Mat Baynton on his character Thomas Thorne in Ghosts
21st September 8.30pm, BBC One
6 episodes. All episodes available on iPlayer
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For Mat Baynton returning to the role of romantic poet Thomas in BBC One’s Ghosts for series two was even more rewarding than filming the first series...
"There is always a confidence you can go into a second series with. You spend a lot of time with the first series anxious about whether it will all come together and even when you are satisfied that you think it’s really great, you have no idea whether the audience will. So when you come into that second series you can enjoy it a little more. There is an excitement when you know the fans have taken the characters to their heart. With our show there is a real pleasure in the bits of character backstories that get revealed, secrets and mysteries that are deepened. So that felt really fun, doing flash back stories and thinking ‘I wonder what the audience will make of this’ and hopefully they will find it exciting."
Having been a part of the innovative creative team behind Ghosts for many years now, Mat shares an insight into their creative process....
"We benefit from all of the advantages of having writing teams in the way that America has a culture of the writing room, the benefit of that is you harvest six times as many ideas every time you get together and we build on each other’s ideas and everyone would agree that the scripts that they produce have been enhanced by the rest of the team. It is a process that developed organically when we started to do Yonderland and it just works really well for us. But it is also crucial to have other people come on board who understand and buy into that process and like the idea of being part of a team where the work stands above everything else, above individual pride or ego.
"So there is a real understanding that no idea is above scrutiny and everything can constantly be interrogated and improved and that runs all the way through to the day we are shooting a scene. We want to know what the actors think and whether they think there is a funnier way of saying something or if the lines could be tweaked. Having us there makes that process possible and we can adapt every day. So the thing is kind of never finished, there is always the feeling of how can we make this better."
Mat admits making comedy the whole family can watch together is important to him....
"One of the huge perks of the job, certainly in the writing process, is that so much of our working life is spent getting together with people we think are really funny and laughing together. So our approach is to just make something funny that doesn’t contain any content that excludes any demographic. So we don’t really have a target audience in mind, we are just trying to make something amusing. We have often talked about how all of us come from families where sitcoms were a defining glue in our family lives. We all have different references for it but we all remember growing up and watching comedy with our parents and so nothing makes us happier than hearing that is what is happening with our work."
Mat discusses the conception of his role, the Byronic, romantic ghost Thomas and what’s in store for him this series....
"We always thought there should be some sort of poetic figure in amongst the ghosts. The very first idea was basically a peeping Tom and there is one little element of that which we kept in the first episode but it felt much more multi-faceted and naïve to make Thomas more about a romantic idea that he is deeply in love with the lady of the house, than just fancying someone and peeping. It may have been funny for a moment and then just quite creepy.
"All of the ghosts reflect some sort of side of us, perhaps with the exception of Julian (Simon Farnaby). Thomas is a side of me that is in love with a certain kind of melancholy romantic idea of the artist. I always wanted to be a singer songwriter and I have that side of me for sure, so it was probably obvious that I would play him.
"There is a kind of sitcom rule that we adhere to that if the characters change then you have damaged the structure of the thing. So we do bring them close to some kind of break through or personal growth but the idea is that they kind of end up the same anyway. Thomas has quite a big reckoning with his past this series and discovers something about his past and himself that could potentially make him learn, grow and change but doesn’t. Part of the fun of writing the show is deciding on who we are going to explore more deeply in each series and making sure we keep holding back certain mysteries. There are ones we feel quite strongly about holding on to for as long as possible. But we wanted to show the audience at last where Thomas’s bullet wound came from."
Mat couldn’t believe his luck when they stumbled upon West Horsley Place the incredible old manor house in which the series is filmed....
"We were keen to have ghosts going back to certain eras and having a headless Tudor was one of the ghostly tropes we wanted to make sure we ticked off and so when it came to looking for a location we needed somewhere you could believe had stood as far back as Tudor times. A place that wore its changes and its history on its sleeve. We were saying that ideally it would be a building that was there in Tudor times but that has had a new façade at some point in its history so you could see that combination of Victorian and Georgian etc. Not only was West Horsley literally that but before the first time we were going to see it, we found out this whole story about the people who inherited it and it was so close to the story we were telling that it just felt like fate.
"It is an amazing place to go and film. The people who look after the house are so welcoming and enthusiastic about the show. We are so lucky. We then discovered things about the history of the house that are useful into our stories. For example Henry VIII once dined there and that made its way into a line of dialogue where Humphrey (Larry) casually mentions the time he came over for lunch. There are lovely little nuggets of truth that we can chuck in."
Source BBC iPlayer
September 21, 2020 6:40am ET by BBC iPlayer