Cuckoo came back to screens last week for its second series, with a fresh pair of faces and a string of storylines that look set to be just as hilarious if not greater than those in the first series.

Female First got the chance to chat to Esther Smith - now playing Rachel in the show - about stepping into the shoes of an already-established character, what to expect going forward and just what Taylor Lautner was hiding under that towel! (You're welcome, Taylor fans.)

Esther Smith as Rachel / Credit: BBC

When did you realise acting was the route you wanted to take career-wise?

I'd never really thought about what it meant to 'be an actor' career-wise. I'd always wanted to be a dancer, and had been dancing since I was three. Then, when at college, I studied theatre studies and was cast in the play 'Machinal' by Sophie Treadwell as the lead. I was struck by how much I really enjoyed the process of researching and creating a character and bringing that character's story to life for other people. I remember the director taking me to one side and encouraging me to pursue it. So I did.

Have family and friends always been supportive of that decision?

Oh wow, yes, always. I've been incredibly lucky with support from my family and friends. I'm sure there are plenty, more stable professions they'd have preferred me to go into but they have always encouraged me and allowed me to make mistakes and learn and find things out for myself. I'm hugely grateful for that. It has given me a great work ethic.

You come into Cuckoo as a fresh face this series, taking on an already-established character, was there more pressure there to do a good job following on from Tamla Kari?

Oh certainly yes. It's one of the biggest challenges I've had to face in my career. It's a daunting thing filling someone else's shoes, especially with a character and a show that has such a big fan base. Tamla’s a fantastic actress who is doing so well in her career, which is the reason why she was unable to make the second series of Cuckoo, as she was busy with other commitments. It was a real honour to step in. I've done my best and I'm hoping that people in time will be able to accept me into the Cuckoo family.

What is it about Cuckoo and the Rachel role that interested you?

First and foremost it was the style of comedy that drew me to the show. I like that we are invited into this family's world in the West Midlands (in an area not far from where I grew up) and get to see how they respond to these quite often insane scenarios they are thrown into. I love the Thompson family and their dynamic, and I think people can relate to them.

And as for Rachel, I was drawn to the dilemma she was having to face in this series - she's lost her husband and two years on she has almost been defeated by life. Just as she is about to decide to settle with what she's been given, her world is shaken by the arrival of this handsome stranger, who she's instantly attracted to but who subsequently turns out to be Cuckoo's son. It was fun playing that situation out, looking at how she was going to react. In a way it also made stepping into the role slightly easier as I think here we see a different Rachel to the one we're introduced to in the first series, as she's been through so much.

Taylor Lautner as Dale & Esther Smith as Rachel / Credit: BBC

The comedy in the show is so varied and seems to hit a mark somewhere with everyone who watches, how easy or difficult do you find it to stay in character whilst filming?

I have to admit, I am the worst corpser. If I find something funny I can't for the life of me seem to keep my laughter in - I have to pinch myself on my leg so we can keep going. I'm awful! It was really hard, especially working with the likes of Greg, Taylor, Helen, wow, well all of them, and with the fantastic script to not laugh at every moment. But I think that's a good thing, not only because it is the best feeling when you know you're not supposed to be laughing, but because if we don't find what we're doing funny then maybe the viewers won't.

Taylor Lautner fans want to know - just what was hiding under that towel in the first episode!?

Haha! I think it was just a grey pair of trackie bottoms - sorry!

Obviously Taylor is also new to the show, did you bond immediately because you were the new faces?

Yes, although everyone was so lovely and welcoming that we quickly felt integrated into the team.

What was the chemistry like on-set between cast and crew?

So, so lovely. So much fun! We were all striving for the same goal, and had a lot of fun together doing it and for that reason I was really sad when we finished filming.

Esther Smith as Rachel & Taylor Lautner as Dale / Credit: BBC

Rachel seems stuck in the first episode between a 'boring' relationship and potentially making a move on her ex-son-in-law, what should we expect from their relationship going forward?

This is what's so exciting about her dilemma - what a weird situation to be in, finding out this guy she's attracted to is her dead husband's son! You just gotta keep watching to see how it plays out!

Finally, what's next for you?

A post-apocalyptic comedy called 'Cockroaches' which I'm also very excited about. Another project where I spent most of my time pinching my leg trying not to laugh.

Cuckoo is on BBC Three, Thursdays at 10pm.

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