Onion Talking: Adam Miller on The Windsors

© Adam Miller

The Windsors is currently charming audiences every Wednesday night on Channel 4, 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.

Next up is director Adam Miller, whose previous credits include Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show, Some Girls, Otherworld, Boomers and creating and directing something called Mongrels we definitely didn’t obsess about at the time. We chucked a big load of questions at him about his latest directorial effort, and this is the result…

Hi Adam! Welcome back to TVO. The Windsors is back for a second series, and with two episodes down, can you tell us what’s left to see this series?

An absolute bucket-load. Let’s just say you’re never going to look at Nicola Sturgeon the same way again. Or Camilla Parker-Bowles for that matter, who takes the Special Relationship with Donald Trump to a whole new level.

That’s one of the joys of the show; each one is absolutely jam-packed with treats – Kate tackling “The drug problem that is unique to Scotland”; Justin Trudeau on a pub-crawl with Beatrice and Eugenie; Pippa’s marriage, but who to?! Hugh Skinner showing off his Les Miserables vocals in Poundbury; Harry Enfield playing his own identical twin brother. Joy upon joy.

It looks like the show is an absolute hoot to shoot. Are you able to enjoy the process of filming whilst steering the mad ship?

Yes, a million times yes. Such fantastic people to work with, and on a show I truly love, I couldn’t be luckier. I mean we all have our hair-tearing moments, but I suspect any industry has that. Indeed sometimes our biggest problem is losing take after take to hysterical, tear-filled laughter. Have a look at the Ebola scene from series one – those aren’t tears of devastation on Will’s face.

© Channel 4

The casting for the series is fantastic. How involved were you in choosing your royals?

Hugh, Louise [Ford] and Richard [Goulding] were already on board when I joined, having been so brilliant in a teaser that had already been shot. The rest were part of the usual casting process with the wonderful Nadira Seecoomar, although I see them all now and wonder what on earth took us so long. It seems so obvious. They really are the most extraordinarily talented troupe and such a privilege to work with. It’s a testament to their brilliance and Bert and George’s characterisation, that the appearance of every single artist on set is something I genuinely look forward to.

Morgana Robinson, Katherine Dysdale and Richard Goulding as Pippa, Meghan and Harry. Photo © Channel 4

There’s been some new cast members since the first series, with Vicki Pepperdine joining at Christmas, and now Gillian Bevan, Corey Johnson and Kathryn Drysdale joining the team. How easily did they slot into the team?

Well, it’s a fiddly old show to drop into. Our unwritten (and probably rather obvious) rule is that whatever nonsense these characters are spouting, they have to take it seriously, because they believe it. The four you mention, and some you haven’t seen yet (including Harry Peacock), really ran with that and, as a result, look like they’ve been doing this odd, unique show for years. Hats off!

The series has had a really diverse range of critical and audience response. Has feedback from the first series played into the second?

There’s been so much love for this show, it’s hugely gratifying. But if you start making a show for the critics, and not for yourself, then you’ll probably never make anything good. If not everyone likes it, but some love it, then that’s bloody GREAT. We’re not making it for the ones that don’t like it.

You’re no stranger to controversial comedy, of course, after the delightful Mongrels. Are you drawn to pushing big red conservative buttons?

To be honest, I’m simply drawn to things that make me laugh. And the scripts for this just did, in such a big way. As for controversy, well that’s the job of comedy – if we didn’t live in a society that can ridicule the ridiculous, I fear there’d be a lot more Trumps around. We are an anti-trump. Thank god.

How quickly are you and the writers able to react to real life events? And how much of what ends up on screen was down on the page when you started to map out your shoot?

The scripts are very tight when we go into production – there’s very little in the way of improv, although everyone is welcome to make suggestions and those often make it in. As to staying up-to-date – well that’s a bit of a tight-rope to walk. Although I have noticed on shows before now that real life often synchs when you least expect it. That said we did go back and tweak a couple of bits from episode 1 to shine a clearer light on a Theresa May who, at the start of production, was a VERY different political beast to the one we know today.

Harry Enfield’s Prince Charles meets the inimitable Gillian Bevan as Theresa May. © Channel 4

Is there a particular sequence from this series that stands out for you?

There are so many joyous moments, but if you forced me to pick one, I’d tell you to watch out for Kate’s rather direct approach to tackling the ‘drug problem that’s unique to Scotland’, in episode 5.

At the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve had great acclaim for your work on BBC sitcom Boomers over the last few years, featuring a cast of television icons. Does directing on a show like that differ from The Windsors?

Well, the mechanics are basically the same, but every show I’ve ever done has a different process because of those in front and, most often, behind the camera. The Boomers cast were absolutely brilliant to work with, all legends, and all utterly charming. To work with two such casts in two years has been a great privilege. God that sounds like a wanky speech at an awards ceremony. True though.

© Lewis McInnes

Of course, you’ve been part of another royal family for the last few years now: namely The Velvet Onion! You’ve regularly worked with a number of your fellow regulars, including several of them in this cast. Do you feel part of the comedic family we write about?

It’s funny how small this industry feels at times, especially now I’ve been around a while, but one thing that seems to hold true is that the Onion Family isn’t just populated by the talented, but also by the lovely. Maybe that’s why there’s so much cross-over?

It’s been a tough decade for British comedy, with so few shows getting a deserved second (or third!) series. Is it gratifying to be returning for more with The Windsors?

Hell yes! I really love this show, it makes me LAUGH. And there’s precious little of that about in the world today. So to be told that we could make another, is to be told that I get to laugh again for five months. Gimme.

If there’s a third run, where would you like to take the family next?

America! The road trip and film please. Followed by the Grand Tour of Europe as a sequel.

And beyond the series, what’s next for you?

Lying down in a quiet room. Probably snoring.

Thanks to Adam for answering our questions. Catch The Windsors on Wednesdays at 10pm on Channel 4, and catch-up via All4 now.

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