The Wrong Mans’ Mathew Baynton Talks Season 2 and More [Exclusive]
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead
Wondering about where The Wrong Mans could go after the season 1 finale? You won’t be disappointed. I’ve seen the season 2 premiere and there’s humor and drama and some great surprises. Before you read on, I have to caution you again that this interview is pretty spoilery. If you want to watch the season premiere and then come back to read the interview, I won’t be offended. I talked to co-creator/writer/star Mathew Baynton aboutÂ “X-Mans/White Mans” as well as how he and James Corden came up with this concept, how they decide on the storylines, a bit about some of the actors they get to work with and what we can expect this season on the show.
TV GOODNESS: Letâ€™s talk about how you came up with the idea for The Wrong Mans with James Corden and the process of getting it made.
Mathew Baynton: “We were working together on a show called Gavin & Stacey, which James wrote, and very kindly wrote a part for me. We were just hanging out on set talking about stuff weâ€™d been watching and we were saying, â€˜Why arenâ€™t there half hour sitcoms that have that cinematic look and the dramatic ambition that those American box set dramas have?â€™ At the time â€“ and this shows you how long ago this conversation was â€“ it was Lost and 24 and Heroes. All those kind of shows. We were saying, â€˜Why hasnâ€™t anyone done that as a half hour comedy?â€™ We figured the reason must be the writers know who pulls the strings in terms of commissioning stuff and to get something commissioned, you donâ€™t want to put them off by saying, â€˜Weâ€™ve written a thing which is full of stunts and loads of characters and loads of different locations,â€™ and make it sound prohibitively expensive and ambitious. So we thought, â€˜Maybe people have just avoided trying to do something like that. Letâ€™s just go for it and try it ourselves and see if weâ€™re crazy or not.â€™ So we wrote this pilot script and took it to people and fortunately for us they were all very excited by it.”
TV GOODNESS: Itâ€™s a serious subject matter, but Iâ€™m enjoying that thereâ€™s so much fun in it as well.
Mathew: “Thatâ€™s what we really liked the idea of, is that contrast. A lot of comedy comes from contrast. We felt that rubbing up pretty mundane, everyday stuff about going to work in an office against an epic thriller plot would work quite nicely. It came from all those moments when youâ€™re watching an action film and you sit there as an armchair critic. You watch a stunt where someone jumps onto a train and you go, â€˜Oh, come off it. That would really hurt.â€™ And we just thought what if our show is the one where you see how much it hurt. And that was one of the first jokes we stuck on the wall and ended up using at the end of episode 5, I think it was, or the beginning of episode 6 where they jump onto this moving train and then they roll around and cry for about half a minute.”
TV GOODNESS: Before I ask you about season 2, tell me about your favorite moment or stunt from season 1.
Mathew: “It was that one, actually. That was the biggest stunt of the shoot. It was one of those really exciting things where the two of us were very aware when we were writing it that we were writing these action things for ourselves to do that we would never in a million years get cast to do in anything else. Iâ€™ve got fairly decent self-esteem, but Iâ€™m aware that I will never be cast as James Bond. And to get to write something where you get to do those kinds of things felt like a really cheeky, mischievous thing to do. So when we found ourselves on set with the stunt coordinator talking us through this jump we were like two 10 year-old boys.”
TV GOODNESS: That sounds like so much fun.
Mathew: “It was great fun.”
TV GOODNESS: Iâ€™ve seen the season premiere, which I really enjoyed. Without giving too much away, can you tease season 2 and tell me whatâ€™s coming up for you and James this season?
Mathew: “Itâ€™s out of the frying pan, into the fire I think. We were really keen to take the second season to a bigger, more dangerous canvas if you like. Where in series 1, theyâ€™re in this small town and trouble comes to find them, in series 2 theyâ€™ve been plucked out of their home and everything they know and dumped in the middle of an ocean of trouble. So the small town isnâ€™t in series 2. You can take the boys out of Bracknell, but you canâ€™t take Bracknell out of the boys. Though that contrast in series 2 is about how they react to all of these awful things, but baddies are worse, the stakes are higher and the danger is more dangerous. [Laughs.]”
TV GOODNESS: In terms of what else is coming up for this season, I love that, unbeknownst to them, they have become drug smugglers and I love that they end up in jail. How much time are Sam and Phil going to spend behind bars?
Mathew: “One of the things about The Wrong Mans is that things move fast. So, I think you can safely say that if jail seems like the worst of their troubles, itâ€™s not. Thereâ€™s always something worse around the corner. [Laughs.] But the jail thing was something weâ€™ve been thinking about, even when we were shooting the first series. I think we were talking about doing a whole second season set in prison and we had all these ideas about what fun we could have with those two characters, but we crammed it all into a much shorter part of the narrative because thatâ€™s part of the fun of The Wrong Mans. It just keeps hurtling along, it never slows up.”
TV GOODNESS: I got excited when I saw you guys in jail at the end of episode 1. Thereâ€™s so many fun things you can do in jail. Is there anything you can give away about episode 2 or are you on tight lockdown?
Mathew: “Itâ€™s tricky. I canâ€™t give you spoilers, but thereâ€™s a reason theyâ€™ve been put in jail and they have to do something really awful. [Laughs.]”
TV GOODNESS: That sounds awesome. [Laughs.] Iâ€™m excited to see what it is.
Mathew: “The other thing I will say is in jail we meet a character played by an absolutely knockout British actor called Bertie Carvel. He is terrifying in it. Heâ€™s the scariest person weâ€™re yet to meet in The Wrong Mans.”
TV GOODNESS: In terms of guest stars, youâ€™ve got some really fun ones. How do you entice people to come work with you? I know you and James know a lot of people. Does anyone need any convincing?
Mathew: “For one thing, weâ€™re really lucky that weâ€™ve got these great people along. Because weâ€™re actors writing something, youâ€™re aware â€“ possibly a bit more keenly â€“ of what itâ€™s like as an actor to be sent a script and read a character. We know what makes us respond when weâ€™re sent a script and get that feeling of, â€˜Oh, this is great. I have to play this part.â€™ So we try to make sure there are no small characters. They may only be there for two scenes, but theyâ€™re big or interesting or quirky or villainous or something for an actor to get their teeth into. Thatâ€™s part of it, I think. We try and make sure that theyâ€™re really fun treats for people to come and do. The other thing is that because they tend to only ever have a few scenes, itâ€™s a short commitment and itâ€™s easier to get people to come and play for a few days then it would be if we were doing a 13-hour drama series where those supporting roles are actually quite long commitments in an actorâ€™s year. More than anything, I just think we really lucked out with the people weâ€™ve got. Theyâ€™re good.”
TV GOODNESS: I agree and I love the fun parts as much as the serious parts. In terms of how you and James work together, tell me about your process. Do you split the writing equally? How do you decide where the storylines are gonna go? Can you talk about that?
Mathew: “Yeah, we do it all in a room together. Itâ€™s not like one scene is written by one of us and another is by another. Itâ€™s all done together in the room. And the same with plotting. And also itâ€™s important to say, itâ€™s not all us. Thereâ€™s another writer called Tom Basden, who writes a bit with us, whoâ€™s brilliant. We have a script editor called Jeremy Dyson, who gets involved. Periodically, we send him stuff and he gives us feedback and says, â€˜Oh, that didnâ€™t quite make sense to me,â€™ or â€˜Have you thought aboutâ€¦â€™ or â€˜This looks like a plot hole to me. Is there a way you can solve that problem?â€™ and those kind of things.
But James and I sit in the room together. First of all we hash out, bang out the plot which takes a long time and involves a lot of staring at the floor and getting depressed and playing games of cricket in the corridor and doing anything to try and distract ourselves from the problems. Then once weâ€™ve got the plot working, the writing itself becomes this real threat at the end of the arduous process of plotting, so we then basically just improvise all of the scenes together and play all the parts and distill those improvisations into a scene on the page. And then we write a bit and polish and add more jokes and hope we end up with a good script.”
TV GOODNESS: I think you accomplish that.
Mathew: “Thank you. [Laughs.]”
TV GOODNESS: The first episode is set in Texas. Did you guys come to the states to film or did you still film in the UK?
Mathew: “Well we filmed partly in the UK, but we filmed all of that stuff is Johannesburg in South Africa, which was an amazing place to go. They have great crews there, great local talent. We even cast a couple of South African actors in some of those roles, like Philâ€™s new girlfriend Rosa, whoâ€™s local. Our director at one point said, â€˜This is more like Texas than Texas.â€™ [Laughs.] We just loved the idea of setting this real contrast where you spent the whole of that first season in small town Bracknell and then suddenly the first thing you see after Bracknell is this desert road stretching off into the horizon. Itâ€™s such a different environment to be in. Itâ€™s so much more widescreen and you immediately sense that the trouble theyâ€™re gonna be in is that much bigger. That was the thing that drew us instantly into the idea of Texas, the Texan landscape.”
TV GOODNESS: Itâ€™s great. And I have to say I loved how Maria was with you. Really funny.
Mathew: “It was nice to bring a few elements of series 1 into the ongoing adventure â€“ the idea that Sam somehow attracts these sexual predators who are twice his age and that heâ€™s some sort of magnet to these aggressive people. [Laughs.] And all those situations that youâ€™ve seen in series 1, these little echoes of Phil trying to get everyone to go go-karting in series 1 and obviously being an outcast and then in series 2, heâ€™s been able to construct this fantasy identity and everyone loves him. Heâ€™s really popular and it was a great thing when we suddenly realized, â€˜Oh. Why donâ€™t we do that scene again and show the contrast by having him invite everyone to a rodeo and everyone does want to go this time.’ It was really fun to find those little echoes of the stuff the audience already knows. It rewards them for having been on the whole journey with us.”
Edited for space and content.
Season 2 synopsis, from Hulu:
Having earned their status as hometown heroes in the first season, Sam and Phil are blasted back to zero again. This time around, the hapless friends find themselves in deeper, darker danger than ever before. They must make a difficult choice: Do they hide in the dark and be forgotten forever, or brave it in a world that doesn’t even know they exist?
Their globetrotting adventures take them across deserts, through tunnels, inside prisons and on planes and trains, as they duck knives, dodge bullets and deal with WMDs. But the cartels and the terrorists they encounter have underestimated the boys from Bracknell and their determination to get home for Christmas and reclaim their lives.
All 4 episodes from Season 2 of The Wrong Mans will be available Wednesday, December 24th on Hulu.
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