Suranne Jones is in a tricky position. Not only does the actor star in Sally Wainwright’s ITV police procedural drama Scott & Bailey, she also takes the lead in Charlie Brooker’s gag-filled cop comedy A Touch of Cloth – which, Jones admits, parodies shows just like Scott & Bailey.
Speaking at a BFI screening for series three of Sky1’s A Touch of Cloth last night, Jones said that the writers watch various crime dramas in order to collect material – a source, apparently, of some mild ribbing on set.
“I remember one day I was off at a rehearsal and when I came back they said, ‘we have just been watching Scott & Bailey to take the p**s out of it!”
Director Jim O’Hanlon then cheekily chipped in: “We got loads of material!”
A Touch of Cloth centres around tortured, alcoholic detective Jack Cloth (John Hannah) and his partner, Jones’s Ann Oldman (pronounced ‘An old man’). Written by Brooker and Daniel Maier, it’s delivered in the dead-pan style of Leslie Nielsen’s ’80s film Airplane!, barraging the viewer with sight gags, plays on words and deconstruction of crime drama cliches. Series three, which sees Cloth trying to solve the murder of his brother, also features ex-Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan as a rookie called – what else? – Kerry Newblood.
Speaking of how she handles both parody and serious takes on detective shows, Jones also said “You get your scripts [for Scott & Bailey] and you try to make the procedural stuff sound interesting. Then you come back to [A Touch of Cloth] and just go ‘great, I’ll say it’ and have fun with it. So, I class Scott & Bailey as serious day job and this as my naughty evenings.”
Director Jim O’Hanlon said the key to making Cloth funny was to play the comedy totally straight.
“I think the most important thing about it was that the actors should feel there was nothing funny about it. When we researched the Airplane! films and so on, they got more and more ‘winking to the camera,’ more and more ‘isn’t this really funny?’”
“We were determined through the three series to play it straight… I kept saying that you got to feel like you’re in a Bafta-winning detective drama, that if Shakespeare were alive today this is what the f**k he would be writing! This is human life and all its grizzly messiness and don’t you f**king forget it!”
A Touch of Cloth series three begins on Sky1 on 9th August 9th