Interview: Nick Mohammed On New ITV Comedy Douglas Is Cancelled

Interview: Nick Mohammed On New ITV Comedy Douglas Is Cancelled

Douglas Is Cancelled is a four-part comedy drama starring Hugh Bonneville, Karen Gillan, Ben Miles, Alex Kingston, Nick Mohammed and Simon Russell-Beale, written by Primetime Emmy and BAFTA Award winning screenwriter Steven Moffat and produced by Hartswood Films.

Douglas Is Cancelled introduces us to middle aged, and greying, current affairs news anchor, Douglas Bellowes, a respected broadcaster and raconteur who loves the life he’s created with his newspaper editor wife, Sheila. Whilst an experienced broadcaster for Live At Six, behind the scenes Douglas surprisingly needs constant reassurance from his sharper, younger, tech savvy, social media aware co-anchor, Madeline, who appears to be able to wrap him around her little finger.

His life is privileged as he’s regarded as a national treasure and apparently, can do no wrong, until he makes an ill-advised joke at his cousin’s wedding, which is overheard by a fellow guest, who threatens to expose his comments on social media. Speculation is rife and during the on-going hysteria and digital storm, Douglas’s alleged indiscretion is dissected, analysed and blown out of all proportion. Everyone appears to have an opinion and Douglas is struggling to escape the controversy. It’s a chaotic and unmanageable situation, but can Douglas count on the support of his agent and colleagues? What will Douglas do next? Is he a casualty of ‘cancel culture’? With two million followers, what is Madeline’s motivation to social post on Douglas’s behalf? 

Ted Lasso star Nick Mohammed plays Morgan, a comedy writer whose current assignment is to provide humorous material to a news-based show that never has any humour in it. But despite a life-long devotion to comedy and a heartfelt belief in humour as an agent for social change, Morgan has never in his life said anything funny. He likes to think of himself as part of the Live At Six team but none of them are quite sure what he does or can remember his name...

Douglas Is Cancelled, Thursday, June 27, 9pm, ITV1. All four episodes available on ITVX after broadcast.

Read an interview with Nick Mohammed below. Read an interview with Karen Gillan here.

What instantly hooked you about Douglas Is Cancelled?

Steven Moffat’s phenomenal script. As soon as I saw that it had been written by Steven, I wanted to be part of it. I read all four episodes like it was a thriller. It was a complete page-turner and I simply adored it. It just had this really fun, fast-paced energy to it. I also thought it would be really fun to play a comedy writer because obviously that’s something I do myself. It also felt like the drama had so much to say about #MeToo as well, about how women are treated within the industry, and about the whole culture surrounding social media and cancel culture – with all of it just spiralling out of control. I just thought it was so witty and satirical, but making a really serious point at the same time. It was just brilliant. It also had such a great cast. I knew that Hugh and Karen were already attached to it, who I adore. I also knew that Ben Palmer was directing, who is always fantastic and who I’d been desperate to work with. So saying yes to this was a no-brainer really!

Can you elaborate on Morgan, the character you play?

Well the script is worryingly accurate. The real world of comedy is sadly not hugely dissimilar to the way Steven portrays it. And it’s a world I've been privy to for the last however many years. Comedy writers, and specifically those who only write and don’t perform are quite a specific breed. Morgan doesn’t quite get social cues, probably because he doesn’t tend to interact with anyone other than the people within his relatively niche comedy circle – and that’s a problem. He has a certain way of talking down to people, patronising people, and obviously there’s an inherent sexist streak to him in the way he thinks and talks about women.

Where do we find Morgan at the beginning of the series?

He’s part of the comedy furniture really. He's your go-to guy for one-liners. He’s the kind of person who's probably been running someone’s Twitter account or writing gags for whoever is hosting the BAFTAs. Now he’s been called in to interact with the news team to help solve a problem, so he’s quite buoyed up by the whole thing. He sees it as a big opportunity to impress and to get his gags out there. But of course, because he's part of such a niche group, Morgan is very narrow-minded. He's black and white about what's funny and what's not funny and how jokes need to be delivered or sound. He's stubborn and feels that he knows comedy better than anyone else. In a nutshell, he's pretty arrogant and just completely deluded.

Steven’s script is very timely, isn’t it?

Definitely. We're living in a time when anyone can have an opinion, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that per se. But I guess what social media has done is weaponize opinions. It gives access to absolutely everyone, regardless of their view, to put their message out there with the potential for it to spread like wildfire. Cancel culture, whether you agree with it or not, is something that everyone is dealing with at the moment. Whether you’re in the public eye on the receiving end of it or whether you're part of the mob trying to get someone, something or some idea cancelled, or even if you’re just someone innocently seeing how it might play out from a distance – it’s become part of our culture and it can be very divisive. So yes, Steven’s script is completely on the pulse.

How does the drama tackle the subject?

I think Douglas Is Cancelled does such a great job of showing all sides of it. It also highlights the craziness and the speed at which things can spiral out of control. It portrays how you have corporations and businesses and senior figures trying to play catch-up. But in doing so, they are often just digging themselves a bigger grave and it quickly becomes quite farcical. Not to lighten the very serious issues involved, but Steven has allowed us to laugh where we need to laugh. And then suddenly we get a gut punch of, “Oh, crikey, no, this is something very, very serious and really needs addressing.” So that's why I think it's such a great piece.

How do you hope viewers will react to Douglas Is Cancelled?

I hope it makes people sit up a little and think about where they stand on the whole cancel culture debate. I also hope it makes them question how they interact with social media. Everyone thinks, “Oh, it doesn't matter if I say the odd thing on social media.” But you times that by a million people, and suddenly it’s a major issue. I think the drama makes a very important point in terms of systemic misogyny as well. I hope that it makes viewers really think about what is acceptable in the workplace, what is ‘banter’, what is clearly overstepping the mark and really addressing how we individually deal with that and not simply just thinking, “Oh, that's someone else’s problem.” There needs to be a wholesale cultural shift in society.

Have you enjoyed working with this tremendous cast?

Absolutely. Not to name drop, but it was Jason Sudeikis, who I worked with on Ted Lasso, who said, “You’re only as good as the people you’re acting with.” And that is always so unquestionably true. And Douglas is Cancelled is no exception.

Interview/picture supplied by ITV



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