Pemberton), Angela (Claire Skinner), Maggie (Elsie Kelly), Carol (Lorraine Ashbourne), Pat (Reece Shearsmith). Copyright: BBC

Steve: I mean, there are so many to choose from, but just looking at this ninth series... We'd worked with Mark Bonnar before in Psychoville and he came very close to being in Inside No. 9 in a previous season, but it hadn't worked out because of Covid. To finally get the chance to reconnect with him and sit on a train carriage with him and watch him just act... fireworks! He's just incredible to watch. That's definitely one of my favourites.
Have there been any other standout actors that you've worked with over the years that you'd say was your favourites? Is it possible to pick a favourite?

Steve: It's really difficult to pick favourites and one shouldn't of course. But to work with legends like Sir Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow, to have people like Rula Lenska and Michele Dotrice and Felicity Kendal, Fiona Shaw. To work with these greats you've watched growing up, not necessarily our contemporaries, I think we get an extra thrill from watching and working with people like that, who we've seen on the TV, and suddenly you can't believe you're acting alongside them.

Reece: I remember very fondly working with Helen McCrory. I did a play with Helen and got her to do this sort of comedy part, but she'd not really been asked to do much of comedy, I don't think. Or she found it exciting that she was asked to do this part where I think she wouldn't normally get asked. And that was great working with her, she was magnificent in that.

Quite often we actors in quite unexpected roles in Inside No. 9. Have you found a lot of them have approached you and said, 'Oh, please put me in an episode'?

Reece: We hear that people have said that now, I mean, a bit later, in the last few series we've had 'oh so and so's agent has been in contact to see if there's anything for them'. So that's nice to hear. But we've never written parts for people, particularly because you get to the last two weeks before you're about to do it and then you ask if they're free, and they might not be free and then you would feel disappointed. So, you can't cater for people. But you write good parts, hopefully, and then as actors, you hook them in with something that's worth doing.

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith

What's been the most difficult episode to write? Is it the last ever one?

Steve: Well, we didn't write one saying this is the last ever one. I think there have been a number of episodes over the years where we've had a great concept, and we just haven't known necessarily where to take it and we haven't known to what extent the audience is going to be ahead of us. This is always our difficulty.

By the time we got to Series 6, 7, 8, 9, people have already seen so many of the tricks that we've pulled, and they are eagle eyed now to try and get ahead of us. So, if anything's been difficult, it's just deciding where to take certain stories in ways that the audience wouldn't expect, and when to ease off and go, 'do you know what? People will suspect this, but let them, who cares?'.

Actually you're on this for the journey, not the destination and you can just sit back and enjoy watching brilliant actors like Claire Rushbrook create a captivating character. You might suspect the way a certain story is going but we've given up now trying to tie ourselves in knots. We just want to just to have a good half hour of television, that's always our goal.

If you could expand the world of any episode from any series, which would it be?

Reece: I would have happily seen Mr Warren and Mr Clark go around the English countryside trying various witch trials for six half hours. But that might just be me!

Inside No. 9. Image shows from L to R: Mr Warren (Reece Shearsmith), George Waterhouse (Trevor Cooper), Sir Andrew Pike (David Warner), Sarah Nutter (Sinead Matthews), Elizabeth Gadge (Ruth Sheen), Thomas Nutter (Jim Howick), Richard Two-Shoes (Paul Kaye), Mr Clarke (Steve Pemberton). Copyright: BBC

Steve: I genuinely could do a full series of 3x3, I'd love to write the questions for that. There's more to do I think in, for example, Cold Comfort office dynamics, and dealing with all the different callers and the way that those characters interacted was great fun, and I think you could do more with that. But we're never going to do these things, we never intended any of them to springboard into a series. The whole point was you just get your 30-minute hit with that story, those characters and you're out and on to the next one. So don't hold your breath!

So, finally, what are you going to miss most about working on this series together?

Reece: Oh, probably I mean, it's the annual brunch, having to meet up, talk and sit in a room and think of something. The trappings of the writing process bring with it a lot of fun for me and Steve, because we do get to sit and catch up. And even if it's the night before and we've already met up, there's always something to laugh about the next day. So, we do laugh a lot in and around the sort of torture of trying to come up with the stories. So, I think just the writing and the enforced meetings that we have to have, where I meet my best friend, and we sit and laugh around this thing that we laughingly call work.

Steve: But that's not for the memories, I'm sorry to have to tell you that will continue! I think this particular programme, it's the - I don't know if joy is the right word - but once you finish the script, you are then total blank page, you've got nothing to build on, you've got no crutch into the next episode, or no character to build on and that in itself is quite exciting. So, when we have our talking sessions, we have not a clue what's going to come out of our mouths, and where it's going to end up. And that is, for all the difficulties of it, very exciting. Whereas building on a series that's already chugging along, plodding on maybe won't be the same. We genuinely don't know what we're going to do next. But I think if we're going to miss anything, it's that total freedom that we've had to just be two people in a room, coming up with ideas, and then seeing them go all the way to television. It's just been an incredible honour to have the privilege of doing that, and with your best friend.

Published: Wednesday 8th May 2024

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