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7 Questions with… Hitmen’s Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins: ‘We did all of our own stunts. I almost got my leg bitten by a very angry dog!’
Mel and Sue are perhaps best known for presenting The Great British Bake Off, but they’ve teamed up for new comedy Hitmen - coming soon to Sky One with NOW TV.
All episodes of Hitmen will be available on Sky One with NOW TV from Wednesday, March 25
You’re probably used to seeing them in the Bake Off tent.
But former GBBO presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, AKA Mel and Sue, have swapped soggy bottoms for their first ever joint sitcom in the new TV comedy, Hitmen.
Coming soon to Sky One with NOW TV, Hitmen follows misfits Fran and Jamie who've accidentally stumbled into a career in contract killing.
In short - they're not your usual hitmen.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the series, Mel and Sue answer seven killer questions about Hitmen - from whether they do their own stunts to how their 30-year friendship influenced the show...
1. What appealed to you both about Hitmen?
Mel: The script appealed. The stories, the characters. We just read it and thought, “This has made us laugh just reading it off the page”. And that’s quite rare, isn’t it?
Sue: However mad and crazy and stunty and shooty it gets, it’s predicated on friendship. That’s what drives the narrative. It’s also what drove us to want to do it because we’ve been able to slip our time-worn shtick into a sitcom. I think that’s a quote! Because Mel and I have been friends for 30 years, it feels like an easy sideways transition into these characters. Because they have known each other since they were kids.
2. Does a lot of it draw on your innate chemistry?
Mel: Yes. I have to say that the writers have been extremely generous. They’ve come to an established relationship and friendship, and we’ve been allowed to tinker and busk and add things in. So hopefully there will be a real flavour of a proper friendship because that’s really what this is about. There’s a lot of us chatting in our rusty old van, which is like our office, our haven and our HQ.
Sue: It feels very natural. Some lines we improvise, some lines we slightly change and some lines remain the same. We’ve been associate-scripting for a year, off and on. Certainly, we had a big hand in the back stories, and there are lots of lines that we might have contributed to, but the stories, which are so strong, are all from the writers, Joe and Joe. I don’t want to take anything away from them, they are brilliant. The precinct is just so well drawn, that you can then just add on bits.
3. How did your characters Fran and Jamie get into the assassination game?
Sue: Well, it’s never expressly stated in the script, but we did a lot of work with the writers on the script and we had a notional back story that we were cleaners. We were cleaning in a very big, smart office block. A heavy [a Russian gangster] had come on to me in a none too savoury fashion, and after a tussle, Mel had saved the day and killed him. But the heavy was connected to a gangland boss who gave us a choice: either he just killed us or, as he quite liked her style, we could go and work for him. So we are in bonded labour really, with no way out.
4. Do you do a lot of your own stunts in the show?
Mel: Yes. The most terrifying was quite a long wrestle which involved kicking a gun out of somebody’s hand. Yup, that, and wrestling on a forest floor. Quite a few biting ants. I find getting up off the floor increasingly hard these days. Oh my God, it’s embarrassing. It takes about five minutes. Also, I almost got my leg bitten by a very angry dog. And I had to fight somebody on the top of a caravan. We had wires and everything. That was really good fun.
Sue: We have also been hung from a tree. It’s an amazing rig because you’re hung really by a harness which is steel wired. They cut that out when they do post production. There’s a very loose sort of choke chain around your neck which takes the pressure off your neck, and you just have your tip toes on the floor. I really enjoyed it. The idea was that I had to be really livid with a baddie because he was hanging me, and I was genuinely furious because I felt, “I can’t breathe. I’m really annoyed with you!”
5. How do you make a comedy about two hitmen?
Mel: We didn’t want to revel in the violence. We didn’t want it to be overly gory or sick or cartoony.
Sue: We talked long and hard about the violence. It has to fit between those two worlds. As Mel said, if we were terribly incompetent assassins, you would see tussles and struggles and you would start to empathise with the targets. Then the death itself would be uncomfortable and not funny. So we had quite a hard line on the fact that all of the people we kill are mob-related. They are people who deserve it.
Mel: They’re quite murky characters.
Sue: They sell drugs to kids, for instance. It’s fair to say they are morally very questionable, so you don’t actually miss them when they’re gone, although they are really funny.
6. Are Fran and Jamie efficient killers?
Sue: I’m much more clinical at killing, and Mel [who plays Jamie] is a little grubbier. I dispatch quite a few. Mel does quite a lot of stunts, though. She’s a grabber. She’s a bit more thuggy actually.
Mel: Yes, we are proficient at the job. I don’t think we’re rubbish – “Oh, I can’t load the gun”. We can do all that stuff. I suppose the humour comes from the fact that we’re doing this rather grim job, but our friendship is bumbling alongside that.
Sue: So we could kill somebody whilst having an argument about something that happened at school. There’s that contrast. And even when we’re doing it, we are still arguing. It’s like, “What are you doing that for?” “Well, what are you doing that for?” Then 'bong' – we kill someone.
7. Will your legions of dedicated fans be surprised to see you playing two hitmen?
Sue: I hope that they will see that at its core there is the same momentum as with all our stuff, which is that it’s borne out of love and affection and a central friendship. I hope as we’ve done that, they will really get into the story and the action. It’s a rollicking 24 minutes, it really is. It’s full on. It’s been such an exceptional job, this. Everyone is an absolute class act on set. Oh my God, it’s been one of the great joys of my working life to do this, it really has.
Watch the Hitmen trailer
All episodes of Hitmen will be available on Sky One with NOW TV from Wednesday, March 25.
Watch Hitmen with the NOW TV Entertainment Pass.