Witless, the new ITV Choice comedy series that premiered on the DStv channel 123 this week tells the story of flatmates Rhona (Kerry Howard) and Leanne (Zoe Boyle) whose lives are turned upside down after they witness a shocking gangland shooting.
Forced into witness protection, the girls quickly discover that assuming a new identity isn’t that simple. While Leanne jumps at the chance to create an extravagant alter-ego, Rhona is paralysed with fear, telling even the simplest lie.
With two teenage gang members determined to track them down, the girls find themselves getting deeper and deeper into trouble.
TheLuvvie.com spoke to the stars of the series – Kerry Howard (Him & Her) and Zoe Boyle (Sons Of Anarchy, Downton Abbey).
What is Witless about?
Kerry Howard: Rhona and Leanne live together but Rhona wants to move out. The night she tells Leanne she’s bought a flat and they’re no longer going to live together they witness a gangland murder. Something goes wrong and they have to go into witness protection.
Zoe Boyle: It’s a really good context – to get two people that weren’t meant to be together…
KH: The odd couple!
ZB: Yes… to make them bound together. Stuck and reliant upon each other. It makes for good comedy because it’s naturally funny seeing two opposites trying to exist together, but it is also something that the audience can invest in. There’s a dynamic between them.
K: Yes, but they’re not being bitchy to each other even though there’s times they don’t like each other – there’s a camaraderie between Leanne and Rhona.
Why has Rhona stuck with Leanne for so long (two years and eight months)?
ZB: We discussed this and we decided she was saving up to buy her own flat – it was a means to an end – she got cheap rent with Leanne. Rhona is a planner and therefore was able to put up with it for as long as she had to. So it was a nice starting point but it’s the shooting and witness protection situation that actually means that Rhona appreciates Leanne in a way that she probably never did before. She still drives her crazy – there’s no question about that…
Is it hard to make a comedy scary?
KH: It is! I’m used to doing big comedy characters so it was refreshing to have a part written for me that showcased not only my comedy bones but flexed my drama muscles at the same time. Having this element of danger and real fear and real drama was brilliant. It was a brilliant opportunity for me, to honour the script and make sure that the audience are scared. Because if we threw in too many gags we would belittle the story and then there’s a risk that the viewers don’t care about the characters.
ZB: And actually fear is really hard to act. You can’t really dig deep into an emotional memory – like sadness, when your grandfather died for instance – it all has to come from an imaginative experience. Planting yourself in that situation and playing it as truthfully as you can, and that can be really hard.
How do Leanne and Rhona cope in their new surroundings with their new identities?
KH: I think Leanne is great on first impressions… but then she overstays her welcome! Which is probably why she’s lost lots of friends and clung on to Rhona. I think she finds it hard to hold onto people. That’s why Rhona is so special.
ZB: Rhona is totally out of her depth.
KH: And that’s when she seeks Leanne, that’s when they become close.
ZB: Although Leanne does totally throw her off the bus later in the series when she’s trying to help her fit in! The fact that Rhona is constantly pushed outside of her comfort zone, it makes it funny, but I hope that it’s also engaging. When you see a character develop and have to think on their feet, it draws you in a little bit. That what’s really nice to play with.
If you had to go into witness protection what do you think you would miss most?
KH: Personal freedom. As we were filming it we did some research into what happened to people who really do have to go into witness protection – they lose all their freedom and they’re living in fear. It must be just awful. To not be able to communicate with people who you love and tell them what’s going on – that must be horrible.
ZB: And I’d miss my clothes!
KH: Yes! When you go on holiday and you pack everything then you get there and open your suitcase and you’re like ‘WHY DID I LEAVE THAT JACKET BEHIND?’
But there is a silver lining – you get to be someone else in witness protection. If you could choose your own witness protection identity, who and what would you be?
ZB: I’d probably want to be called something like Pixie or Suki or Scarlett and I’d probably want to be a pilot. A Suki who’s a pilot – who knows if that would ever happen – but it would make sense, because she travels a lot she could get away with a lot. ‘I don’t remember if I was here or there, I travel a lot!’ It would make the lying so much easier.
KH: I’d probably be Alexis Skye, a holistic healer so I could just bullshit constantly. Ooh! I could have dreadlocks and tattoos.