Lily Brazier introduces new comedy Wannabe and reveals why tragic and deluded characters are so “freeing” to play
The People Just Do Nothing actress co-writes and stars in a new BBC3 show about Maxine, a former girl band member trying to claw back her 15 minutes of fame
Lily Brazier is better known to many as Miche – the dippy wife of MC Grindah in BBC3’s pirate radio mockumentary People Just Do Nothing.
The actress once (both modestly and inaccurately) described Miche as a “filler” on the show and said she assumed that people go to the loo when her scenes are on. In fact, Miche is one of the series' best creations and now Brazier is playing the lead in her new comedy Wannabe, which she also co-writes.
Wannabe follows Maxine, a mum who used to be in a noughties girl band called Variety. “They never really got anywhere,” Brazier says. “They had like one single that maybe got into the top 30 and they were on the edge of big things, promised fame, but then it never really happened.” Wannabe looks at life after that tiny taste of fame and success.
Maxine – who now "manages" a band called Sweet Gyal – is a magnificent creation, and shares the same kind of blind confidence and social ineptitude as Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge and This Country's Kerry.
We caught up with Brazier to find out a little more about her new series and how Maxine came to life...
Where did the idea for Wannabe come from?
I write it with my friend Ben Murray who also directs it. I've always been interested in the idea of life after fame. If you're really in the public eye then what do you do after that? When you can't make money from whatever it is that you've done?
We both love The Big Reunion on ITV, it's amazing. Oh my god, it's so good. It's loads of 2000s, late 90s pop bands like 5ive getting back together and Eternal, people like that, and there are always rifts in the band.
Maxine sees her kids as a huge inconvenience – is that something you can relate to?
I don't have kids, I don't have a single maternal bone in my body – so I think a bit of that probably comes from that lack of interest in having kids. I don't hate kids, don't get me wrong, I just find it confusing how everyone has this sort of feeling. I've just never had the urge.
She is particularly mean to them, though. I wouldn't be that mean to a child.
The kids are called Enrique and Phoenix, how did you come up with those names?
Mel B has a daughter called Phoenix and also Spike from 911 has a son called it too, so Phoenix seemed to be a good name for that era. And I chose Enrique because it's like Enrique Iglesias.
When people think they're creative they try and do things that they think are totally different. I can imagine Maxine thinking they're the most creative, inventive children's names of all time. Like really classy.
Which actors and writers do you aspire to?
I really love Julia Davis, I think she's amazing. I loved Camping and Nighty Night. I love Steve Coogan. I love Alan Partridge a lot. They’re horrific characters with terrible taste but you just love them to bits. Characters that are so unpleasant but you still have some affection for them because they're so tragic and so deluded.
They’re characters we see a bit of ourselves in – except they lack the social filter that most people have.
Yeah, exactly. If I say or do something weird, I will beat myself up about it for weeks, you know, you cringe. You remember a conversation you had when you said something terrible. Maxine has never done that in her life, she's never relived a conversation and panicked. She's actually quite freeing to play because you can say whatever the hell you want.
How do you come up with ideas when you’re writing?
When I meet people in real life, or if I watch a documentary, I'll always write down in my notes, ‘Oh, that's a funny line,’ or, ‘That's a funny dynamic.’
I love sitting on buses and listening to everyone's conversations, pretending to listen to music with my headphones in, but actually I'm not listening to anything like a weirdo. If they could see there's nothing on there! They’d be like, ‘Who's this weirdo leaning into our conversation?’
I'm just really nosy, I find other people really fascinating.
How has filming this series been different to People Just Do Nothing? Have you been missing the boys on set?
It’s a different thing, because it's amazing to work with actors that you know from other shows like Nick [Nicholas Burns, who was in Uncle] and Jim [Howick, of Peep Show fame]. It's amazing to be with people that you worship. Being with them was quite surreal.
Plus Wannabe is more of a straight sitcom than a mockumentary which is different too, there's not as much messing around. It's a bit more disciplined and you have to get the actual script shot.
Not looking at the camera, that's quite different. When I do a close up and the camera is over the other person's shoulder I can feel my eye wanting to look at it the whole time, and I get in a complete panic.
Maxine and PJDN's Chabuddy G are both deluded music managers – how would you compare her to his character?
They're probably making a similar amount of money for what they're doing but Chabuddy's more of a wheeler dealer, he likes to do illegal things. Whereas Maxine would never break the law, she's way too uptight for anything like that. She loves a rule.
If Maxine thought she was compared to Chabuddy she would hate that. She thinks she's an expert in her field.
Wannabe is available as a boxset on BBC3 from Thursday 29th March at 10am