Cast your minds back, if you can, to 2006. BBC2 were broadcasting a new science fiction sitcom, with many wondering ‘is this the new Red Dwarf?’
That sitcom was Hyperdrive. And no, it wasn’t the new Red Dwarf. But, despite what many of my friends within Red Dwarf fandom – and indeed, what a fair few people all over the place – thought (and still think), I actually rather enjoyed it.
Hyperdrive was the creation of comedy writers Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley, and starred Nick Frost, Kevin Eldon and a pre–Miranda and Call The Midwife Miranda Hart.
You can read all the details on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperdrive_%28TV_series%29
Under the guise of ‘Captain Helix’ (the name of a fictional character within the Hyperdrive universe), I ran a (somewhat basic, admittedly) fan site devoted to the show named after the sitcom’s setting, the HMS Camden Lock.
Writers Kevin and Andy gave me a lot of support, giving me a couple of exclusives, and gifting me with a signed copy of the series 1 & 2 DVD boxset.
They also pointed me in the direction of means of getting interviews with cast members.
Although I received a phone call from Nick Frost’s agent offering me the chance to have a chat with Nick himself – which, unbelievably, I turned down (!) due to my not having the equipment to record a telephone interview (what the Hell was I thinking that day?), I did manage to secure an email interview with Miranda Hart, who very kindly agreed to answer my twenty or so questions.
The artwork and detailed episode guides I produced for the site are long gone, but here, in it’s entirety, is my EXCLUSIVE interview, from early 2006…
I understand that before the series was made, a pilot was made with Omid Djallili and Mark Gatiss as Henderson and York. Were you involved in this?
Yes, a pilot was made in December 2003 with Mark Gatiss as York and Sanjeev Baskar as the Commander. And I played Teal in that. Steve Evans and Dan Antopolski also did the pilot as Vine and Jeffers.
How did their portayal of the characters differ to Nick’s and Kevin’s? And how did the show – the plot, the characters, the production – differ to what we saw in the final series? Any major changes?
Mark and Sanjeev were naturally very different to Nick and Kevin because they are totally different performers and people. But the essence of gun happy York and hapless Henderson was there. It was just a ten minute, non broadcast pilot – more of a taster tape than anything else so at that stage we didn’t see much script or get to know the plots and characters in depth, but the outline of all 5 characters were there. Although Sandstrom didn’t exist at that stage. It was filmed at Ealing Studios and a space ship was built but it was much smaller – less corridors and lower quality MDF.
What attracted you to Hyperdrive in the first place? How did you get involved?
It was a run of the mill audition at the BBC for the pilot – I didn’t know much about it before I went to the casting. I am not sure how many people when up for the part at that stage, but I am delighted to say they still wanted me for the series as I just fell in love with the character of Teal.
How would you describe Teal? And do you think you’d get on with her in real life?
Teal is a conscientious, slightly prudish, home counties girl. She sticks to the rules and regulations and her efficiency and organisation mean she is seen as the school swot of the team. She is much better at her job than at social interaction – and doesn’t really understand how to flirt or to relax socially.
If I met Teal in real life (bizarre idea!) then I would probably not dislike her, but she wouldn’t be on top of my list to go to the pub with. She wouldn’t be quite as free and silly as I would like a drinking companion to be. She’s a bit too uptight for me.
What are the main differences and similarities between Teal and yourself?
We both have a middle class, forces upbringing but Teal continues to enjoy and live by the regimented, emotionally uptight elements of that background, whereas I have shun from that and am much more informal and slobby than Teal.
Do you have a favourite episode? Favourite moment or scene?
I am pushed to think of a particular favourite but I did love filming the Queppu banquet for Episode 2 and loved watching York and the leader of Queppu squashing fruit and the commander dancing with the beautiful alien much to Teal’s disgust.
Can you recall any funny moments or stories from when you were recording the show?
The whole thing was a total nightmare from beginning to end.
Which actor’s the most fun to work with? Who’s most likely to make you giggle at inappropriate times? And who’s most prone to corpsing?
I would say I am probably the worst at corpsing. If at the end of a scene the director didn’t shout cut straight awa,y we would improvise and I would always be the first to laugh. Mr Nick Frost would often make me laugh – just the way he looked at me sometimes when I was trying to flirt with him (as Teal and Henderson I should say!) would set me off.
Are writers Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil on set when you shoot, and are they open to improvisations? Any last minute rewrites?
Yes they are on set every day which is great. A real help. They are making minor adjustments right up to the last minute and are very open to suggestions and lines that come out of improvisations and rehearsals. It is a genuine pleasure to work with such generous writers.
Are there any running gags from on-set which you think will still be going strong when you get together for series two?
I am sure my kind and loving nicknames Queen Kong and Big Truck will stick – a couple of those got in the show, which really made me laugh.
Hyperdrive‘s been described as ‘the new Red Dwarf‘. How do you stand on that? Are you a fan of Red Dwarf, and what’s your opinion of Science Fiction in general? Any favourites?
Oh, I don’t know! I know NOTHING about science fiction. NOTHING! I approached Hyperdrive as a sitcom that happened to be set in space and often have to ask the boys about the sci-fi references. As for Hyperdrive being the new Red Dwarf – I think they are totally different shows and should be viewed as such.
What do you like, comedy wise? Favourite comedians or shows?
I am quite an old fashioned traditionalist comedy wise. My favourite comedian is Eric Morecambe and I can watch him over and over again. Peter Cook, Joyce Grenfell and Ronnie Barker also. I like simple, silly, eccentric bold character comedy rather than dark, surreal, edgy or stuff that’s too clever. Although I loved Nighty Night and you can’t get much darker than that. But the characters in that were big and silly and that’s why I could laugh. If its too underplayed and too clever I get confused. I am more of a BBC 1 and 2 watcher than BBC 3 put it like that!
Who/what are your influences?
Joyce Grenfell was who I watched when much younger and who introduced me to the concept of being alone on stage doing comedy – I knew that’s what I wanted to do when I watched her. Then of course Victoria Wood and French and Saunders were massive influences. Because they were the women in the comedy lime light when I was in my influential teenage years.
What were your ambitions growing up? And there is there anything you haven’t done, either personally or professionally, that you’d still love to do?
I have always wanted to be a comedy actress. That has and still is my dream. There is SO much I would still love to do. I feel like I am just at the beginning of my career really (although its been a ten year struggle to get to the start of it – I am exhausted already). I would like to do more sitcoms – other characters, I would like to make my West End debut in a comedy play, I would like to write my own stuff, I would like to do a film, more radio – SO MUCH! As for personally – the list is even longer. It’s a cliché but swimming with dolphins is on the list, a long with being able to cook, going to see Polar Bears in the wild and winning the Ladies Singles Championship at Wimbledon.
Have you found elements of the show creeping into your day to day life?
Categorically not! That would be too weird.
What would you like to see happen in the next series? Any suggestions for storylines?
I would like to see Teal happy in a relationship with someone who loves her and gets her. I don’t think it will happen!
What are the best and worst jobs you’ve ever had?
Aside from Hyperdrive of course, the best job I have had to date was the 2nd series of Nighty Night; I had a very small part but was in Devon (where it was filmed) for a couple of weeks. It was beautiful weather, amazing location, and I had the most wonderful company in Georgie Glen, Julia Davis, Mark Gatiss and Ruth Jones – we just laughed constantly. The worst job was cleaning student flats when I first left University. One flats sink was blocked and they were doing the washing up in the bath. Oh yes..
How did you get started in this business they call show? Any amusing anecdotes along the way?
Loads of anecdotes yes, but they are for showing off at dinner parties only. No, I fear being a luvvie at the best of times so certainly wouldn’t shower you with stories – sorry. As for getting started in the business. It was a question of writing and performing my own character comedy shows (which I still do) and writing embarrassing letters to important people to persuade them to come and see me (which I still do). I do feel exhausted before my career has really begun – it was a long hard battle trying to get a foot in the door for me. No easy breaks. It took 7 years after University to get my first agent for example. But I think dreams are better achieved with a fight – in retrospect of course!
What are you currently working on, and what projects do you have coming up?
I am currently writing. I shall be doing a play in the summer, but no other plans as yet.
For our Truly Trivial Trivia Page, can you tell us one thing you’ve never told anyone before? (The weirder the better!)
Never told anyone – that’s an ask. Ummm… I dislike Trinny and Susannah. There, I said it. Why can’t we just wear what the **** we like frankly. Oh, and I want to be the British Tennis hope and win Wimbledon.
And finally (at last!), could you please give us a quote about the site (http://www.freewebs.com/camdenlock) for the front page?
Cool. I like the moving stars the best.
So there. One exclusive Hyperdrive based 2006 interview with Miranda Hart. Hope it was worth it.