Interview with Beth Cordingly from Charlie Brooker's Dead Set
22nd Oct 08
If you're reading a web site called eatmybrains.com then the chances are, you will be aware of a certain imminent TV show, from the slightly askew mind of Charlie Brooker. I am of course referring to Dead Set, a six-part series which looks set to be an ingenious fusing of C4's Big Brother and our dear old friend, the zombie.
Dead Set airs from Monday 27th-Friday 31st October on E4. The series comprises 6 episodes, and the first night's episode is a double. Here at EMB HQ we're all very excited to see how the satirical style of Charlie Brooker tackles the undead. We recently had the pleasure to lunch with one of the leading ladies of Dead Set, the lovely Beth Cordingly (formerly of The Bill and Family Affairs) who plays Veronica, one of the BB contestants. Here's what she had to say...
EMB: So, are zombie movies your bag?
BC: I’ve never really been a horror fan, mainly because I’m very squeamish and get very scared. When we were about 8 or 9 years-old, I was at a friend’s house and we watched Freddie Kruger and I couldn’t sleep for about three months. Then I decided never to watch horror movies - I was even terrified during The Lost Boys when I was 15! But my boyfriend is a massive horror fan so when I got this role I got really excited and started watching loads of zombie films.
It was interesting to compare the original Dawn of the Dead and the remake. And then because of what our zombies are like in Dead Set, I watched 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later – our zombies are much more in that style, you know, running zombies. Also, as Charlie said, there are quite a lot of tributes to various films running through Dead Set, which is great. Like a bit where characters are standing on the roof, a lot of references, so that was cool.
EMB: How did the job come about for you?
BC: The job just came up. When my agent rang me about it, she just said, “You have to read this script”, and I rang back immediately saying it was absolutely brilliant; so satirical and clever, just brilliant. It is satire, but it’s played in the horror genre so it’s not like Shaun of the Dead - it’s really scary. We’ve got a screening on Sunday where we’re going to watch them all in a cinema. It’ll be really interesting to see if I get scared! I saw a preview of the first one, and it was really gripping. I’m so excited about it - it was really gripping and it’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve been in. I feel really honoured to be part of it – it’s very different to anything on TV at the moment.
EMB: What was Charlie Brooker like to work with? Was he around much?
BC: He was present a lot. They were a really nice creative team to work with – we did quite a lot of rehearsal and improvisation, which is rare because in telly there’s never much time. When they were filming, the director would leave the camera running, just like in BB, so you would have to be in character all the time. Charlie Brooker was present all the time, constantly doing re-writes, and always very accessible. He’s a really lovely guy, very funny, and very sarcastic. He says what most people think but don’t say out loud.
EMB: How is the zombie outbreak depicted, does it happen in the first episode?
BC: It starts in the BB house and you’ll think it’s going to be a mockumentary-type thing, you have the producers and runners back stage, and then it becomes this zombie thing. I really like the way they introduce it in the first episode, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. We don’t have any idea in the house what’s going on, we’re disconnected from it.
EMB: What can you tell us about the character you play?
BC: What’s nice for me as well is my character – Veronica - she’s a bit of a bimbo but more so she’s very princessy and precious, with the hair extensions and fake nails. And she’s from Essex. My character had a real journey – when you first see her, she's very aware of the male gaze at all times…very aware of being on TV and how she’s coming across, checking herself in every reflective surface. Then, when the apocalypse arrives, with the zombies, you see her physically breaking down, her nails getting smashed, extensions falling out, make-up running everywhere. The thing that makes the character want to win BB is her survival instinct and that kind of comes out. But you don’t know whether she’s going to sink or swim, she could have gone either way. She’s quite tough, which was really nice – it could have been quite boring otherwise!
EMB: And the zombies?
BC: The prosthetics are absolutely amazing – you’ve probably seen images from the trailers - it looks brilliant, and really disgusting! I had a real problem on the first day when we were filming zombies eating people, I said the guy who plays by boyfriend, “Can you put your hands behind me? I think I’m going to faint.” I’ve got a bit of a reputation for fainting at the sight of blood. But the people playing the zombies were brilliant. It's a bit of a miserable task but no one complained. They were lying in pools of blood in cold weather and they were freezing. It’s hard work being a zombie!