This week sees the return of The Windsors to our screens, as the soap-style sitcom about the royal family is back for a second series. With a number of TVO regulars in front of and behind the camera, we thought it was high time we spoke to some of them about the show.
First up, is the delightful Katy Wix, who plays Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson. Here are her thoughts on coming back for more multi-millionaire hijinx…
Hi Katy, at long last, welcome to TVO! We’ve been covering your work since 2010 – and shamefully we haven’t caught up with you for a project before now! Do you feel part of the comedic family we write about?
I forgive you. Yes, I think I do, thank you. You have very good taste: I like all the people you like. If I ever don’t feel part of the family, I’ll let you know.
Of course, in that OTHER royal family you’re not a part of, you get to play Sarah Ferguson, who is quite a distinctive personality to begin with. How do you go about heightening her character in line with everyone else?
The storylines that Fergie has been given are already pretty heightened so a lot of the work is done for me. Because it’s slightly melodramatic in style, I think it’s just a question of really stressing the emotional crisis that she is always finding herself in. It’s campy but also with pathos, hopefully. I always thought there was something very vulnerable about their version of Fergie – she just wants to be loved and accepted.
Fergie is pretty much the royal they’d like to forget in the show. What fresh hell does the poor bugger have to go through this series?
Poor Sarah. She tries to hide in a box at one point to sneak into an event, which is very relatable. She’s still trying to flog her juicer and still in love with Andrew.
You spend a lot of your time with relative newcommer Celeste Dring, and fellow TVOer Ellie White, as Fergie’s daughters Eugene and Beatrice. What’s it like working with a new generation of comic talent so closely?
It’s great. We only get closer, it’s lovely. They’re not jaded (yet) and full of ideas and energy, but it’s also interesting to see what they subvert and take inspiration from in their live stuff. I hope I work with both of them again soon. They’re both a lot more sorted than I was in my late twenties.
How much of what ends up on screen is on the page? Do you get much chance to ad-lib or refine scenes together on set?
There is always time pressure with television so usually you’re just concentrating on getting the scene right once, let alone add anything new. But certainly now we’re a bit more confident with the characters, I think we’ve been quietly throwing ideas in.
Is there a particular sequence from this series that stands out for you?
Andrew and Fergie have some great scenes this time round and I really enjoy the scenes where it’s Fergie and her girls – I think we’ve found lots of interesting layers in their family dynamic.
The show’s pulled together a genuinely impressive cast all round, some of whom you’d worked with on previous projects like Fried and Together.Was there anyone in particular you were very excited to work with?
Well, I’ve worked with Ellie a lot and that’s always a treat. We made a little short film together a while back but then her lap top broke and we lost all the footage. I’ve a great admiration for everyone in the cast – I think they play their parts so brilliantly and it’s a genuinely lovely and harmonious atmosphere on set.
Director Adam Miller is no stranger to us, either, thanks to his previous work on Mongrels and Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show. Does having a comedy director experienced in heightened parody help the process?
His notes are really excellent and useful which doesn’t always happen with comedy directors. Often, you have a set idea of how you were going to make it funny as you’re learning it and then it’s a pleasant surprise when a note changes the scene in a way that hadn’t occurred to you, but still feels funny. Usually the notes are about driving home a plot point or moment. The first time we watched it back and realised how pacy it was, you start to think about how much plot there is to deliver in the most economic way as possible whilst still making it amusing.
It’s been a tough decade for British comedy, with so few shows getting a deserved second series – including your own sketch show with Anna Crilly, and the joyous silliness of Fried. It must be gratifying to be returning for more with The Windsors?
Sketch shows don’t seem to be as popular with commissioners at the moment and I’m sure it will change again. But to be able to do these big sketchy characters is an absolute joy, and with such talented people.
The show divided critics and audiences last year, and not just those predisposed to praising the royal family, but we feel there’s an incredible charm to the ride if you go along with the madness. Has audience response played into the second series at all?
Really? I don’t tend to read reviews – I wasn’t aware that it was such a divisive show! I wouldn’t have thought that public opinion had a direct effect on the creative process but I’m sure that the writers probably had a sense of which characters were well received and popular when they came to writing more this time.
If there’s a third run, where would you like to take Fergie?
I really hope there is. Perhaps she deserves some love that is requited now? It would be fun if she went on a chat show as a storyline or became a buddhist.
And beyond the series, what’s next for you?
Well, I’ve just finished a six month run in the west end so I’m tired. Filming Ellie White’s short film for Sky last week was tremendous fun. Beyond that, you know bobs and bits. I’m always starting things and never finishing them, don’t know why. I’m pitching an idea for a book I want to write, so we’ll see who bites…