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Mackenzie Crook on the future of Worzel Gummidge | Big RT Interview

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Mackenzie Crook’s adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s Worzel Gummidge stories may only have premiered in 2019, but somehow these tales of an inappropriate scarecrow and his human friends feel like a festive tradition, with two new adventures airing this year on the 28th and December 29 on BBC One.

“I wanted it to be a TV event — like a day off that you watch over and over,” Kroc told RadioTimes.com. “If these rings become some sort of staple, that would be great. Because I think the BBC is a place where things like this can happen. Things become embedded in our consciousness and do not drift away and we never see them again.”

Christmas, a time of year when group viewing—and especially watching TV with the family—is at its height, always comes naturally to a Crook show. “I wanted this to be an old-fashioned TV, and I wanted people to sit and watch together, not on a device with earphones. That took a bit of convincing, so that was a thing anymore. There was a little bit of back and forth wrestling about the schedule, and where it was going to be put, because I wanted to broadcast it at a time when people were watching it live, while it was broadcast — and I think that’s how a lot of people watched it.”

In addition to playing Worzel, BAFTA Award winner Crook has also written and directed all six episodes of the series, including the last two: Twitchers, which sees Worzel’s plan to frighten a group of birdwatchers, and Calliope Jane, a charming picnic group set against the backdrop of an old-fashioned amusement park. (And she features a guest appearance from Bill Bailey.)

For these three episodes [a Bonfire Night special, Guy Forks, aired in November]I didn’t use any stories straight from the books, I just drew inspiration from the world that Barbara Evan Todd created, characters, place names, that kind of thing,” Kroc explains. “But these stories came from my imagination.”

Drawing these stories is a process for Crook, as a secondary task often keeps his mind occupied while he also writes Worzel’s new scripts. “IIt takes an hour or two before I even type a word, sort of just getting into the zone, whatever that is. In the first series I was drawing, I made sketches of all the different Scarecrow characters, kind of going into writing day like this. I usually have some kind of other project at the same time. I do short periods of writing and then replace it with something else.”

One of the props featured in the Twitchers episode – a handwritten guide to the birds belonging to Worzel – was actually produced by Crook himself as one of these side projects. “I made this while writing this series and swap between the two. You’ve written the entire book – only a few pages are actually seen when you flip it over, but it was important to have that jamb, and to know what he was thinking about writing his book.

“How would Worzel think? What would it be so exciting for him? It led me to understand him in a deeper way.”

Worzel Gummidge: Twitchers


BBC / Leopard Films / Chris Harris

The end result is always something magical – back in 2019, RadioTimes.com They praised Worzel Gummidge’s first film pair as “funny, exciting, exhilarating, charming, [and] feel good”, while last year’s Saucy Nancy was similarly hailed as “a charming hour of drama” and the latest Guy Forks as “really great TV.” Like the title character, Worzel Gummidge is a charming freak—with heaps of heart and plenty of optimism, no There is something else on TV just like it.

Kroc says writing and playing the character is “a kind of therapy” for him. “I don’t know if you are an optimist. I know there are a lot of things in the world that end for me. With Worzel, I have to force myself not to be cynical because the whole idea is to bring some good into the world…

“I have to watch the sarcasm, and be a bit sarcastic. But I don’t want it to be just saccharine and candy all the way, so I try to put some irreverent parts into it.”

Key to the show’s countryside ethos is its environmental inclination, with its exhortation to respect and support the wildlife coming straight from Crook and is often voiced by the show’s youngest characters, Worzel’s friends, Susan (India Brown) and John (Terry Wiakins). “This is the case in the real world. Adults are catching up and younger generations have lived with these questions about the environment their whole lives. So they know that and we’re still convinced by some of it, it seems.”

With Worzel, Crook defied the old admonition to “never work with children or animals” — although he admits that his fellow human beings are much easier to work with than alongside some of his co-stars.

Worzel Gummidge: Twitchers


BBC / Leopard Films / Chris Harris

“They are overtones,” he says of Brown and Wickens. “IIn the original books, Susan and John were middle class kids who come to stay with their bad relationships in the country… and that just isn’t true anymore. So I wanted them to be foster children coming from the city, which means there are no restrictions on who we can test.

“I wanted to get Susan first because she had more streaks – we saw a lot of girls and India just stood out from the rest. She was so natural, and so easy to smile, if you know what I mean. Lots of others came in thinking I wanted the kind From the spoiled teenager, where India just came in with cheerful smiles, and it was her.Then I wanted someone conceivable to be her biological brother – I thought it was important that they were siblings – Then we went and found Thierry and it was easy to smile.

“India has done quite a bit of work beforehand, but Thierry, I think that was his first job. I’ve really watched him grow – he was great at first but his comic timing, he’s honed that in the last couple of years. He’s a funny guy.”

Worzel Gummidge: Calliope Jane

Worzel Gummidge (Mackenzie Crook) and Aunt Sally (Vicki Pepperdine) at Calliope Jane
BBC / Leopard Films / Chris Harris

Kroc is also full of praise for the crows featured in Worzel Gummidge (“All birds are incredible – you usually get them in one shot”) but adds that “foxes are more difficult.”

“I should have learned my lesson, because I had a problem with a fox on the Detectorists and I put one on this, at the fairgrounds [Calliope Jane] And it took a long time for not many fox shots to be captured.”

Detectorists, the award-winning BBC Four comedy about two metal detector enthusiasts, was written and directed by Kroc and ran for three series between 2014 and 2017. That series marked his debut as a director, and while he insists he’s “still learning” ‘,” he said, was “definitely more confident” on top of Worzel Gummidge.

“I relied heavily on Senior Assistant Director and Director of Photography on Detectorists and now I feel more confident. But when I think back in Detectorists, it feels like the days of Halcon – the sun was always shining and I didn’t have to get up at three in the morning to put rubber on my face.”

Although his love for playing the character shines through, the process it takes to become Worzel on screen has clearly influenced Crook. “It got really hard, because I was doing it before Worzel [Sky series] Britannia and I directed a few episodes of that last year as well, and in that I’m into full prosthetics too. So in the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot of time in silicon.

“The days I wasn’t using my Worzel Gummidge prosthetics — I think there were 12 days in my nine-week shoot — those days were awesome. They were luxuries.”

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There are also other obstacles, sad to say, that may prevent him—and us—from returning to Scatterbrook again any time around Christmas 2021.”I have a busy year next year – I’m in the West End from April onwards and don’t know when I’ll get a chance to do anything next year. A year later, will Thierry and India be too old to play those roles, and should I switch them? There are a lot of questions to be answered.”

If this is really the end of a short but very sweet streak for Crook’s Worzel, he says he is “really happy” with the six films that have been shown. “I think it’s a really nice set of work,” he says, before adding. “But I wouldn’t rule out making more. Because I love to play with him. I really.”

Worzel Gummidge: Twitchers airs on Tuesday, December 28 at 7.15pm on BBC One, with Calliope Jane after on Wednesday, December 29 at the same time.

Visit our Drama Center for more news, interviews and features, or find something to watch tonight with our TV guide. Visit the Big RT Interview Center for more conversations with the biggest stars in TV and movies.

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