Still fondly remembered from her role as lovelorn Dawn Tinsley in Ricky Gervais’ groundbreaking BBC TV comedy The Office and to genre fans as Dylan Moran’s girlfriend Dianne in the classic Shaun of the Dead, actress Lucy Davis now lives and works largely in Los Angeles. She appears regularly on episodic American television shows with credits on high profile series such as The Mentalist, Reaper, Californication and Ugly Betty to her name. In her latest feature film, Some Guy Who Kills People, she plays fish-out-of-water British ex-pat Stephanie who drifts into a sweet relationship with Kevin Corrigan’s geeky, disturbed Ken. Here she tells Starburst about the film and her career in general…
Starburst: Some Guy seems like a difficult film to categorise. Is it a horror film, a thriller, a black comedy and what appealed to you about the film?
Lucy Davis: I’d say it’s a horror film really. It’s not like a ‘whodunnit’ because that sort of describes Miss Marple or something. What I love about the film - and what I love in any film or TV - is that it’s about not exactly eccentric characters but misfits, people who don’t automatically fill a slot or a box that we might like to put everyone in. We often don’t know what to do with some people or how to relate to them and I really like how in Some Guy a bunch of these people get their own story and we see what happens to them and we see them come good in the end - but not in a slushy kind of way!
How would you describe Stephanie, your character in the film?
I would describe her as someone pretty normal but also as someone probably looking for something a bit different. She comes along and meets Ken (Kevin Corrigan) and is slightly intrigued by him because at their first meeting he’s wearing a giant ice cream cone costume! I wasn’t the most supportive member of cast he could have had on set that day; I just saw his sweet, forlorn-looking face in the middle of this ice cream thing and I just thought he looked so sad and humiliated! Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘no-one can make you feel inferior unless you give them permission’ and what I love about that with Kevin in the ice cream costume was that you could easily say ‘this is ridiculous’ and laugh at it but because of all the torment he’s gone through which he’s still struggling with he’s still trying to have a life and be like normal people and I think that’s what Stephanie finds charming.
What was the casting process for the movie?
I was sent the script and I went and auditioned for it. I really liked the script and that when it was funny it was funny and when it was dark it was dark. I love how (writer) Ryan Levin writes, he’s subtle and he’s under the radar and I like the fact that it’s like watching a different kind of movie, not something mainstream. That’s the joy I always get from those kinds of scripts and I like to seek out projects like this if I’m lucky enough to have the choice.
The… excuse me… ‘arc’ of your character sees you spending most of your time with Kevin Corrigan’s character Ken. What was he like to work with and did you have much interaction with the rest of the cast?
Kevin’s really lovely. He’s quite quiet, he’s a real gentleman and we just had a lot of laughs. The first scene we did was this scene where we went on a sort of date, dinner at a restaurant. We enjoyed it because it’s only when you start to ‘act it out’ that you can see if it’s going to go anywhere so we had my character who was starting to talk more and more because he wasn’t talking and she’s blithering on just to get through the date. The whole cast did a table read at the start so I got to meet everyone and although I haven’t got any scenes with Barry Bostwick (Sheriff Fuller) there were times when he had been there in the day and he was just finishing and I was just starting. He’s a lovely man, another real gentleman and he makes you laugh far too much.
How did you get on with the director, Jack Perez?
He was very respectful to all of us, wanting our ideas and our input but at the same time we didn’t feel all at sea with him because he has a real vision for the film and he worked closely with Ryan Levin so it was a proper collaboration but I definitely felt very safe in his hands. He’s a lovely man; we share a huge interest in animal rights and we’d be talking about it for hours!
Your character Stephanie is a bit of a ‘blank slate’ in that we don’t get to learn much about her history. Were you given any back story for her or did you invent one yourself?
When I auditioned originally I think they’d written the role for an American person so I think they might have made a little adjustment in the dialogue about her coming from England, otherwise it wasn’t really referred to much. There wasn’t really a long back story, it was just enough really that she’d come to this small town and was probably looking for something a little more and a little different which is when she came across Ken and she got it. Be careful what you wish for!
Were all your scenes filmed at the same time or were you back and forth across the production schedule?
We were back and forth. I can’t remember how long it took exactly to film the whole thing but it was quite quick - I want to say three weeks - so they were quite long days and we had to get a move on. But we’ve all done this job for a long time so it wasn’t a problem. What I loved about this project was that everybody joined together in a big team effort because it was low-budget so we all knew how that works and I really like that sort of collaboration. You’re doing it because you love it. People have loved it and been passionate about it. It’s Ryan’s baby and he’s put a lot into it and been immensely supportive to all of us which is why we’ve all come together to do a lot for it.
So presumably you’re pleased by the response to the movie?
Really pleased. I don’t think I’ve ever done a project where someone says, in the middle of it, ‘This is shit, isn’t it?’ - no-one’s ever going to say that! When you’re doing something like this which you really love you just don’t know how people are going to respond which is why, for me, the bit I really love is being on set, doing the job, mixing with people, meeting new people. I honestly sometimes forget that the end product is that it’s going to come out somewhere! But you’ve got to enjoy that bit, that’s the point of it. This is my job, this is the bit I’m getting paid to do and I love it.
Moving on - and back a bit - I have to mention The Office. Are you sick of people like me constantly bringing up something you finished doing ten years ago?
I think it’s great to have worked on a project that people are still talking about ten years later! I can’t actually believe it’s ten years ago but it’s actually a bit longer because I first got offered the pilot in December 1999 so it seems like a whole lifetime ago. When we were doing the pilot we obviously didn’t know we were going to be picked up and no-one knew what was going to happen with it. As with Some Guy we all knew we loved it and we just hoped we’d be allowed to do more because we were enjoying it so anything on top of that is a bonus. But I think it finished at the right time. I love the US Office, I watch it avidly, but I really appreciated the fact that Ricky and Stephen (Merchant) wanted our version to go out on a high. We didn’t want people to say ‘well, this is good but last season was better’ which I think is what tends to happen with the US Office so I think it’s quite nice that ours had a beginning, middle and end.
I have to mention Shaun of the Dead too because… well, I just have to… Did you realise at the time that you were making what would turn out to be such an iconic British movie?
Again it’s one of those that when you’re making it you all hope it’ll do well because you’re all loving it and you’re having a great time. Also with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright you felt in safe hands because it wasn’t new territory - I know it was their first film but with Spaced you could see the kinds of writers they were and the sort of people they were. If you meet Simon Pegg you’ll find he’s just the nicest man, friendly, normal and so kind and extremely funny!
You now work a lot in America; is that out of preference or is that just where the work is?
I actually work in the States and in the UK. I just got back from Guadelope in the Caribbean doing an episode of Death in Paradise with Ben Miller for BBC1. My agent rang and said ‘you’ve been offered this job in the Caribbean’ and I went ‘yes!’ She said ‘don’t you want to know what it is?’ and I said ‘Not if it’s going to put me off, I just want to go!’ I really enjoyed doing that show. There were tons of crew I’d worked with before, some cast I knew, a gorgeous location so it was like a little holiday. But so hot! There was one five-page scene that took all day. It was about 100 degrees, we were inside and they couldn’t use the air-conditioning because of the cameras and the lights and I actually fell asleep in the middle of a take! It was the lack of oxygen or something. Poor Ben Miller had to act to a corpse! I wasn’t on camera I hasten to add, but Ben was so I had to apologise!
Are you one of those actors who has to be working constantly or are you able to cope with those periods of ‘resting’?
I’ve been doing this job now for nearly twenty years and there are going to be times when you’re not working for a long time and there have been periods where I’ve not worked for a long time. But what I can’t do is spend that entire time in panic so I try to go ‘well, this is great now because I’m not working’ so I get to travel, read books and just have a nice time. I think that rather than spend the time in fear and paranoia that I’m never going to work again I’d rather enjoy it and make the best of it.
So what have you got lined-up next?
I’ve written a pilot for a single-camera half-hour comedy and I’m in the process of pitching it right now. I’ve written it for Britain and America - one is set in Santa Monica in LA and the other is in Brighton. I’ve written it, had a cast together and now I’m trying to sell it. If you want a pilot, let me know! I decided first of all that I wouldn’t be in it, then I decided to write myself a not very big role but if it gets bought I’ll just be happy that it’s been bought and then decide whether to be in it or not. I really love writing, I got a lot more enjoyment from it than I thought I would, doing something in my own time on my own. I’d love something to come from it one day and it’d be nice to be able to do it again.