Take a look at Nick Frost’s acting CV from the last two decades and you’ll find it truly is a smorgasbord of eccentric characters – from a gun-obsessed member of the territorial army (Spaced) and a video game-playing slacker (Shawn of the Dead), to an oblivious police officer (Hot Fuzz) and an aspiring salsa dancer (Cuban Fury). However, he’s somehow never played a serial killer until now.
“Oh my God, he’s awful,” Frost says of his latest role. “He’s a very different character for me. There are a couple of characters in films that I like that perhaps you shouldn’t like but there’s something about them that you’re just drawn to – and I thought I could probably do that job with Bertram.”
Bertram Fillcot is the seemingly friendly 1940s vet at the centre of Why Women Kill’s second season, the newest dark comedy-drama to arrive on Alibi in the UK. Created by Desperate Housewives’ Marc Cherry, the anthology series follows Alma Fillcot (Allison Tolman), Bertram’s dissatisfied wife whose big ambition of joining the incredibly exclusive local gardening club is all-consuming. Feeling over-looked and ignored by society, Alma decides she’s willing to go to extreme lengths to claim membership of the club. When she learns in the first episode that her bumbling husband is less James Herriot and more Patrick Bateman, she decides to put his deadly hobby to the test.
“He’s so lovable and oafish and affable, he’s a family man, he loves his kids and he loves Alma to pieces but he has a terrible secret that is he kills people,” Frost tells me over the phone from his home in Twickenham. “I was hoping that if I do my job right, then the audience will kind of feel compelled to like him even though they absolutely should not.”
While the first series, which aired in 2019, starred Ginnifer Goodwin, Lucy Liu and Kirby Howell-Baptiste in a story set across three different time periods, the second season focuses on completely new characters living in 1940s American suburbia and works as a standalone story – an element which appealed to homebody Frost. “I’ve been offered lots of work in the States in the past, but traditionally, to sing up to do a show in the States, you sign up to do like seven series by seven years or something like that.
“It’s fun, but I’m from [the UK]. My family are here. We live here. I like going to the States to hang out and do press and screenings and the odd little month here or there when I’m doing a film but I don’t want to live there. So when I got this opportunity, they said well it’s only one season and you won’t be coming back and if they do the third season, it will be with another set of actors.
“We had a big conversation with my family and everyone said, ‘It’s a great opportunity.’ The character was great and I was a massive fan of Allison Tolman and I knew what Mark Cherry was about,” he adds. “I just felt grateful that a lot of people were not working but I got the opportunity to do something which I loved that was amazing.”
Like most TV shows scheduled for release this year, Why Women Kill was filmed during the pandemic and faced a few production pauses due to potential COVID exposure. “I think I was responsible for shutting down shooting at one point because I was in close proximity with someone who then texted me to say, ‘You should know I’m positive’, so I then had to tell production and we shut down for four days. I felt awful,” Frost says.
Filming took place in California at the start of the year and with coronavirus a big risk, there were a number of new safety rules introduced on set. “There are some rules that you think, ‘Why? Why are we doing this? I don’t get it.’ Like, I can’t sing on set. My character sung a song a couple of times but I was not allowed to sing on set yet we could do a kissing scene which is weird to me.
“But I think everyone – considering I looked at humanity before we did this show, before COVID, and I was like, ‘We’re kind of stuck in our ways as humans,’ – I think with COVID, we reacted really quickly to it. We adapted really well, really quickly and that was [with] filming too.
“I know there’s a global pandemic but people still need new TV shows. That’s all we’ve got for Christ’s sake,” he jokes. “That’s all we’ve got left!”
On that note, a sitcom that many, including myself, binge-watched over lockdown was Spaced – the cult Channel 4 sitcom which gave Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost their first taste of fame. Has Frost, who played Pegg’s on-screen best friend Mike on the show, watched any of the episodes back? “Listen, I don’t know anyone I went to school with, I’ve never looked for that, I just keep going forward. I don’t really watch anything I do.
“If sometimes me and my wife are out or on holiday and we come back to our room and Paul is on or Hot Fuzz is halfway through, then we’ll watch it, but I don’t go and seek it out because like lots of actors, I see what I did wrong. I get that it’s great and people love it but I look at it and just think, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t have done that.’ Plus, [Spaced] was the first thing I ever did. Spaced and I will always have that.”
An episode of Spaced, in which Tim (Pegg) hallucinates that he’s fighting off a zombie invasion whilst under the influence of amphetamine, would go onto become the inspiration for Shaun of the Dead – the first film in Frost, Pegg and Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. The hugely successful 2004 zom-com was soon followed by buddy cop comedy Hot Fuzz in 2007 and then sci-fi flick The World’s End in 2013 – however the trio have not worked together since then. Are there plans for a reunion anytime soon?
“Well, Simon and I have a production company [Stolen Picture] so we speak every day really, we text each other a lot and we Zoom. Edgar and I, Edgar’s been away shooting lots of things so yeah I mean, we always talk about it. There’s definitely stuff we’re gonna do but in terms of when the three of us are all free, it is really difficult.
“Maybe it’ll be nice to put some time aside and to get something going. When it happens, it’ll happen.”
He adds that the three friends’ frequent collaborations have allowed them to see how their relationships and characters have changed onscreen in parallel with themselves in real life. “I always remember that famous documentary called Seven Up [an ITV docuseries which followed the same subjects from the age of seven up to 63]. We’ve kind of got the opportunity to do that cinematically in terms of creating slightly older characters each time that we play, and it’s kind of interesting for me to see how they evolved. Because first I was Ed and then in World’s End, I was a bloody lawyer for Christ’s sake.
“It’ll be horrible in like 20 or 30 years if one of us dies and then we just do a film that’s just me and not Simon. It’ll be really sad. And there’s an empty chair and we just keep looking at it and we do that for 90 minutes,” he laughs.
One of Stolen Pictures’ more recent projects was Truth Seekers – Pegg and Frost’s Amazon Prime Video comedy-horror that was cancelled earlier this year after one season. When I ask whether Frost is hoping it might be saved à la Brooklyn Nine-Nine and NBC, he says: “No, it’s done.”
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“I think it’s really doubtful that another streamer would ever pick up something else that another guy has discarded. I think amongst the people who liked it, they really liked it but I just think for things to get [a second series], you have to smash it.
“I think a streamer like Amazon, it’s not like traditional TV where it says, ‘Ok, well you had a million viewers and then after the adverts 500,000 came back and then for episode two–.’ The algorithms involved are just so f**king complicated. Amazon also judge everything by how many new subscribers come in and stuff like that, it’s not just about how many people watch it.
“I loved making it, I loved the character but maybe it’s just how it should be, right? There’ll be other versions of that, for real. I’m always somewhere near aliens or the occult, it’s one of my loves.”
As for what’s next for Frost, he’s expecting a baby “literally at any moment” and about to start filming the second half of The Nevers, which made its HBO/Sky Atlantic debut in April – however, he can’t give much away about what fans can expect. “I don’t know anything, it’s so complicated. It’s amazing – those guys are so clever.”