Tonight sees the second instalment of new BBC2 sitcom, Heading out, starring and written by British comedy genius Sue Perkins, and Unreality TV were privileged enough to catch up with one of its main stars, Joanna Scanlan, to find out all the goss for the rest of the series.
Heading Out tells the story of Sara, a veterinarian who is given an ultimatum by her friends to tell her parents that she is gay.
In order to help her ‘come out’, Sara’s friends buy her 6 weeks’ worth of sessions with a life coach in the form of eccentric netball player, Toria (Joanna Scanlan), before her parents are due to visit so that Sara can come clean to them at last.
Episode one of this sitcom had us laughing till it hurt and, as Joanna Scanlan explained to us, it’s only going to get funnier throughout the series. (If you missed it last week, catch up here!)
Joanna’s character, Toria, did not feature much in the first episode, apart from a hilarious netball match at the beginning but, as the end of the episode revealed her as Sara’s life coach, we will be seeing a lot more of her in the weeks to come, as Joanna explained:
“The way it works out is that every episode Sara has a session with Toria and so you get to see her process – firstly the craziness in Toria’s methods, and secondly how Sara responds to that. The ultimate goal is for her to tell her parents that she is gay, or even just to persuade her that is a good idea to tell them.”
“Then episode 5 is a special episode as we go to Toria’s house for the whole episode where Dawn French (Geraldine, The vicar Of Dibley)plays my mum and June Brown (Dot Branning, EastEnders) plays my grandmother , so that was a lot of fun to play. “
Right from the start it is clear to see that Toria is not the most conventional of life coaches (in episode 1 she arrives at the party dressed as a Viking), so we asked Joanna what sort of whacky methods we could expect to see her use to get Sara to come out:
“I don’t want to give too much away, but put it this way she has cobbled together a number of ethnic and anthropological methods from her travels and she is not afraid to encourage Sara to be comfortable with her sexuality. She sees herself as being very free and liberated about her own sexuality, and there is nothing that Toria wouldn’t say – if it comes through her mind, she is going to say it.”
Obviously the mission in Heading Out is very obvious from the off – to get Sara to come out to her parents, but we wanted to know if Joanna thought that was likely to happen:
“My lips are tightly sealed on that matter. What I will say and, in defence of Toria’s excellent life coaching, is that although she is very unconventional in her methods, and whilst she seems to be entirely off the wall, there is something very true about the affection that she holds Sara in, and the attention that she has for her makes her lose her shyness, and her embarrassment about who she is – and that does have an impact on Sara’s life.”
Obviously as Sara’s plight in series one features Toria heavily, but, if Sara does end up coming out to her parents, will there still be a place for Toria if a second series is commissioned?
“Nothing I think has actually been decided yet. I know I would really love, as does Sue, for there to be a second series, and I would really love Toria to still be there if she can in whatever form.”
This could be very likely if, as we predict, Sara and Toria form a real friendship from their sessions:
“In a manner of speaking, yes they do. I think that Sara is always going to think Toria is completely cuckoo but that said I do think there is a mutual affection between them. “
With Heading Out starring, written and produced by Sue Perkins, we imagine it must have been incredibly fun to film, stopping every five minutes to laugh:
“ Absolutely, though it was more like every 30 seconds as opposed to 5 minutes. It has been really enjoyable working with Sue. She is just terrific fun, she has such a natural cheerfulness and she also has this ability to inject such clever wit. It was just an absolute delight to be with her, she is just so kind and honourable. Our business is such that one can often feel very insecure yet Sue shows no signs of that, she is just such a lovely person to be around, therefore everything around her just becomes lovely too. It was a great experience working with her on set.
“I also had the very good fortune in episode five to spend a lot of time in bed with her too, which was lots of fun, lots of time to chat – but I won’t say too much about that. “
Heading Out is bulging with some of the biggest and most talented names in British acting today, including EastEnders veteran June Brown, the phenomenal Dawn French and Hollyoaks legend Jeff Rawle. We imagine, given the excellence of the show, they must have been biting Sue’s hand off to take part:
“I guess they did and I credit that to the script because when I got the script through and got the call for the audition, I was desperate to get it because I just loved the script so much. I thought ‘this is really original and really fresh and quirky and funny’ – very much like Sue herself, and I just thought ‘wow, I really want to be a part of this’ and I think that was the same for everyone else. “
Finally we asked Joanna if she could sum up Heading Out in her own words:
“I think it is a show with enormous heart and, like you do in a pantomime, you get a little bit of everything – there is romance, some really fluid comedy and there is a bit of magic too. Sticking with it I think people will really find it a place they want to go, it’s a place they will really want to hang out in. I think each person, all the cast and crew involved, each bring their own little bits to that.”
Heading Out continues tonight at 10.00pm on BBC2/BBC2 HD.
Watch a clip from tonight’s episode below: