Extraordinarily cheeky and occasionally cruel caper The Windsors makes a welcome return to Channel 4 tonight – and there are a few new faces in the gilded corridors of pomp and privilege.
Kathryn Drysdale’s breathlessly enthusiastic Meghan Markle has arrived on the scene as Harry’s girlfriend. She’s a bit of a dimwit (like her boyfriend) and is causing such a stir that Harry worries that he may be forced to leave The Firm like another famous Royal undone by an American – or “Edward Vee 1 1 1” as he calls him.
In other treasonous news, Kate has a Gypsy curse put on her by her envious sister Pippa (Morgana Robinson) while Wills (Hugh Skinner) tries his hapless best to be a hands-on Dad – little realising that it takes a bit more than sitting “arind” while Nanny takes care of your children.
We’re also treated to a new Theresa May character (Gillian Bevan) who is imagined as a cold, successfully scheming plotter. But while that portrait, clearly composed many months ago, proves a little unstable in the wake of recent (ahem) events, the comedy remains pretty strong.
At the core of it are two couples – Harry Enfield and Haydn Gwynne’s Charles and Camilla and of course Wills and Kate – Hugh Skinner’s posh and well-meaning Prince and his lovely wife. In Louise Ford’s performance Kate seems quite a mild-mannered head girl type on the surface – but belies a steeliness within.
And Ford is not afraid to let the character play it completely straight to offer shade to all the dazzling outrageousness around her.
“I remember watching an interview with Jenna Fischer who plays Pam in the American Office and the advice she was given when she auditioned was ‘don’t be afraid to be boring’ and I think with my character in The Windsors the advice is probably a bit similar.
“It’s like don’t be afraid to be the one holds everything together, or the measured one, the thoughtful one, and sometimes on set you think ‘ I want to be like Eugenie’ or ‘I want to be Morgana’s character’ [Morgana Robinson plays an outrageous Pippa Middleton] but actually everyone has their place I think.”
And it’s not all sweetness and smiles. In fact in a later episode, when Harry opens a nightclub and allots the jobs, Beatrice and Eugenie are obvious choices to work the door with poor Edward handing out sweets in the loo. But you may be surprised to see Kate proving a rather accomplished DJ banging out monster tunes in some of the best scenes of the new series.
“It does swing from sort-of gentle parody to moments where there’s more edge there,” adds Ford. “It makes it a bit more like punkier and I like that – comedy should be like that because if you don’t there wouldn’t be any comedy left.”
Word from the Royal family is that they the real-life Windsor’s are none to impressed with the show, which they regard as a bit “silly”. Just wait until they catch a later episode when Prince Charles’ identical twin brother is discovered in the attic, giving Harry Enfield two posh buffoons to take off with relish.
But they may be surprised to learn that while this is not a series for the flag-waving Royalists among you, Ford admits that, in a strange way, playing the role has helped her develop a bit more sympathy for the real-life Royals.
“I grew up in a house where we had commemorative plates and I thought they were all a bit naff, and I thought ‘why would you want a Charles and Diana in a carriage on a plate?’.
“But now we’ve just reached the point in time where they can be a bit, they’re allowed to be more normal and they’re allowed to be more vocal about things that matter to them as opposed to just keeping a stiff upper lip. Actually I feel strangely slightly closer to them then before, before the Windsors was made.”
The Windsors series 2 starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday at 10pm