We’re two episodes in to Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s new comedy series, Life’s Too Short, and while the show’s earned some praise from critics, it’s also drawn a lot of fire for appearing discriminatory or controversial. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, according to one of its most recognisable faces - Rosamund Hanson, who plays Warwick Davis’s dippy secretary, Cheryl, in the series:
“I don’t believe that at all. I think that’s complete nonsense because Warwick was involved in the whole creative process. I mean, [Life’s Too Short] was Warwick’s idea in the first place. How on earth can they say that someone who’s created a piece of work themselves can be being ridiculed by it?
"It’s not there to be a controversy creator; it’s there as a piece of entertainment,” says the 22-year-old actress.
And entertainment is what we’re getting in spades, especially from Hanson’s performance as Cheryl, who’s a gloriously funny mix of spaced-out facial expressions and not-quite-there patter.
In fact, some critics are calling her the best thing about the series, the Metro even going so far as to claim that Hanson is “fast emerging as the star” of the show.
They've got a point. Don’t believe me? Watch this interaction between Cheryl and Warwick from last week’s episode:
She was only briefly in Life’s Too Short’s first episode but she’s a proper fixture of the series from here on out, bringing a refreshing dose of reality to proceedings - Cheryl being one of the few grounded characters in a world largely populated by head-in-the-clouds celebs and wannabes.
“She’s not very bright - she's a bit silly,” says Hanson of Cheryl. "I think she’s very innocent and very sweet.”
But the character's real appeal is her believability. Everyone knows someone a bit like Cheryl - even Hanson herself who, being careful not to name names, reveals: “I based her on people that I vaguely know.
“I can’t quite pinpoint it exactly, but she’s based on a few people. I like to play around with strange people’s personalities.”
Hanson, who got her big break playing Smell in Shane Meadows’ 2006 film This Is England after studying at Nottingham’s Television Workshop, apparently had a whale of a time shooting Life’s Too Short, describing filming as “fun and games” and saying: “I was trying hard not to laugh most days and I was sort of doing this thing in my trailer where I was getting really worked up about not laughing. It was hard to keep a straight face.”
The experience of working alongside Ricky Gervais’s seemingly endless supply of big-name actors willing to appear in his TV shows was another joy for the young actress:
“That was my favourite thing. It was so wonderful to do some improv with Cat Deeley, and I met one of my all-time heroes: Helena Bonham Carter. I was blown away when I saw her – she’s got an amazing presence. I was so excited that day!”
As well as getting to know Ricky, Stephen and Warwick on the set (“they’re really nice, they’re lovely”), the novel format of Life’s Too Short presented a host of new acting experiences for Hanson:
“It’s so unique in the way in which it’s shot, because it’s a fake documentary. So I’m in the fourth wall but outside the fourth wall in the same instance. It was an amazing, mind-boggling experience and I absolutely loved it.
“Ricky kept saying ‘you should look down the camera’, which I’d never had to do before, and it was all very surreal.”
And now, as a result of Hanson's Life’s Too Short exposure, we can expect to see a lot more of her on our screens in the future: “I’ve really liked all the comments about the series – it’s very overwhelming. I’ve got This Is England ’88 coming out on Channel 4 in December and there’s a few other things…watch this space.
“I’m just sort of going with it really and hoping that people enjoy the rest of the series, because everyone’s worked really hard.
“Oh, and Stephen Merchant’s favourite ice cream flavour’s banana. Just thought I’d add that,” she says with a giggle, momentarily showing a flash of Cheryl before saying cheerio...
Life's Too Short is on BBC2 tonight at 9:30pm.