Colin Bennett Interview
Bing-bong! Prepare for scripteator visitation! Colin Bennett, who both co-wrote every episode of Luna and played the role of Andy, kindly agreed to answer a few probings for us. This interview was conducted in July 2006.
How did you get in to show business originally?
I have always wanted to be an actor. I went to RADA, and became one because 'acting' is in my family. My sister is an opera singer in Germany, my nephew-in-law is a famous actor in the UK, another nephew is an actor in America, my son is an actor in the UK, and my other son is a TV director/editor.
Were you always equally interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of the industry, writing and production, or did that come later?
I wanted to be actor since I was 5 years old but eventually, one finds that writing and directing are just as fulfilling and they seem to take over. I certainly find that being a producer uses all the skills I have been learning all my life, in one job!
I have just finished writing a book for actors on TV called 'This book is Acting, on Telelvision'. It can be investigated on www.actingontv.com
How did Luna come about? At what stage did you get involved in the development of the series?
I directed (and adapted the script) for Michael Dolenz in a musical called 'The Point' written by Harry Nilsson at the Mermaid Theatre in London. We got on very well, we have a simlar sense of humour, and it grew from there. We share birthdays, I seem to recall.
Was the character of Andy created with you in mind, or did you audition for it? Did you have any input in to the casting decisions?
I was involved in the casting. Indeed Michael Dolenz and I were watching the same programme on TV, though in different houses, when we both spotted the very young Pasty Kensit. We phoned each other almost at the same time... though my call got in first!! We wrote Andy for me though Central TV thought that having both writers acting in the show might put a strange emphasis on the comedy, so Prockter didn't get a part, sorry Prockter!
How did you and Colin Prockter collaberate on the scripts? Did Micky Dolenz have much input?
Michael invented the characters and Prockter and I got locked in a room until it was finished. It was easy to write and contains some very hidden meanings, though I think we would do it much better now if we got the chance. (but we sadly won't!)
How about the actual collaborative writing process - did one of you sit at a typewriter with the other standing over his shoulder making suggestions? Or did you pass scripts back and forth refining each others work? Or...?
Prockter and I have written for many years and we find that either way can work. Sometimes one with his hands on the WP and the other making the tea and wandering around the room. We are also very good at splitting the storyline alternately and then each writing a scene to pass over to the other writer for corrections/ jokes/ ratification/ smoothing/ hyping/ etc. We can write very fast this way!!
What were the rest of the cast and crew like to work with?
It was a great show to work on, everyone was perfect. The first series was made in the old Muppets studio in Elstree, and the second was the first show to be made at the then brand new studios of Central TV in Nottingham.
Was having to replace the lead actress for the second season a problem? Were last minute rewrites required, or did you always know Patsy wouldn't be coming back?
It didn't make much difference but we were sad that Patsy couldn't come back but by then she was starting to be famous. We always did last minute rewrites... we never quite got it right!
Were there any plans for a third season? Any unproduced episode ideas?
Loads of ideas but the show just didn't make enough viewing figures, and it was relatively expensive to make so they decided they couldn't afford another series. Though it was seen regularly by 5.6 million viewers I was told.
Did you watch the finished product, and if so, were you happy with the way your stories turned out on screen?
We were never completely happy, It is difficult enough to write funny jokes... but to invent a new language for them was too big a leap. I have never rewatched the show. I have fond memories.... I don't want to be reminded that they were unjustified!
Do you have a favourite episode or scene from the series?
I loved it when they found a small window on the real world.... outside the planet was a post appocalyptic wasteland... gramps was sad... but the others, like us, weren't that bothered! We are going to have to seriously start thinking about that stuff!
Anything you could share with us, or is it all lost in the mists of ancient history?
Two of our guest stars were Roland Rat and Robbie Coltrane.
Demarcation with unions was a real problem in those days and we lost a few hours of recording time... arguing over which 'Stanley Knife' we were allowed to use!!
We liked the show but we didn't feel that we ever quite got it right. Recently I met the Executive producer who is now retired and old... who claimed, as my mother did, that it was the early version of Red Dwarf! We don't claim that but many did!
We were also asked to provided storylines for Doctor Who, in his previous life, though by then the series was coming to its first end and none were taken up. We will never know now if 'Sunny-Solstice-Nocturnal-REM' would have made much of a Doctor Who story. (for translation of that title see Shakespeare!)
What are you doing these days?
I have just finished producing 28 X Half hour episodes of 'Shoot the Writers!', a comedy Sketch Show for ITV1. It was shown post midnight and peaked at 2.1 million viewers, which is staggering. We don't know if we will get another series, we doubt it!
Ultra gratitudes for your tocks, Colin!