Zapped. Brian (James Buckley).


Dave sitcom set in a parallel world. 9 episodes (2 series), 2016 - 2017. Stars James Buckley, Paul Kaye, Sharon Rooney, Kenneth Collard and others.

Series 3 starts in October.

Zapped. Brian (James Buckley).

James Buckley & Paul Kaye interview

We caught up with James Buckley (Brian), Paul Kaye (Howell) and producer Kerry Waddell earlier in the Summer, on the set of Series 2 of Dave's fantasy sitcom Zapped.

How is it being back in Munty, James?

James: It's good! Exciting, yeah. The main thing I enjoyed when we did the three episodes last year was that it was nice to do something on a set, in a world that's been created for this TV show. Usually everything I do is sort of suburban. It's nice having all the props, all the sets. You read something in the script and think 'how are they going to do that?' and it'll be some big elaborate thing, specifically built for one joke. It's really good.

We're going to be seeing a lot more of the world this time, with six episodes? More characters, more outside the pub?

James: Yes. What was great about the first series, essentially a three episode aired pilot, is that we don't now have to spend too much time reintroducing what's going on. We can sort of hit the ground running. The series arc is Brian trying to get home, but we now see what his day-to-day life in Munty is like. It doesn't have to be 'there's a new way for Brian to get home but then it all goes wrong in the end', in each episode. Now we can find out more about what the other characters do and how they spend their time.

Do you think Brian has quite a good life in Munty? To the others he's very exciting.

James: That's it really. That's what we were thinking about last year: if Brian does ever get home, whether that would actually be better? He's now in a place where he has, sort of, 'friends'. People who are interested in him. Back on Earth he's a bit of a loser, a small fish in a big pond, so yeah, they're all things that hopefully one day we'll address fully - but nowhere near that at the moment. That dynamic is certainly interesting.

Is he conscious that he's a bit special in this world and life would probably be a bit dull if he did get back home?

James: I'm not sure, we haven't really touched on that yet. It's just a lot more about the town, about Munty, peripheral characters. And in the middle of it all Brian's trying to get him. It's great that Dave have given us the chance to explore this world a bit more. It's really funny.

After love interest Effandra in Series 1, does Brian have any kind of stake in Munty this time, something that's keeping him there?

James: Not quite so much. What I thought was important for me in doing this show is that Brian's not just on the pull - I've done that! - but he has a lot on his plate, his mind's on other stuff. That romance isn't at the forefront of Brian's mind: "I need to get home ... but also I need to get a girlfriend!" That's everything I've done up until now.

Zapped. Image shows from L to R: Steg (Kenneth Collard), Barbara (Sharon Rooney), Brian (James Buckley), Howell (Paul Kaye), Herman (Louis Emerick). Copyright: Black Dog Television / Baby Cow Productions.

It sounds like he's settled a bit more this time, if he's not quite so endlessly eager to find a route home?

James: Yes it does feel like that. It's more like "Right, I'm here now. I am trying to get home. But there are other things I have to do so I can get to that point." Saying that - where do I live? In the pub?

Kerry: In the pub. They [the writers] reckon he's got a room in the pub. I'd always wondered about that... They reckon Herman's given you a room to stay in. I worried where you were getting any money from! I didn't understand how you kept saying "oh yeah, I'll pay for that". I was thinking "where's he getting any money from?"

James: There's a couple of times I do come into a bit of money now!

So Brian's getting much more involved in the world of Munty now?

James: There's an episode where the players come to town; a troupe of travelling actors. Through one reason or another, Brian sees them as one means to get a step closer to where he needs to be to go home. So he ends up sort of being their lackey for an episode. The head actor is Tim Key, one of the funniest people on the planet. I think that's a really strong episode. That's probably the one I'm looking forward to seeing the most. Saying that, there's some other excellent stuff too. Gladiators, vampires. Lots of other stuff in different scenes.

But, yes, something happens. And he ends up writing the play. It's a huge deal because, every year, the Brevik Players come to town, it's a huge hit, everyone turns up to see it. And it's left to Brian to write this play. But that's not all of Brian's duties: he's de-lousing wigs, applying anti-fungal cream, and doing a lot of flyering.

You mention gladiators; is that Brian getting down to a bit of armed combat?

James: Well, sort of! You can put Brian in an action sequence and he'll Brian things up. I don't think I'm giving too much away to say he doesn't do well! Thank God, there are some really good episodes coming up.

Paul, you're looking amazingly 'bearded'.

Paul: Well it's been a year! I've been pushing extra hard on the toilet. Yeah, the character's expanded!

Zapped. Howell (Paul Kaye). Copyright: Black Dog Television.

There were some great magical ideas in Series 1. What's Howell cooking up this time round?

Kerry: Trying to make some money!

Paul: Yes, always on the make. A sort of magical grifter. There's a bodyswap potion. I won't tell you who I swap with, but I become someone else and they become me. But that's all going to depend on ADR [additional dialogue recording] I think!

James: There's a memory potion...

Paul: Yeah, indeed, to help Barbara get through the Seers' Guild. Which goes horribly wrong. And there's a ... well I wouldn't call it a drug, probably not allowed to actually. Definitely not a drug. Just a very strong sweet. It's a dragon's tooth that I'm quite partial to licking. And the more you lick it - the higher you get!

It's been fun. The stories are fantastic. It feels like it's more of a world this time round. You get more of an insight into Munty culture. Munticulturalism!

Those first three episodes got a great response from audiences. Were you surprised by how positive it was?

James: I'm always surprised if someone likes something I've done. When I read something I think "oh this is funny, I really like this". Then I go, "yeah but you've got a weird sense of humour, maybe other people won't". So yes, it's always a surprise when someone likes something you do!

Paul: We had a lot of fun doing it, which is usually - or can be - the kiss of death, in my experience! Looks brilliant on the page, is great fun filming, sometimes that lulls you into a false sense of security. But they're laugh-out-loud funny to read, these scripts, which is a good start. And it's a great atmosphere in the studio. Everyone's enjoying themselves.

It sounds like you've got a great line-up of guest stars this series?

Paul: Yes, fantastic!

James: I mentioned Tim Key; but we've got Phil Daniels...

Paul: Phil Daniels! That was a real thrill, working with Phil Daniels.

James: Are we allowed to mention...?

Kerry: Sylvester.

James: Sylvester McCoy!

Paul: Rufus Hound. Javone Prince. Simon Day. Sally Phillips is back at Slasher.

Zapped. Image shows from L to R: Sextus (Tim Key), Helena (Roxy Sternberg).

Do we see anything in the Munty actors that we might relate to in our universe?

Paul: It's like that episode of Blackadder!

James: Yeah, there are. Pompous...

Paul: All the cliches, none of which are true!

[They laugh heartily]

How much do you get the public talking to you about Zapped, rather than, say, The Inbetweeners or Game of Thrones?

James: Quite a lot for me! I am surprised. I always assume no-one ever wants to talk to me about anything other than The Inbetweeners. But Zapped was great. Mostly - and I guess it was confusing for some people - it was amazing that we got to do those three episodes, to see what it was like. It's a great way to be given a chance to do stuff.

I always feel, especially in comedy, you should never ever axe a comedy after only one series. It was great to be given a chance to explain this slightly complicated universe, see what works, see things we could do differently. It's bizarre that you don't usually get that chance. A show needs to be a hit from the start. We wouldn't have things like Blackadder or Only Fools And Horses if people had always had that attitude. No one watched their first series. With comedy you get used to what you're doing.

Paul: For the writers as well. They wrote these six episodes completely for our voices and our characteristics.

James: Yes. It was great we got to do three episodes like that, I can't think of any other time it's happened.

Paul: No, I've never experienced it before.

James: So yeah, mostly what I got from the public was, the following week after three episodes, people going "What happened? Did I miss it? I'm all sitting down ready to watch the next episode." I just had to say, you know, 'keep tweeting UKTV and Dave asking them to let us make some more'. And I think people did.

It always helps when people do that. If you like something on TV - especially nowadays when it's so easy to get in touch with anyone - you should always let the channels know that you want to see more.

Paul: It's great as a double-bill with Red Dwarf as well. Going in a double-header is fab. They both appeal to fans of that kind of genre.

James: Yeah, that did us a huge favour. I think it helps to have something so established. And us to come on after the show, be in the same sort of bracket, for people to be able to think "oh Zapped and Red Dwarf are on that night". It lets people know what they're in for. So thanks, Dave, it really helps.

So what's your favourite new 'thing' in the wider world of Munty and all that surrounds it in this series?

Paul: Oh well there's a sort of courtroom drama. I thought that was great. And Howell's hats when he goes out of the shop these days, that's exciting. Got a courtroom hat. Got a theatre hat!

James: A big fight in the square. More dungeons. Sewers. Really pushing the dungeon budget.

Kerry: The Pear Fair!

James: Yes, the Munty Pear Fair. Sort of like Christmas I guess, but for Munty.

Paul: Just with more pears. And also the Protector is now a physical presence. Really important, I think, for the sense of our lives as part of that community. You can't get much more oppressive than - are we allowed to say?

Kerry: Yeah.

Paul: ... Sylvester!

Zapped. Lord Protector (Sylvester McCoy).

Is it a "strong and stable" political system?

Paul: Ha ha, well he's a complete lunatic! As in all dictatorships. That usually helps.

James: He's a bit mad, yeah. At one point we're all sentenced to death by soup, which doesn't make any sense!

Paul: And we've got to start using sausages as pillows. Those kind of directives. Could be worse...

What do people do for leisure time in Munty?

James: We do touch on that a little bit: the holiday season, the Pear Fair, the plays, card games - Quint. If we were clever... That's another thing we could be cashing in on!

Paul: What, card and board games?

James: Look at JK Rowling! You mention a pamphlet in Harry Potter and that turns into a play, a spin-off. Everything's got a spin-off.

Paul: There'll be a whole wall in Toys 'R' Us devoted to Zapped.

James: Exactly! Yeah, that's what we need. But it is nice to have the time, a whole series, to look at the world and really flesh it out, not just have Brian trying to get home.

Paul: Yeah, you're more comfortable in Munty now.

James: There's a bit of acceptance, which I really like. It always helps a series sort of move forward. It's similar to Red Dwarf and the Dave Lister character. That first series, the first few episodes he's like "how are we going to get back?" and then obviously as it goes on it's more about trying to get back to Earth, but also here's what's going on in the meantime.

Paul: Also it's that your return to Earth is kind of dependent on me. So, to be honest, it's not going to happen.

And Barbara's given up on Brian, romantically, a bit now too?

James: Yeah, again, it's nice to not have that and to be exploring other things. But there's still some Barbara action... I don't really want to give anything away!

The Inbetweeners. Jay Cartwright (James Buckley). Copyright: Bwark Productions.

Brian and The Inbetweeners' Jay are pretty extreme, opposite characters. What's it like playing both? Is one harder?

James: The Brian character is closer to me. Reacting to the strange things that're going on around him. Isn't as loud, crazy, wacky a character. Not wanting to be the centre of attention. More grown up.

Paul: You can't get laid in Munty, either!

James: Well no, that's what I was saying earlier, it's nice to play a character who's not just on the pull. Whereas Jay... that sort of character, as an actor, is fun. It's fun doing things and saying things and behaving in a way that you wouldn't normally, that would be deemed inappropriate. When someone says you can do that, you go 'great', because it's really fun. But Brian's a lot more relaxed.

Paul: He's chilled. There's time to fill between your KFC, really.

Do you think you're done with Jay now and you'll be doing characters more like Brian in the future?

James: I dunno. I really don't know what's going to happen. To be fair I've got a new TV show, White Gold, in which I basically just play Jay again.

[Everyone laughs]

James: See, it's got me, Joe Thomas, and is written by Damon Beesley - so inevitably it's going to reek of The Inbetweeners. Obviously, what I get from everyone, every day, is "can you do some more Inbetweeners?". But it's kind of physically impossible, because we're old. I can't believe that's still a discussion. "Yeah, but you could do some more, couldn't you?" No, we can't. Because - well, look at us. We can't play teenagers! Hopefully it [White Gold] has enough Inbetweeners in it to give people an Inbetweeners fix, but being different enough to justify its existence.

I guess what's going to happen is people will go "Can you do some more Inbetweeners? Can you do some more Inbetweeners?" and then they'll see this and they'll go "Pff. It's just like The Inbetweeners." Yeah, well, I don't know what to do for you!

Are we finding out more about Howell's life too?

Paul: I'm not sure you do. I mean, I've got a burning love for Slasher Morgan. But that's not really in the script, that's just me really... I think there's a big backstory there! Maybe she was a very sweet country girl and we were going to elope and get married. I had to cast a spell to get her out of her bedroom window, and unfortunately turned her into an evil psychopath by mistake. And nobody else knows that.

James: Howell's sort of the driving force to almost every episode really. It's something that Howell's done, or some situation he's in. Some way he can take advantage of the other characters. I'd say 99% of the time.

Paul: He's chasing a buck or a drink, at the bottom of it all, really. But he does mean well. And it keeps the plot afloat!

James: He does, yeah! Gives us all something to do!

Zapped. Image shows from L to R: Springleaf (Richard Sandling), Unknown, Brian (James Buckley), Barbara (Sharon Rooney). Copyright: Black Dog Television.

What's the most outrageous lie that Brian tells about himself this series?

James: Oh there is one...

Kerry: The darts one?

James: Oh yeah. And that he has won Wimbledon and was married to Kim Kardashian. It's weird because they don't mean anything to anyone!

Paul: But he gets off on it. Makes him feel good about himself.

James: It's just funny. I think that's all you really need to justify it. But yeah, there are more.

Paul: That's the great thing about when he's writing the script for the players. All your cultural references fall to the floor.

James: And we don't even know what's going to make it, we had to record lots of versions! It's like, we're 99% sure we can say this but ... it's on the edge.

You'd both be back for a third series then?

Paul: Absolutely.

James: Again, it's never up to us. I enjoy it. I love doing it. If you let me, I'll do some more. But it's up to people who watch it, letting the channel know that they like it. That's literally how television works now.

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Published: Monday 9th October 2017