When comedy writer Sharon Horgan (who’s pictured above, front and centre) began considering who to cast in her new BBC3 sitcom Dead Boss – which she co-wrote with Holly Walsh – she was desperate to get Ab Fab creator and star Jennifer Saunders on board.
And luckily for her, though busy with writing new episodes of Absolutely Fabulous and the script for Spice Girls the Musical, Jennifer jumped at the chance to play the role of Margaret, who’s the governor of Broadmarsh Prison.
Sharon herself plays the role of inmate Helen Stephens, who’s desperate to prove her innocence after she’s imprisoned for murdering her boss.
Of enlisting Jennifer to star in the show, Sharon said, “It was like a dream cast to get Jennifer on board.
“I had never worked with her before, only admired her from afar, like a TV stalker…
“It was slightly surreal seeing an absolute idol of mine saying our words.
“I felt absolutely starstruck. Two weeks in I felt more confident and we just yapped away.”
“You get even more lost for words when you see Jennifer on camera and realise what a brilliant performer she is. It is a little intimidating.
“It’s just in her, it’s not like she has a technique… she is naturally that good.
“There isn’t anything you can learn from watching her, you would just have to be Jennifer Saunders — and sadly that is never going to happen.”
The six-part first series also stars Geoff McGivern as Tony, Helen’s hapless lawyer, and Bryony Hannah who plays Christine, a character that’s described as “Helen’s arsonist cellmate who just wants a hug.”
Aisling Bea plays the role of Helen’s self-obsessed younger sister Laura, while Amanda Lawrence – of Above Suspicion fame – plays Mary, Helen’s nemesis from her former work place.
Misfits star Edward Hogg plays Henry, “the weirdo from work” and Emma Pierson plays Mrs Bridges, the glamorous and not so grieving widow of Helen’s murdered boss.
Of writing the comedy, Sharon said, “You can’t really get inspiration for a jail comedy when you haven’t been to prison. Usually I use my life or friends’ lives.
“The only character that is perhaps true to reality is Margaret, the governor, who is based on a boss at the JobCentre where I worked.”
It was quite a grim place and I remember her coming in every day with armfuls of plastic plants, trying to make it a more beautiful environment, rather than dealing with the staff.”
Dead Boss begins on BBC3 at 10.30pm on June 14.