Staged has taken its final bow, wrapping up after three seasons with its most meta outing yet – the trilogy capper has been warmly received by fans and critics, but Staged 3 almost didn't happen.


"Series 2 ended quite neatly and the world was starting to reopen," Simon Evans, who wrote the series alongside Phin Glynn, told "Phin and I always thought we would leave it alone unless a new idea occurred to us."

"There was a lot of discussion about season 3 – much more so than there was about season 1 or 2," says Georgia Tennant, star and producer on Staged. "Throughout the process, there were many times where I think every single one of us went, 'Oh, this isn't gonna happen.' And we were sort of all fine with that.

"The process of figuring out what that story was and how we were going to tell it – and whether we should tell it – took such a long time – we did go round the houses trying to come up with ideas and nothing felt like it clicked. We could have given up, but it felt like there was a story and we just needed to find it.

"Then there was a moment where the idea came and it suddenly felt like, 'Oh, OK, well, now we've got the hook, we've got the premise.'"

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Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg for Staged season 3
Georgia Tennant and Anna Lundberg for Staged 3 BritBox

For those keeping score, the first season of Staged – devised, filmed and released in June 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – saw Michael Sheen and David Tennant play fictionalised versions of themselves, battling their own egos, each other and their bumbling director Simon (played by Evans) as they rehearsed a performance of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author during lockdown via videoconference.

The follow-up – which premiered on 4th January 2021, coincidentally on the eve of a second lockdown across the UK – offered a meta twist, following the "real" Michael and David after the success of Staged, while Staged 3 – which is streaming now on BritBox – follows yet another version of the characters whose attempts to follow up the first two outings with a third chapter end in chaos.

Much of the new season breaks away from the show's traditional look and style, instead taking the form of a mockumentary – the punningly titled BackStaged – that charts efforts to get season 3 back on track.

"Going into this, there was a huge, huge worry in me that [changing the style] would break something quite special about it," admits Evans. "I mean, we've got David and Michael, who are just amazing, and if I'm writing that sort of bickering, it's going to have a flavour of [the previous format]."

Perhaps the biggest challenge for all concerned was keeping track of what was now "real" in the world of Staged, with the show having twice pulled the trick of revealing "reality" to have been a scripted fiction.

Evans recalls: "There were certain moments in rehearsals where David and Michael would go, 'I can't say this, because that disagrees with this.' And we had to say, 'No, that's fine, because you only said that in that reality.'

"I hope that the show identifies and recognises its own chaos a little bit. The characters aren't somehow one step ahead of everybody else. If anything, they're a few steps behind."

The blurring of the line between fiction and reality has had an impact on the Staged team's real lives, too. Georgia Tennant hadn't met Michael Sheen prior to working on Staged and had met Anna Lundberg (Sheen's partner both on- and off-screen) only briefly, but had to play a version of herself who was close friends with both – now, she really is close friends with the couple, having worked together on Staged.

"Now we chat every day – we're constantly in contact with each other and our kids are great friends. Sometimes you have to kind of go, 'Hold on, what's real, and what's not real?' – we really feel like that. So it's been an unusual experience."

Staged 3 culminates with Michael and David back on a video call and attempting to improvise their way out of a live-streamed version of A Christmas Carol. "David actually said it very nicely – when he read the first draft of episode 6, he said, 'It's mad, but it's the only way we could go out'," says Evans.

"Make of it what you will, but it might be my favourite, because it's quintessentially my sense of humour and it's taken three series for me to have the confidence to write something that chaotic. I wanted, in 20 minutes, to do a 'live' chaotic farce and, at the end, move people a little bit. That was the plan."

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Staged season 3
Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Staged 3 BritBox

The series, and apparently the show as a whole, ends with one last meta twist, with Michael suggesting that it's time he and David take a break from their double act and work on solo projects. So ends "Staged" and so ends Staged.

It's a bittersweet sign-off, ending on a long, lingering shot of a melancholy Michael and David, though Evans thinks there's also something "optimistic" about the final scene. "They're not saying they don't like each other, they're not saying they have fallen out or they're hurting, they're just saying that a page needs to be turned here.

"Obviously there's a sadness to that, but I think it's a sort of healthy ending to something. It's always sad to say goodbye to something."

Georgia Tennant echoes those sentiments. "It ends with a sense that it has meant so much to us and it has given us so much and has sort of helped us keep our sanity in a time that has been scary and boring and frustrating and anxiety-filled. So it's more a sort of nod and a thank you to everything it's meant, rather than a sort of sadness, I hope.

"I know people have [felt sad] because they've messaged me, but I hope the sadness is representative of how much love people have felt, and that we have felt, so the sadness isn't bleak, but more celebratory."

Of course, Staged 2 could have been – and very nearly was – the end. So can the team say with confidence that we won't see any more Staged? "As confidently as I have ever said it before," quips Georgia. "Each time has felt like the end – much like the pandemic. And then in exactly the same way stuff can happen and it can change."

"I've very much written a break-up here between two people," says Evans. "I'm sure another idea will occur to me and Phin, and it'd be lovely. David and Michael have always been brilliant when either of us text them or email them and say, 'Is this a thing?' so never say never. But I'm really proud of that final episode and I get worried about diminishing returns...

"So at the moment, having just finished it. I'm very pleased with that as a sort of full stop. But who knows what the versions of us in two years will want to cook up?"

Staged season 3 is available to watch on BritBox now – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


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