Interview: Karen Gillan Star Of Douglas Is Cancelled

Interview With Karen Gillan Star Of 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 (Karen Gillan, pictured), 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. Can he count on the support of his agent and colleagues? 

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

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

You and Steven have been discussing Douglas Is Cancelled for a while, haven’t you?

A: Yes. I first read this about six years ago. As soon as I read it, I badgered Steven to make it. I told him, “This is incredible! This absolutely has to be made!” This was actually prior to any of the dramas like The Morning Show or Bombshell that touch on the same themes. Then eventually, he came back to me saying, “We're going to make this as a four-part series for ITV. Would you like to play Madeline?” “Yes, of course!” So I feel like I did my little bit to manifest Madeline for myself.

How would you characterise Madeline?

Where to even begin with Madeline? She started off as a very determined young girl who set her sights on getting into this particular industry. She was a huge fan of Douglas. She grew up watching him. She would rather watch him on TV than cartoons - she was a strange child like that! And then, she just dedicated her whole life to pursuing that. She went through a few experiences along the way that shaped her, and she quickly realised that she needed to harden up a little bit. She needed to put a guard up as she was exposed to more and more things within the industry. And so, when we meet her at the start of this drama, you just can't quite get a read on her. The idea is that you don't quite know what her motivations are, and you don't quite know whether you can trust her or not. That was really fun to play.

Is Madeline based on any real-life TV personality?

No. I didn't take inspiration from any particular person. She is just a cocktail of all the women on British television I watched growing up.

Did you do a lot of research into Madeline’s world?

I don't think I sat down and researched it because I've been watching it my whole life. Growing up in Britain, those faces are so unbelievably familiar to us. My dad would always have the news on. So I feel pretty well-versed in the vibe of the whole thing. Then it was just more of a case of really understanding the emotions behind all of those characters.

How do you find it working with Hugh?

It was brilliant! Oh, my God, he's just so talented. He could just do the role – he was so natural. He’s the perfect casting for this part. And it was fun. He's really mischievous and cheeky. I just had a really good time working with him. My character really knows how to play him and manipulate him and wrap him around her finger. That was great fun to play.

Was it a pleasure working with so many old friends from Doctor Who?

Absolutely. I felt like I was coming home. It felt really comforting and familiar. Starting a new job is always terrifying, but it was so nice to have the comfort of thinking “These are people that I love. So they're not going to let me be terrible in it.” Working with Alex is my absolute favourite just because she's got such a fun vibe on set. My favourite thing is just to ask her to tell a story about her life because you're always going to get something wonderful. She's the gift that keeps on giving in terms of anecdotes. She's amazing because she's done so much, but also because she's worked with so many incredible people. Alex is such a life force. She has definitely got that aura about her. Then on top of that, she is also an incredibly talented actress. She's just got such power to her.

What is so special about Steven’s writing?

He is one of my favourite screenwriters. He can give you a zinger like no one's business. It feels like there's great showmanship to his work. It has a verbal gymnastics type of vibe. So with Steven, you get writing that's really funny and has tremendous flair, but is also completely realistic. That's what I am such a fan of. I dropped out of drama school after two months, so a lot of my acting training happened on Doctor Who. And so I felt incredibly familiar with the rhythms of Steven’s writing. So as soon as I returned to it, I was like, “Oh, I know how to do this. I've got this.”

What is your view of social media?

The main emotions that exist on X or Twitter are anger and frustration. Everything that does well on that platform elicits those feelings from you. You get roped into feeling angry about something, and I don't think that's very healthy all the time. But people are now being held more accountable for what they say, and that is definitely a positive that's come out of this.

Where does this rank in the list of productions you’ve ever done?

This is definitely my favourite project of all time. I think that’s partially because it's the hardest thing I've ever done. Having to memorise that much dialogue was unbelievably challenging. One episode is almost entirely in an interview setting, and we're just sitting down and talking to each other. That's an hour that you have to fill with just talking. So that's a lot of talk! That was just scary for me. I feel like the hardest thing for me to do as a person is to sit down and talk. I have a lot of jittery, nervous energy that I like to channel into moving around or a big emotion. So in that particular episode, I didn't have anything to hide behind. I just had to sit there and be in it and do the thing that really scares me. And so it felt really nice to walk through the fire of something that was terrifying to me. It felt like doing a play. There was so much dialogue, and also so much that was not being said between the two characters. I just loved it. It was an acting dream.

Picture/interview supplied by ITV



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