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Sarah Parish: Working on W1A was like “going to the electric chair”

Apparently the BBC mockumentary comedy wasn't quite as much fun behind the scenes... logo
Published: Monday, 6th October 2014 at 2:53 pm

You might think working on a spoof documentary about the BBC would be a bundle of laughs – but according to Sarah Parish, the mood on set at Twenty Twelve sequel W1A was more akin to a dentist’s waiting room...


“You’d think that the whole shoot would be hilarious and we’d all be in hysterics the whole time,” the actress told at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

“In actual fact we were all terrified, because there was so much dialogue to learn and it was so specific, that it was almost like going to the electric chair before going to do a scene.”

Her reaction might sound extreme for a bit of line-learning – but apparently the fear came from the sheer logistics of making the series, with hundreds of extras milling around in the BBC offices who would have to reset after every mistake.

“Those big offices, if one person forgets a line, it’s like an orchestra falls apart – so you kind of had to be on your A game the whole time. But it’s great, because when it works it’s just like a beautiful piece of music.”

Parish, who plays hard-nosed TV producer Anna Rampton, added: “You’d get on set and start the scene, and there was a palpable fear in the air, of ‘God please don’t let it be me that f***s up!’ It’s really frightening, but it was still a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.”

Parish also said that making the series, which sees incompetent TV executives fail to make any sort of decisions, was something of an eye-opener in terms of her own time in the industry.

“I’m amazed that TV shows are ever made really, knowing what goes on behind the scenes. As an actor your life is in the hands of these people – it’s frightening to know that your livelihood is depending on a meeting like the meetings in W1A.”

Still, her career is safe for now – it was recently announced that a second series of the hit comedy is being made, though sadly Parish couldn’t give us any tidbits as she doesn’t know them herself yet.

“None of us have seen any scripts yet. We didn’t get them until nearly the last minute last time, so I hope... we’ll probably get them before Christmas.


“I’m going to corner [W1A writer] John Morton at some point. I haven’t seen him yet, and I’m gonna try and get out of him what happens – I’m sure it will be quite hilarious. It usually is!”


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