Spaced Out:
» home/news
» on your phone
» about Spaced
» » the future
» » convention 01
» » convention '02
» » buy spaced
» » s2 dvd
» » cast
» » » biogs
» » » ada/colin
» » » interviews
» » other projects
» » international
» » in the states
» » the music
» » s2 music
» » awards
» » what is Spaced?
» episode guides
» » series one
» » series two
» » » extras' diary
» » » ep guide
» frequently asked questions
» multimedia
» in the press
» screensavers
» links
» forum/chat
» about
» Search Spaced Out:
Spaced Out is run off donations. Click here to keep us going.
About Spaced: Interviews: s2 presspack
The Music

(this interview first appeared in the Spaced Series 2 Presspack, and is free for reproduction).

Interviewing SIMON PEGG and JESSICA STEVENSON, writers and stars of Channel 4's hit sitcom SPACED, is like watching a game of tennis. Your head flits from side to side as the volleys of wit and wisdom bounce from one to the other.

This banter is obviously entirely natural and is the reason behind their successful comedy partnership. You simply couldn't create such a working bond between two people. "I don't have to say much to Jess," says Simon, affectionately, "we operate quite organically." "We're quite similar in lots of ways," Jessica cuts in, "although we do have points where we don't agree but there's no general pattern."

So independent as they may be, they seem to work best firing off each other. But like all good double-acts, what is it that each of them is missing that the other one has? Simon points to Jessica and laughs, "a sense of humour," he says playfully. "It's true," Jessica admits, "I do lack a sense of humour, I'm very serious. But I've got the boobs, he's got the brain," she chuckles. "Tits and arse," Simon retorts, "I'm the arse."

But, although she can be serious, Jessica has an ability to draw you in to her world with her humour. "The first thing that drew me to Jess was that she made me laugh," says Simon, "and I just thought oh my God, run a mile. Humour is manipulating reality and a sign of intelligence," Simon says. "Men are traditionally slightly scared of intelligent women because they'll find out that men are stupid and it's like, oh my God, she's gonna know! People forget how perceptions have changed so much from the time when women were legally non-existent," Jessica says. "Oh happy days!" quips Simon.

So, during the first series of Spaced, was it difficult both writing and performing? Jessica barely pauses to catch her breath: "I remember feeling that I didn't have time to get into character. As an actor, when you get a script and you haven't written it you're able to spend a couple of weeks looking at it and thinking about it - how you're going to play the scenes, what you're going to do. With Spaced there's no such luxury, you're just writing and writing and writing and then you immediately become a performer. Making that distinction between writer and performer is key to be able to do it successfully.

"It's great writing for yourself," Simon manages to cut in, "because you have total control over what happens and that is great. But working for people like Steve Coogan is great too, because I like the way he thinks and its not a problem ever. It is weird, though, to go from being totally in control to not. I did something else for a week after Spaced and all I had to think about was my character; not whether we'd get the shots in that day, what the budget was, what the characters were thinking and it was great. I sat back and had a lovely day."

So are they control freaks then? "No," adds Simon, "But it is nice to be able to change things - some of the best jokes for the second series came up on the day." "But with Spaced," insists Jessica, "most days I just go for it, I wouldn't think about it at all, in the way I would with another job. But you end up having to shut your mouth sometimes when doing other things," Simon continues, "but it's not your place to say it you just shut your mouth." "That's so boring" Jessica laughs. "I probably would open my mouth and then get sacked."

So, how would Simon and Jessica describe Spaced? Is it a sitcom? "It's a sitcom not made in the style of a sitcom," Simon says. "It doesn't have a studio audience, doesn't have real time or even real moments", Jessica confirms, "We flash in and out of the future and the past."

British or American comedy. Which do the two prefer? And what's the difference? "I think it's aspiration versus inspiration," Jessica analyses, "American culture and humour is aspirational in terms of who the people are - they're all very affluent. British humour doesn't rely on that, it's more inspirational." Simon doesn't necessarily agree: "Essentially, their most sophisticated and our most sophisticated is very much the same in terms of sense of humour. The Simpsons is the classic example, it has a fantastic sense of irony and self-criticism."

One subtle but important element of the series is the constant intertextuality, or references to other texts. "It makes things more entertaining, visually rich," says Simon. "The characters live in a culturally rich world, the very fabric of their reality is made up of the things they watch or do and we wanted to have the idea that their life is so informed by games and films so their lives come to reflect this." It's their way of glamorising their lives," adds Jessica, "a way of dealing with their domesticity." "But", adds Simon, "with the many references, we never say 'oh look we're doing this film now, this is Cuckoo's Nest or this is The Matrix, you have to spot that yourself. I love the experience of being allowed into something without being told how to get in there, so if you see a reference to something I feel so much more fulfilled as a viewer as I feel I've participated in something."

Would they describe it as challenging? "I like 'challenging'", muses Jessica. "We absolutely do set out to challenge our audience. We don't want to spoon feed everybody, we except people to keep up so it becomes much more fulfilling and works on different levels, both comedy and story, and you can follow the arch of the journey of the characters. Of course, the bottom line is to make people laugh but we wanted to create something as we wanted to feel challenged ourselves."

The story is obviously based in London. Is it a critique or a celebration of London life in particular? "I'd like to think of it as a celebration really," says Jessica. "I suppose it is quite London-centric," Simon admits, "but it's also about every single person in that situation, it's essentially the same as anywhere where people live in shared houses." Once again, Jessica doesn't entirely agree: "It's specific in the sense that they move to the big city and are like fish out of water which is why they find each other. They have no natural family around them so by placing them in London you alienate them more." "The show is not about London," Simon insists, "but we had to ground it specifically in a place for the sake of realism. It makes the fantasy more effective." As the conversation becomes increasingly serious, and neither can absolutely agree with the other, it's evident that they both want to lighten the mood a little. Jessica suddenly breaks in with the remark: "It's a subtle world really," prompting Simon to put on a silly voice and retort with: "It's a weird little fantasy world." They seem to know exactly how each one of them is feeling at any one time.

There must have been some differences between writing the first and the second series? "In the first series the characters were finding who they were," says Jessica, "but it was good in the second series because we could go straight into the storyline so it's much more action packed, more plot driven which is something we consciously decided to do." "If you look at the first series," Simon continues "once you're at home with the characters, the plots start to become more important. So by the end the stories become more like adventures and you can take the characters off into different situations. When we were editing the first series we had to say 'no, Mike wouldn't do that' or something but the second series was more fun because right away we knew who Brian was or who Twist was."

But, once again, things were getting a little too serious. "I've got a coup for you," says Simon, changing the mood with his cheeky tone, "You know the dog, Colin, in the show? He's actually a girl called Aida." So, there you have it, two quirky flat-mates pretending to be couple, living together in a flat in London with some equally bizarre friends and a gender-swapping dog - called Colin. It's a great recipe for a superbly written, hilarious sitcom.

As far as I know, Copyright for this does not belong to anyone. Though don't hold me to that.



Copyright © Nick Lee 1999-2002.
Spaced is © Channel 4 Television.