League of Gentlemen stars discuss Christmas specials
Thursday 7th December 2017 10:12 Hadfield News Posted by Adam Higgins

As you will be well aware of, much-loved comedy The League of Gentlemen, which was filmed in Hadfield, returns to BBC Two this Christmas with three brand-new episodes to celebrate its 20th anniversary. 

Once again, the three performing members of the League – Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and Mark Gatiss – will be playing a veritable host of bizarre and darkly comic characters inhabiting the fictional town of Royston Vasey, in scripts written by themselves and co-creator Jeremy Dyson.

Royston Vasey is facing a threat more dire than anything it has faced before: dark rumours of boundary changes that could erase the town from the map forever. The fight to save Royston Vasey from administrative annihilation will come from unexpected and surprising directions, all of them local…

Cast and crew took to the streets of Glossopdale’s biggest village earlier this year to film the scenes, which are set to be watched by millions of people and the three half-hour episodes will be screened over three nights on Monday 18, Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 December at 10pm.

When asked about the upcoming specials, Jeremy Dyson felt that the characters immediately came back to the actors during filming and they have managed the high expectations about the revival.

He said: “We definitely wanted to recapture that organic way of doing it and let the characters tell us. One of the advantages of having done that body of work with that number of characters is that it’s a lot of story and we knew them very well. When we were doing it before, we’d mined their lives quite a lot. But now because we’ve been away from them and haven’t thought about them for a long time, when it came to writing them, it was like turning on a tap.

“I think we’ve been good at keeping the expectation at arm’s length, because if you let it in for a second, it would be terribly poisonous. So actually, we’ve just tried to make it as it was originally, which is about trying to make the others laugh. Trying to entertain each other was always the best policy.”

New look: Hadfield was transformed into the eerie setting of Royston Vasey during filming for the cult BBC comedy (Picture by John Parkins)

Steve Pemberton – who plays the energetic yet aggressive restart officer at Royston Vasey’s job centre, Pauline Campbell-Jones – admitted it’s been great to be back.

The actor – who has starred in many shows over the years including Benidorm, Whitechapel and Happy Valley – said: “It’s been brilliant. It’s like time is elastic, and it is really delightful but weird being back here. We’ve got Steve Bendelack back who directed all the original series and we’ve had one or two actors come back. For all of us, it’s just like we’ve never gone away.”

When asked why they decided to revisit Royston Vasey, Steve added: “We felt that we wanted to revisit the place, we wanted to catch up with the characters, we wanted to see how time had treated them and whether anything had changed.”

Mark Gatiss, whose work includes Sherlock and Doctor Who, said it felt “genuinely lovely” to get the chance to make these specials and explained what finally prompted the cast to do it now.

He said: “We just set aside the time to do it – and we knew the 20th anniversary of us winning the Perrier Award and ding our radio series was coming up. We never split up. We just stopped for a break – like Abba! We’ve talked about it for ages and said that we would love to do something.

“It didn’t feel strange shooting here in Hadfield. The first day was in the Town Hall with Bernice and Murray. The first shot was on some stairs, and it felt like we’d just stopped two minutes ago! We were immediately back in the flow of it. Weird but great.

“We didn’t want to feel like a 90’s band getting back together! But the lovely thing actually is that we are doing it because we want to, not because we have to. The thing that finally made a difference was the question: “Oh, I wonder what happened to…?” That’s the logical question which takes care of a lot of it. That immediately gives you somewhere to go.”

Iconic: Station Road is the most recognisable location from The League of Gentlemen (Picture by John Parkins)

Reece Shearsmith – who plays multiple characters in the comedy – said everyone has enjoyed the reunion and admitted it was difficult to know which characters to include and exclude.

He said: “Certain ones [characters] presented themselves that we thought we should bring back and that it would be remiss for the audience’s sake to leave out. Sadly, we couldn’t fit them all in. We had story lines for some and we had to completely extract them because of time pressures.

“It took a long time to get us back together again. But, it’s been joyful and the writing process has been completely easy, organic. It flowed out of us without it being a difficult process. We weren’t thinking, “Well, what would we do if we brought it back?”

When asked what viewers will take away with them when they leave Royston Vasey, Reece commented: “I think we do deliver all you would expect if you were a fan. I think there are a lot of questions answered and lots of new questions posed, and it is quite moving. It is an absolute celebration of that world and those characters.”

The League of Gentlemen’s original radio series, On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen, won a silver Sony award 20 years ago this year. The first series of the ground-breaking TV series won a BAFTA award, a Royal Television Society Award, and the prestigious Rose D’Or in Montreux.

To get fans in the mood even more, the original three series of the hit TV comedy was recently re-run on BBC Four. The series burst onto screens in 1999 after starting out as a series on BBC Radio 4 but came to an end in 2003.