We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Lip Service is a big old tease. In 2010, we waited an extra six months for the show finally to be shown, and now we’ve waited for over a year on the follow up. OVER A YEAR. And even though we all spent the last year emailing BBC3 and replying to every Tweet sent by the cast members with, “Hey babes, when’s Lip Service back LOL? RT?” amazingly it made no difference. Sometimes they didn’t even reply to us.
But — and Sarah would rather we didn’t use this sentence because it’s a cliché, but I’m typing, so f–k it — good things come to those who wait. (Unless you’re waiting at home all day for Amazon to send out your new laptop and when it comes it’s a set of steak knives instead. True story.)
So our wait is over, and finally on Friday 20 April at 9 pm, Lip Service will be lezurrected for our televisual pleasures. And who better to ask all about it than the lady who herself made up Sam, Frankie, Cat and Tess from her very own head? In our exclusive interview, Lip Service creator and writer Harriet Braun talks about the reaction to series one, teases what we can expect from series two, and introduces the new characters.
Photo by Andrew Whitton
AfterEllen.com: How did you feel about the incredible reaction to the first series of the show? Was it what you imagined?
Harriet Braun: I always knew as there are so few lesbian TV dramas, this would come under a lot of scrutiny. To be able to write it, I tried to just get on with doing the best job I could, and not imagine a reaction at all, otherwise I might never have written a word! But when the clock was ticking down to the first episode airing, I started to get “first night” nerves. So obviously I was incredibly happy when a lot of the lesbian audience did enjoy it and that we also appealed to a wider audience too. Some really unlikely people have approached me and told me they’re fans – that always delights me.
AE: The BBC took a long time to announce that there would be a second series. Did that make you nervous or did you always have confidence that it would be recommissioned?
HB: No, I wasn’t really nervous. I just did the best job I could and hoped that would mean we’d get a second series. Once it had aired, and we got good ratings, I just had to hope that would be enough.
AE: Are you happier with this year’s timeslot? Fridays at 9 pm will surely help to build the audience a little bit more?
HB: If the 9 pm time slot means our audience grows, then that would be great.
AE: A lot of series one was about establishing the characters and their relationships. Now that people are familiar with that, was it a little easier to write series 2?
HB: Staring at a blank computer screen at the start of something is always intimidating, so yes, it was nice to have a world and characters in place that I could build on. That said, I’m not sure how much easier writing ever gets, there are always the same challenges, how to make it truthful and exciting and compelling, all while trying to avoid going on Facebook or Twitter. (Writers really shouldn’t be allowed on the net, it’s like a giant, work avoidance playground.) And of course this time around I knew there were fans waiting for it, so I definitely didn’t want to disappoint them.
AE: What can we expect from this series? Does it follow on directly from where we left the story before?
HB: No, it starts a few weeks after the last series ended. Cat’s been on holiday with Sam, who is still in the dark about her affair with Frankie. Frankie’s nervously awaiting Cat’s return. Tess is now going out with Fin and about to start her new job. She’s in a good place, but that’s before she meets her nightmare fellow cast member, Nora. Her and Fin are also at the getting to know each other stage, so Fin’s passion for football, one of Tess’ pet hates, comes as a bit of a surprise.
AE: A few of the cast members have said this series is both funnier, but also darker. Would you agree with that and if so, how is it funnier and darker?
HB: It’s a real emotional roller coaster this time round. The characters face some big, dramatic challenges. That said, I really loved writing the comic aspects of the first series, so wanted to build on that too. Knowing what a great comic actress Fiona Button is, I made sure to give her a lot of funny material where she could really show off her range. And a number of our new cast have done comedy before and really bring it on the funny front. Dr Declan Love, (played by Adam Sinclair) is Lexy’s irreverent gay male friend who is amusingly outrageous in his behaviour. He thinks morality is something you do when other people are watching. Then there’s also Stuart McQuarrie, playing Hugh, Tess’s fellow actor and friend, who has a drinking and dialing problem around his ex. They made me laugh out loud a lot, so I hope people enjoy them.
AE: We were left on a bit of a cliffhanger last year with regards to the Cat-Frankie-Sam storyline. If you were in Cat’s position, who would you choose?
HB: It’s a tough one. Do you stay with your fantastic new love, or go back to your previously toxic but irresistible first love with whom you have unfinished business? I know if it was me I’d be totally torn and simply wouldn’t know what to do, which is, I guess, why I felt so compelled to write the story.
AE: You told us at the end of the last series that we could expect to see much more DS Murray, so does Sam play a more central role this time? We’re also delighted to see the return of Sadie; has she also been brought more directly into the main group?
HB: Yes and yes, I loved Sadie and Sam in series one and wanted to see them do more. I got the impression the fans might want that too! A second series was an excellent opportunity to allow them to evolve and deepen as characters. So I’ve given them some bigger storylines and a real chance to flex their acting muscles. I’m glad I did; they don’t disappoint.
AE: There are quite a few new characters this series. Why did you introduce them and what can we expect from them? Lexy in particular looks like a major new role?
HB: I think it’s important to breathe new life in to a show, throw new characters in to the mix and see how they impact on the regular cast and shake up the dynamics. Lexy is definitely a major new role. She plays Frankie and Tess’ new flatmate. I remember Kelly and Victor, our wonderful casting directors for Series 2, telling us about Anna Skellern, who they thought might be right for Lexy. Then I saw her audition tape, and straight away thought, “Wow, she’s great; this could be her.” In short, Lexy’s a sexy, witty, straight talking, Aussie doctor. What’s not to like?
We’ve also got some other new female cast members, who some viewers may recognise. Tess has her ideal job but things don’t go entirely smoothly due to a fellow actress. The hugely talented Sinead Keenan (Nina in Being Human) plays Nora, Tess’s Machiavellian nemesis. (I hear that in her next show, Sinead’s going to be allowed to play a character with a name that isn’t almost exactly the same as the name of her last character!) Expect lots of underhand behaviour and veiled insults from Nora. It’s a fun part and she’s great in it. There’s also Neve McIntosh who plays the editor of Minus 21 Magazine. Expect a fierce attitude, wrapped in sharp suits and killer heels with a weakness for one our characters. I’ve been a fan of Neve’s for years, so was over the moon when she came on board. I love her performance.
AE: The show was incredibly successful last time around, but there were some dissenters who felt that it wasn’t representative enough of the lesbian community – too femme and too white. What would your response be to that?
HB: I always knew finding the right actors for these roles would be hard and we auditioned hundreds of people. Ultimately we always went with the person who gave the best reading and really inhabited the part. That took precedence over all other considerations, including ethnicity and where they could realistically sit on the butch/femme spectrum.
Ultimately I’d say this is television, not real life – and inevitably on a show with a small number of characters, some members of a community are going to feel under represented. I think the answer isn’t to put the pressure to represent everyone on one show, but to get more lesbian characters on TV in general.
AE: There was also a little bit of criticism for some of the sex scenes – usually involving Frankie – the morgue-asm, shavegate and strap-on-gate. Did you include these scenes to give the show some extra talkability, or because you thought these scenes were important in establishing Frankie’s state of mind – or even both?
HB: I never write sex scenes with the intention of shocking or creating a talking point. At the outset we decided we would show the sex rather than cutting away from it, because you learn a lot about who a character is through the way they have sex. So yes, all the scenes you mentioned were never meant to be representations of tender love-making, they were meant to establish Frankie’s nihilistic frame of mind at that time. The sex scenes in Lip Service come under so much more scrutiny than the countless sex scenes in straight shows. I think because there are so few attempts at authentically representing lesbian sex on screen, some of the lesbian audience want the scenes they do get to be a reflection of their own sex lives. We’re all so different, and have sex in countless different ways, so obviously that isn’t always going to happen.
AE: And … how much sex is there this time around?
HB: Well if people come to the show only looking for titillation, then they’d be better off looking elsewhere. But if they want some good stories, and characters that fall in love and lust and sometimes have sex with each other, then they shouldn’t be disappointed.
AE: Are you working on anything else right now or is there no time?
HB: I’ve been working on some new ideas, and also writing a play.
AE: Have you already started thinking about where the stories will go in series three?
HB: Yes, I’ve given it a little bit of thought, but I’m definitely not giving away any spoilers. People need to watch Series 2 first!
Lip Service returns to BBC 3 on tonight, 20th April at 9 pm. Follow the show on Twitter for updates @lipservice_bbc3. You can also send Harriet kind words on @harrietbraun.
We will once again be your loyal AfterEllen.com Lip Servants, and our recaps will be posted on the site every Monday.