If you notice the cast of BBC2’s political satire The Thick of It looking a little more wide-eyed than usual when they face a Leveson-style inquiry in Saturday’s episode, there’s a reason: they weren’t given any chance to rehearse for their grillings.
This weekend’s special hour-long edition of the comedy sees politicians Nicola Murray and Peter Mannion, along with their spin-doctors Malcolm Tucker and Stuart Pearson, quizzed under oath at the Goolding inquiry, which has been set up to investigate the government’s involvement in the suicide of NHS housing campaigner Douglas Tickell.
But the show’s producer Adam Tandy revealed that, in order to make the inquiry proceedings look as realistic as possible, the cast were given absolutely no preparation before filming.
He said: “We gave our regular cast no rehearsal at all, and simply pushed them on to set with the cameras already running, and then our Clerk swore them in.
“They knew what they ought to say, but equally, they also knew what their characters couldn’t reveal. It must have been hard to face the questioning of our inquiry team, who were under instructions not to give them an easy ride.”
Tandy also said there was absolutely no let-up for Rebecca Front, Peter Capaldi, Roger Allam or Vincent Franklin, even when production stopped to re-shoot scenes.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: “Even when we stopped to do any retakes, there was no idle chatter allowed between the cast members. It was very much us and them.
“We even kept the witnesses away from everyone else before they appeared before the inquiry, just to keep up the pressure.”
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