Interview extra

Ralf Little, The CafeNovember 8, 2011

The Cafe

The Cafe is a new comedy series on Sky1, written by and starring Ralf Little as Richard, and Michelle Terry as Sarah. The six-part series is directed by Craig Cash…

So what goes on at The Cafe?
Craig Cash: It’s just where some friends meet in Weston-Super-Mare.

The CafeRalf Little: All the people there are a close-knit group of friends of different ages that are very much a part of each others' worlds - like people are with their groups of friends. It’s just that it’s in a small cafe in Weston and that’s just how it is. It’s about people, and the way they react to each other and the funny things that they say to each other.

Why did you set it in Weston-Super-Mare – which is where Michelle hails from?
Ralf Little: We had originally set it in South London. But then Michelle told me about when she left Weston to go to RADA in London. People were pleased for her, but they couldn’t understand why she was going to London when a city like Bristol was only down the road.

Ralf and Michelle – how long have you known each other, and why did you decide you wanted to write together?
Michelle Terry: It was about three years ago. We did a sketch show together at the Bush Theatre for the Latitude Festival, and that was it.

Ralf Little: We get on really well and she made me laugh. I can’t remember who said it first, but we discussed writing together. Actors say it a lot when they’re working together – I’ve said it more than once to various people. But somewhere along the line, we actually did it.

What is Craig Cash like as a director?
Ralf Little: Michelle asked what he was like. I said that he was going to be great and we all got on really well from the start. It was pretty easy because you’ve got three people all with a similar sense of humour having a nice time. Once you keep that kind of atmosphere up, you’re already on to a winner. Craig did say that what was difficult for him was that he’s always written what he’s then directed. So this time, his main responsibility was to try and get what Michelle and I had in our heads out on the screen.

The CafeHumour-wise, is it anything like The Royle Family, or more laugh out loud, playing for gags?
Craig Cash: It’s very gentle and sweet, and it kind of rolls along like the sea that surrounds it. It’s not as brash as The Royle Family.

Michelle Terry: It’s not as conceptual as The Royle Family either. The Royle Family was definitely a concept, it was genius. This is not gag based – hopefully it’s character-driven like The Royle Family. The dialogue comes out as the people speak it rather than, ‘Can you say this in order to get to that joke?’

Ralf Little: The Royle Family was an influence.

What would you compare The Cafe to?
Michelle Terry: It’s dangerous comparing it to anything because the people that you compare it to might say, ‘How dare you?’ and be really offended…

Craig Cash: If you do, the audience will have a massive expectation of it. I’d sooner just let it seep in, but obviously we need to publicise it or no one will know it’s on. But it’s always best if the audience discover it for themselves rather then us saying, ‘Oh it’s like this, it’s like that,’ because the first thing they’re going to say is, ‘Oh no it’s not,’ isn’t it?

What was it like filming in Weston-Super-Mare?
Craig Cash: We had to build the cafe and it was lovely and the people really welcomed us there. I was really sad to leave in the end. I think they loved having a film crew there.

Ralf Little: It’s got its own personality as well.

Michelle Terry: It was reassuring because when we first went down there to do a recce to look at the location and convince the man from the council that this was a good idea, they were suspicious. I guess they were worried about this big film set coming down and a fear of judgement of this small seaside town. But as soon as they knew what it was about and they really embraced it.

The CafeHad you both always intended to play the lead roles?
Ralf Little: I did.

Michelle Terry: I didn’t. I think it’s hard to write for yourself, so it was much easier to think of somebody else playing it. When you see it, it’s actually an incredible ensemble piece. The three women are ever present and it certainly starts with seeing the world through Sarah’s eyes. But it then becomes about this group of people and the way they all interact together. So it’s in that respect, there’s not really what you’d call a traditional lead role.

When you write, are you physically together in the same room?
Michelle Terry: The first two years were an aimless endeavor. There was no commission, we didn’t know where it was going, so we were just pinging things back and forth and sit in coffee shops and write stuff. But once we got a commission it was a full time job.

Ralf Little: There was a certain amount of discipline that I needed otherwise I would never have done it because Michelle is incredible conscious and I am incredibly lazy and somewhere in the middle we kind of got it to work. When we first got the script, I finally plucked up the courage to show it to Craig. I thought he would laugh at me in the wrong way…

Craig Cash: I thought, ‘Bloody hell. How am I gonna tell him?’

Ralf Little: But he rung me up and said he really, really liked it. So then we took it to Sky.

Did you get inspiration from people watching?
Michelle Terry: Sitting on a 159 bus is the best inspiration you can ever get with people nattering away.

Have you ever worked in a cafe?
Michelle Terry: I’ve worked in a restaurant. Well, I did a load of cream teas for a load of Brummies, and I worked in a London coffee shop.

Ralf and Craig, are you going to be doing another Christmas special of The Royle Family this year?
Ralf Little:
Yes. It’s different for me because I don’t have any responsibility on it. I just turn up and it’s great fun from start to finish. I think Craig and the rest of the guys feel the same way. Of course, Craig has to take responsibility for actually writing and producing it as well, whereas I can just turn up and enjoy myself.

Elaine Penn

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