Interview with Martha Howe-Douglas who plays Lady Button in Ghosts
21st September 8.30pm, BBC One
6 episodes. All episodes available on iPlayer
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Returning to play the role of Lady Button in Ghosts, Martha Howe-Douglas admits it is Lady B’s bluntness that she revels in...
"I love that she doesn’t care, it is really liberating to play someone like that because obviously you can’t be that way in real life, you have to filter what you say for fear of hurting people or offending anyone but she really doesn’t care. Lady B is totally in charge of that house, it is hers and she doesn’t have a filter which is why she is so much fun to play. Comedically she is also great to write because she couldn’t be further from who I am. She is pretty extreme and I like that; I can really go to town with her character.
"When we started thinking about characters initially, we were going to play lots of roles as that was our background with Horrible Histories, but we realised the audience actually quite likes to get attached to characters, and having one main character each allowed us to explore one in depth rather than spread ourselves too thinly with the stories. When it came to the selection of who we were each going to play, Lady Button was always going to be the one I went for because in the project we did before, Yonderland, I played the protagonist who was a quite a straight housewife. So Lady Button was the furthest thing from that and it gave me a chance to really stretch my comedy legs again."
Martha discusses Lady Button’s futile quest to enforce Edwardian values upon her housemates, viewing herself as the ghosts’ moral guardian...
"She is still on the campaign to educate Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) in her moral standings but their relationship is growing, they are getting on more in series two. She does feel like Alison has still got quite a bit of work to do but she also has to educate the rest of them. She thinks Robin (Larry Rickard), the caveman an absolute heathen. They all do things she doesn’t agree with. She is a bit of an island in that sense, she doesn’t feel like any of them are on her level. There is a little allegiance growing between her and The Captain (Ben Willbond) because out of all of the ghosts he is the one with the most etiquette in her eyes but otherwise she finds everyone pretty abhorrent. I can’t ever see Lady B being completely satisfied by anybody other than herself."
Revealing that it was very much a make or break project for her, Martha remembers the shock felt by all as a result of the public’s incredible response to Ghosts series one...
"We were all a little bit nervous coming to prime time BBC One as that audience is a completely different ball game and I certainly felt it was make or break for our group. If it didn’t go to plan then it would be quite the public fail but thankfully it did. We were completely overwhelmed by the reception. We have a fan base we have taken through all of our projects but to get an audience on this level and for new people who have discovered us to be so positive in their response has really been amazing. And to get the next two series commissioned… we were beyond thrilled. The success of Ghosts was something we couldn’t have imagined. We are so thrilled that people took it to their hearts."
Working as part of an ensemble, creative group, has also been somewhat of a dream job, Martha explains...
"I would work with this group for the rest of my life if I could. It is like coming home, we are a family and they drive me crazy sometimes but they are amazing. We have worked together for such a long time that there is a shorthand between us all that means we skip a lot of the stuff you’d have to do with a new writing relationship, we are all on the same page and it is a very collaborative process when we write. Everyone feels like they’ve had a voice in every script. It’s helpful having that amount of brains working on one thing so if you ever get stuck there is always someone who can help you out. I write with Larry and I am lucky because he is a genius. But even if someone’s name is attached to a script, everyone has had a hand in it, which is lovely.
"We don’t take anything for granted, we know we are so lucky to be in the position that we are, that people still want us to work together because it is what we want. You can’t rest on your laurels. When we did the first series and then we were recomissioned for two more it was never a case of ‘oh great, this is in the bag, no worries’ it is never that, we are constantly striving to do the best we can because we want this to continue and the only way to do that is to make it good."
But sometimes the comedy can get even the stars into trouble…
"We do laugh a lot… probably too much. Towards the end of the day when you’re tired it is the worst because we get the giggles. It’s like being at school and knowing you are not allowed to laugh which obviously makes it even funnier. They all just make me laugh constantly, that is why the writing flows so well because we have the same sense of humour and we find the same things funny. But it can be very hard not to corpse. Jim (Howick) and Mat (Baynton) are definitely the worst for making people corpse. We struggle on but sometimes I’m sure the crew would just wish we’d get on with it. The most fun I have in my working life is with them all, so long may it continue."
Source BBC iPlayer
September 21, 2020 5:10am ET by BBC iPlayer