Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins on returning to our screens to play hapless hitmen in Sky1’s new comedy…
Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (aka Mel & Sue) have never argued in their 31-year friendship, so it comes as no surprise to hear that the hardest part of playing hitmen for their new Sky1 comedy, wasn’t flexing their acting muscles or firing 9mm pistols, but having to act out an on-screen argument!
Their six-part comedy Hitmen follows two best friends, Jamie (Mel) and Fran (Sue), who work for a mysterious big shot, known only as Mr K, and drive around in a beaten up yellow van dispatching people on his orders.
In the first episode the pair have a victim (played by Jason Watkins) bound and hooded in the back of their van, while they coolly celebrate Fran’s birthday with McFlurries and a hired stripper!
Here, Mel, 51, and Sue, 50, tell us more about Hitmen and why it’s such a departure from when they presented The Great British Bake Off…
Hitmen sounds totally different to anything you’ve ever done before…
Mel: “Totally and that’s why we said yes, actually! But I’m not going to lie, on the first day we were so nervous – we were with proper actors!”
Sue: “I didn’t sleep for the first week because there was quite a lot on our shoulders. I was properly panicked about it actually! It felt a bit real and what actors have to do and I’m not an actor – it was a real learning curve.”
Tell us about Fran and Jamie?
Sue: “They’re best mates who have known each other since they were kids. They still act like toddlers, who occasionally stick their head out of a van to shoot somebody in the head – and basically something always manages to go wrong! It’s taking a world of high drama and high stakes and rooting it in something quite silly, which is a friendship that just hasn’t really developed.”
Mel: “Fran’s the professional face of the outfit really, while Jamie’s just there because she wants to hang out with Fran. They’re both beholden to this awful man, Mr K. He’s the dark force who sends them out on these missions to take people out and our target is usually someone who’s double crossed him. They’re dealing with some fairly murky characters!”
Are there a lot of you two in Fran and Jamie?
Sue: “Well, I take my glasses off – that’s my characterisation! But yes, I think there was an adjustment period. At first the characters were just Mel and Sue but that’s been beaten out of them!”
Mel: “I’m also playing a 35-year-old, so the 51-year-old me had to be beaten out, too! We also had to be quite disciplined because I think our natural impulse is to ad lib. We had to respect the script.”
You fire a few guns. Did you have any training?
Sue: “The training was ongoing really, but I’ve got quite adept at my gun now. The trick is not to blink because it’s just really noisy and really scary and the recall is quite intense. But yeah I can load an H&K 9mm pistol from nothing now and I don’t say that with any degree of pride – let’s make it clear we’re not that into guns! This is about bad people getting their comeuppance quickly with no gore and in between there’s a lot of slush and romance and silliness.”
Mel: “We’ve gone all Tom Selleck! But there’s no reveling in the killing and it’s not gory. We don’t want it to be about that. I suppose the humour of Hitmen comes from the fact that it’s kind of a mundane job for them.”
Sue: “It’s as if they’re working on the checkout. They do check people out but in a different way!”
What was the most challenging aspect of filming Hitmen?
Sue: “Sometimes Fran and Jamie’s friendship goes through testing times and there’s a lot of conflict. One time we got a bit upset because we had this on screen row and both of us were in absolute tatters. We’ve never had a row in real life, so it was awful. We’re always in each other’s orbit and I can’t imagine us arguing. It would just seem really odd now at this stage of our lives even finding something to row about – it would be catastrophic to our ecosystem!”
Mel: “I think the only time there was a bit of chippiness was years ago when Perks was dressed as Adam Ant and I was someone from T’Pau! But speaking personally – and I’m getting slightly emotional now – our friendship is so precious and so valuable that it would be devastating if anything went wrong. It’s unthinkable!”
* Hitmen begins on Sky1, on Wednesday 25 March, at 10pm. All episodes will be available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV at 10pm that day too.