Interview: Jessica Knappet On New Sitcom Avoidance

Jessica Knappet stars alongside Romesh Ranganathan in Avoidance, a warm and bittersweet comedy series about a man with severe conflict avoidance issues, who is forced to change for the sake of his son. Also starring Jessica Knappett,

Lisa McGrillis and Mandeep Dhillon. Jonathan and Claire are splitting up - well, technically Claire is splitting up with Jonathan who keeps insisting they just wait for the dust to settle.

But she is adamant, and most importantly, they need to tell their nine year-old son Spencer as soon as possible. Jonathan, who is in denial, runs away with Spencer to stay with his sister Danielle and her wife Courtney to avoid confronting his problems.

Jonathan insists it’s just a blip, and Dan is frustrated by his denial. Meanwhile, Dan’s wife Courtney is not a fan of Jonathan’s, and when Dan softens towards her brother and tells him they’re there for him, Courtney’s reaction is not so emphatic.

Avoidance, 9.30pm, Fridays from June 10, BBC One

Tell us about Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show?

It’s a naturalistic sitcom about Jonathan, a conflict-avoidant Dad, played by Romesh, who separates from his wife (me) and moves in with his sister (Mandeep) and her wife (Lisa) who hates him.  Quite a lot of people don’t like Jonathan and he’s trying to figure out why that might be and become a better person. A lot of the comedy comes from the fact that he has a hard time owning up to his terrible mistakes and the convoluted ways he evades facing the awful truth.

Do you have any similarities to your character? 

Yes. In contrast to Jonathan, Claire’s not afraid to say and show exactly how she feels, which is something I can relate to. For an actress I am actually very bad at disguising my emotions, something my husband knows all about. Claire’s openly aggravated by Jonathan from the moment we meet her, which has been really fun to play. I love the honesty of being beyond pretending and playing nice in a relationship. I totally get that - I would call it communication but my husband would call it shouting. She’s not immune to making bad decisions herself, though, as we find later in the series.  Again, relatable.

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

Romesh and Ben Green (director) were really open to us improvising which there isn’t always much time for in television. I really enjoyed any scene where Claire was putting Jonathan in his place, especially because Romesh in real life is all about the withering put-downs. It was fun sparring with him and it’s such a buzz when you’re given the freedom to ad lib a bit, especially when the person you’re playing opposite happens to be one of the funniest comedians in the UK. That said, I’m pretty sure most of it was unusable because we were just laughing instead of acting but the main thing is we enjoyed ourselves.

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before?

It was so nice to have a small core cast. We all got on really well, Mandeep and Lisa are really positive, naturally funny people and it was always a good vibe on set. Romesh is incredibly relaxed, or really good at pretending to be anyway. I think because Rom and Ben have worked together for so long and they created the show together, they were so confident about what they wanted and they are both very good at bringing out the best in people. It was one of the happiest, most laid-back sets I’ve ever been on. I think there is a relaxed tone to the show because of that.

Do you think Claire’s relationship to Jonathan, and also Spencer will be a relatable one that isn’t often shown in TV?

Yes Claire and Jonathan’s relationship is possibly so relatable that we are going to trigger a thousand separations! She has a really good relationship with her son and wants to protect him and I think what’s heart-breaking and might be relatable for lots of people is that struggle with what’s right for her personally, the relationship and what’s right for her child. Something I really loved about Claire’s character was that she isn’t the cliché nagging ex, she’s confident and sarcastic but she also has her own doubts and fears and she remains compassionate towards Jonathan, despite the fact that he is completely useless.

Interview supplied by BBC



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