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Toby's Trio

22 Jul, 2010 By: John Latchem

The cast of BBC's "Being Human"

A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost move into a house together. Sounds like the set-up for a joke, right?

It’s actually the premise of an intense drama called “Being Human,” the latest hit series to cross the shores from Britain. With the first season now available on DVD and Blu-ray, and second season debuting on BBC America July 24, Agent DVD caught up with series creator Toby Whithouse.

Agent DVD: How did you conceive of such a crazy premise?
I was approached to do a series about college graduates buying a house together, which I thought was just the dullest idea I’d ever heard. Then three characters popped into my head: Mitch, a recovering sex addict; Annie, an agoraphobic; and George, who is anal retentive. But we couldn’t think of any stories to tell with them. As sort of a kamikaze move I said that we could change George into a werewolf so if nothing else we’d at least have a story for the first episode. And it just sort of snowballed from there. It made sense for Mitch to be a vampire and Annie to become a ghost. So the show was about these characters who were fully formed. The supernatural archetypes came later.

Agent DVD: Was it hard to maintain a serious focus with a premise like that?
Once we decided what the show would be, I wrote a version that was essentially a sitcom. And it was fine and funny, but it just wasn’t right. So I decided to start again, and I pretended I was writing a low-budget American indie film. I assumed it would never get made so I just did whatever I wanted to do.

Agent DVD: Why wasn’t the pilot included with the DVD?
Pilots aren’t normally transmitted in Britain. That’s more of an American thing. I wrote what became the pilot script thinking they’d commission a six-part series. Instead BBC 3 said the only way it would be made was as one of six pilots they were doing. Before those pilots were transmitted, they decided to go with another show. But we got such an extraordinary response, like a vampire we came back from the dead. But when we went to do the series, the options on the actors had run out.

Since BBC is publicly funded, we felt we couldn’t re-film the pilot with a different cast, since the public would be paying for the same thing twice. So we did the first episode where the pilot left off, and we had a montage to remind people who had seen the pilot what had happened, and to introduce the show to new viewers. It’s not the most ideal way of starting a series.

But the pilot did give us a chance to fix how we did vampires on the show. In the pilot it was very Anne Rice with a lot of lace, and we decided that was not a direction we wanted to go.

Since the pilot had a different cast, we left it off. But maybe if there’s a season three we can include it.

Agent DVD: Do you think the current vampire craze helps or hurt the show?
I don’t mind our show being compared because it has been compared favorably. We actually had the idea for the show before the resurgence of vampires. I’ve never seen an episode of “Buffy.” I know admitting that kind of sacrifices my geek credentials. But I’m told that tonally our show is similar to “Buffy,” and I just think, “Good.”

Agent DVD: After doing this show, what was it like to write a vampire story for “Doctor Who,” “Vampires in Venice”?
I did resist the notion for a few hours. But I liked the notion of the red herring. That they seem to be vampires but they are really just fish from space. “Doctor Who” is a very special show. I’s nice to just write the script and turn it over to someone else, rather than having to serve as the showrunner.

Agent DVD: Staying with “Doctor Who,” that do you think of Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor?
He’s been an absolute triumph. He was given the most difficult job, and that’s to take over for a beloved Doctor. But he’s made the roll his own.

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