Q&A: Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper talk This Country Season 3
Ivan Radford | On 17, Feb 2020Reading time: 7 mins
“I think we’re all pretty much like the characters,” says Charlie Cooper of This Country. BBC Three’s hit mockumentary sitcom, which returns for its third and final season tonight (read our review here), has always succeeded because of the way its rooted in such convincing, believable characters. It follows cousins Kerry (Daisy May Cooper) and Lee ‘Kurtan’ Mucklowe (Charlie Cooper) as they try to find their way out of, or just get through, the uneventful life of their claustrophobic Cotswold village.
Written by its sibling stars, they play their close-to-home parts with a deadpan realism, from their own bickering bond to Kerry’s troubled relationship with her failure of a father. Season 3, though, is rooted in reality in a more painful way than usual: it begins as Kerry and Kurtan try to come to terms with the death of their friend, Slugs. Played by Michael Sleggs in previous seasons, Sleggs tragically passed away shortly before filming began on Season 3, prompting them to pay tribute the only way they could: by writing his passing into the show.
“Michael was a close friend of ours and he was sort of ill right before we started filming,” reveals Daisy, and we thought he might get better, he might get another wind, so that was written last-minute.”
“He always wanted to be included whether he was there or not,” adds Charlie. “Michael had the best sense of humour.”
True to form, Michael never stopped being a joker, leaving behind deathbed requests that Daisy describes as “mental”.
“One of them was he wanted his body in his coffin to be in the first episode!” she recalls. “We said ‘How much morphine has he had?!'”
“It was such a difficult episode to write…”
“It was such a difficult episode to write, because how Kerry and Kurtan about Slugs is so different to how Daisy and Charlie feel about him,” she continues, “but we wanted to make it as funny as we could because he was so funny.”
“We try to keep everything rooted in truth as much as possible,” chips in producer Simon Mayhew-Archer. “It felt very false to say ‘Oh, Slugs has gone on holiday or moved away.’ It’s one thing you learn in writing is that the thing that feels the hardest is usually the right thing to do. It’s testament to these guys’ writing that you know it has to be tackled but you never dream you get something as beautiful and funny and yet in keeping with the person he was.”
One of Slugs’ requests was also to have Reverend Francis Seaton (played by Paul Chahidi) to conduct her funeral, but Paul turned down the idea immediately, prompting Simon to make up some BBC protocol as to why it couldn’t happen.
“We really felt Michael’s absence when filming this season,” reflects Charlie.
The result, however, is an episode that’s more downbeat than many This Country outings, yet still manages to be one of the show’s funniest chapters yet. It’s also sad, then, to hear that this season is the show’s last.
“We’re ready for something new,” says Daisy, before quipping: “And we’ve run out of ideas.”
Simon says that they reached the decision while making Season 2.
“We’ve sort of known that we wanted to do a special then this season,” he explains. “The fact the whole point of this show is that nothing happens in this village… yeah, it feels like we want to go out as high as possible.”
There has been progress over the seasons, though.
“A lot of the first season was about Kurtan and him looking to the horizon,” observes Simon. “The second was about Kerry and her dad and the broken family relationships. In a lot of ways, this is about the vicar and his story that comes to fore and runs through the season.”
“All that faffing – quite a bit of me is in there!”
Paul says that he’s had some “very lovely feedback form a couple of vicars” over the years after playing the Rev Francis.
“One is Kate Bottley who presents on Radio 2 and the other is Richard Coles, who presents on Radio 4. So that was a relief, you know.”
But Francis, like the other characters, is still rooted in real life.
“All that faffing, quite a bit of me is in there!” reveals Paul. “He’s a lovely character. I think you see the best of the church in him.”
He takes centre-stage in Episode 2 of the new season, as Kerry and Kurtan go on a driving lesson with him, while they simultaneously try to track down missing local resident Len. The result is This Country’s answer to a bottle episode, based almost entirely in one location.
“We always like those sort of episodes, like Oven Space in the first season, those rules and constraints bring out the best writing,” says Simon, “but they’re a nightmare to do. You need to find enough plot and enough narrative to keep it going, but also just have characters talking to each other.”
Charlie reveals that they wrote a similar episode in Season 1, but it never made it to air.
“We wrote an episode for the first season about Kerry and Kurtan befriending a pig on the farm,” he recalls. “And the pig caused this trail of havoc they tried to follow – and we realised when we finished it that it was rubbish.”
The duo aren’t their harshest critics, though, with Kerry revealing that one resident of their village “really hates the show”.
“She drives a big Land Rover and parks it right in front of the camera,” chuckles Kerry. “Our location manager says: ‘I’m so sorry, we’re about to film. Could you just move to that parking space that’s literally 2cm away?’ And she was like: ‘No! I hate the show!'”
Others, however, gamely join in the series in bit parts to fill out the background ensemble. Episode 1 sees Kerry get a job at the recycling centre – “It was brilliant. I learnt more about recycling than I ever have…” – where she ends working alongside Griff.
“We found him when casting Season 2,” says Simon. “We tried to use for all those extra characters just local actors really. And we remembered him from the second season.”
“It was a lesson we’d learnt with Slugs,” adds the show’s director Tom George. “Which was that the part was only so much on the page and when you combine it with the person, that’s when it comes alive. So we’d written this character loosely based on Griff, but were trying to cast someone else in the part.”
“We’re ready for something new. And we’ve run out of ideas.”
Indeed, it’s impossible to imagine Kerry and Kurtan being played by anybody else, with Charlie even once working in a sausage factory, which forms the basis of one throwaway gag early on in the new season.
The pair certainly can’t imagine doing anything separately for their next project.
“We couldn’t work not together,” admits Daisy. “Because I’m too lazy, I wouldn’t work. I lie on my bed vaping and he says ‘You’ve really got to work.'”
“We work up till lunch, then we have lunch, then you f*ck off home,” adds Charlie.
That approach even dictated the way they got the show picked up in the first place.
“We wrote a few scenes, then I very lazily just looked at all the production companies on Google, copied and pasted it and then just forwarded it to all of them,” laughs Kerry.
Three BAFTA awards later, would they ever return to This Country?
“We did think when I’m older, I could play Kerry’s mum,” muses Kerry. “But it is… done, isn’t it? I mean, never say never…”
“If enough people buy a film ticket stub, we might make a film!” offers Charlie.
“We’ll be back when we need more cash,” decides Daisy. “We just need to get our agents to bump it up a bit.”
This Country Season 3 is now on BBC iPlayer, with episodes arriving weekly at 7pm and airing on BBC One at 10.35pm. Season 1 and 2 are available on BBC iPlayer.