Katy Brand returns to the big screen this week as she stars alongside Hannah Arterton and Annabel Scholey in new musical Walking On Sunshine.
We caught up with the actress to chat about the new role, working with directors Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini, as well as her brand new book.
- You are returning to the big screen next week with Walking On Sunshine, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Walking On Sunshine is a musical set in Italy: it is set in the present day but it is packed with songs from the 1980s. It is a very uplifting and joyful summer film. It is the sort of film where you can get a tan in the cinema.
- You take on the role of Lil in the film, so what was it about this character and the script that particularly appealed to you?
It was just a fun, down to earth and ballsy character, who just enjoys life, likes a drink, and is there to dispense a bit of advice and wisdom every now and again. I just found her very appealing.
I had been brought in to work a little bit on the script - it is very common in the film where at the end of the writing process a new person comes in with a fresh pair of eyes and makes a few little suggestions and tweaks. That is what I did.
As I was doing that, the director, writer, and producer just felt that I would be right for that part. So, they offered it to me and I was like ’why not? It sounds like fun.’
- Walking On Sunshine is a musical and this is the first time that you have taken on a film project like this. How did you find throwing yourself in the singing/dancing side of things?
I really enjoyed it. I have always done singing and dancing in my sketch shows: I use to do a lot of music spoofs. I have been singing since the age of nine, so that wasn’t a massively intimidating part of it for me. It is always nice to do something really physical.
A lot of my work is usually writing - I have been writing a book - so to get out there and do some full on dancing, singing and throwing yourself around on a beach was very appealing.
- The movie is set in Italy, so where did you film? I have to say the conditions look terrible!!
Yes, it was awful. I was on the phone to equity immediately. We shot the film in Puglia, which is down in the heel of the boot of Italy, on the Ionian Coast.
It really was just stunning. There were sparkling turquoise sea, white sand, and lovely fresh fish and seafood. Other than missing our families and missing home, we all had a really fantastic time.
- Hannah Arterton, Leona Lewis, Greg Wise and Annabel Scholey are just some of the names on board, so how did you find working with the rest of the cast? It does look like a lot of fun.
IT was great. There was a variety of experience on the set, but you certainly wouldn’t have known that. It wasn’t as if this was anyone’s first job: everyone had done things before to a varying degree. Greg has done loads and I have done a fair bit.
Hannah had done a fair amount of filming, while Annabel had done a lot of stage work. Even though they were a little bit newer to it, they were trained and knew exactly what they were doing. It certainly didn’t feel like you were working with newbie’s.
- You have mentioned already that you were brought in at the end of the script writing process as a new pair of eyes. So how does that process work? And what sort little changes did you make to the script?
As I say, it is very common. Some people in Hollywood do make a living out of doing this: they go from script to script making tweaks and suggesting things and giving advice. So it really is a very established part of the business.
I know from writing scripts myself, that even though it is your idea, you want to write it yourself and you do all the hard work, it is always nice to have someone friendly in the room at the end of the process saying ‘well have you thought about this? Maybe include this joke’.
Draft after draft after draft you do get a little tired and this can really light the fire again and get you excited about something that you have spent a lot of time and energy on.
- Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini team up in the director's chair, so how did you find working with them? And what kind of director's were they?
They come from a background of music videos, so their whole vibe on set is really enthusiastic and collaborative. Because there are two of them, they are talking all of the time and really communicating, so you definitely feel part of the whole directing process. Also, they were always open to suggestions from us.
They just have a really easygoing approach to it, that allowed us all to feel very involved. They were just having such a great time and were just so excited about the film, and that was really infectious. It really just created a genuine air of enthusiasm and excitement as we were working through some fairly full on days.
- How much do you enjoy this collaborative way of working as an actor?
I like that way of working. I certainly respect it when people want it to be their project and they have a very clear vision of what they want it to be. I remember working on something with Rob Brydon, which he had written, and every word was chosen with the utmost care and he was very keen that the rhythm of a line was not disturbed.
I have also worked with him where we have improvised, and he can be very free and easy with that. But when he has written a line and you want to sound a certain way, then he will say so.
On my show when I had written it, I was like that as well. There were some things that I was very free and easy on with the other actors and wanted them to bring something to it. Other times - for whatever reason - I would be quite particular about it.
I think that you just have to be very adaptable and you cannot stick to one hard and fast way of working all of the time, it is about what is appropriate to that particular… it is not always a particular film, but it can just be a particular scene: some scenes are free and easy and some scenes need to be tight and played exactly like they are on the page. I am happy with either, really.
- The film is set to some terrific and iconic eighties songs - do you have a favourite song from the decade? Who were you listening to growing up?
I loved singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun; I was very pleased when I got to sing a big chunk of that: I had my fingers crossed when I saw it on the list.
That time in the eighties, I liked Madonna: I had a friend at school - I went to a convent school - who use to learn all of Madonna’s songs as soon as they came out. We were her backing dancers, and we would perform them to an audience of nuns: which is quite weird now looking back. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson around that time and Bad was a really big album for me.
- Throughout your career, we have seen you move between TV and film projects, so how do you find moving between the two mediums?
I really like it. What I love is lots of variety and changes of pace. I have just finished writing a book, and that was another lovely experience of being by myself and exploring what I wanted to do with the book.
TV is always a faster experience because there is usually less money in the budget, so you need to do more in the day and make the day pay a bit more. Film can be a little bit more leisurely, and you get more time to explore things and try different things.
The changes are fast, and I have always liked that. I have always liked the fact that you are thrown into something and you are trying to work it out as you are going along.
- We have also seen you do plenty of writing for television, how much is that something that you would like to explore with film?
I definitely would like to do that: I am writing a film at the moment and I am really enjoying doing that. At some point, I would love to also write a screenplay of the book I have just finished. I just don’t want to shut down any options and avenues; I just want to explore anything that I can get my hands on really.
- Can you talk a bit about the book and what we can expect from it?
The book is called Brenda Monk Is Funny, and it is out now as an E-book: so they can download and read it now. If they want a paperback or hardback copy, it will be published in that form on 31st July.
It is about a woman who becomes a stand-up comedian: it charts the first year of her life as a stand-up comedian and learning what that’s like, the experiences, green room politics, and what goes on behind the scenes in the comedy world.
- How did writing the book compare to TV writing that you have done?
I definitely would say that it is the think that I have enjoyed the most. It came weirdly naturally, and I have just loved every minute of it. I have had experiences in the past when writing television, but somehow this just felt so right in that moment. It really has been an absolute delight every single day writing it.
I have had ups and downs with writing in the past; sometimes it does feel more difficult. I just had so much freedom with the book; they did just let me write the book that I wanted to write. Whereas, television tends to be more collaborative, and there is more compromise because there are so many different… everyone needs something different.
You cannot write TV in a vacuum, unless you are completely calling the shots. Even then, there will be five different people giving you notes saying ‘we need more of this’ or ‘we need more of that’, even if its not something that you envisioned would be part of it.
The level of the freedom of the book really did remind me of when I did my first Edinburgh, where I was playing to seven people and I could write whatever I wanted. I really did feel like I was back there again and could write the thing that I wanted to write and no one was going to tell me not too.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the second half of this year?
The book is the big thing for the next two of three months, just making sure that people know about it and hoping people enjoy it.
Then I start filming a part in a BBC 1 show called Mapp and Lucia, which is an adaptation of a series of books from the 1920s adapted by Steve Pemberton. I am really looking forward that.
It has an incredible cast, as Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson are playing the lead roles. The read throughs were a joy enough on their own; I literally cannot wait to see it on screen.
Walking On Sunshine is released 27th June.