Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson reunite for comedy drama Death On The Tyne

'‹It can be tricky making a sequel, especially when the original TV show was a big hit with audiences.

Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 2:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 2:35 pm
Sian Gibson as Gemma and Johnny Vegas as Terry

Which is why Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson were excited, but also nervous, about reprising their roles of lovebirds Terry and Gemma, for Death On The Tyne.

Following on from Murder On The Blackpool Express last year, the two-hour special sees the couple, who work as tour guides, taking Mildred (Sheila Reid) and a group of her friends from her care home on a ferry to Amsterdam.

But it's not long before things start to go awry and a puzzling murder mystery unravels on the cruise.

Sign up to our daily The St Helens Reporter Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sian Gibson as Gemma and Johnny Vegas as Terry in Death On The Tyne

"I was kind of going, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'," admits Vegas, 48, on deciding to do a sequel.

"Once we all got together and started shooting, you've just got this amazing gang of people in a room and it's not like work when it's like that. It's a lot of fun."

"We were sad to not have the same cast back," shares Gibson, 42. "But we were very excited to have the new and exciting cast to do the second one."

Airing on Gold, Death On The Tyne is an unusual, but welcome, mix of comedy and a thrilling whodunnit.

At the centre of it you have Terry and Gemma, who Vegas - real name Michael Pennington - calls the "straight ones" amongst a selection of mad characters, played by the likes of Georgie Glen, Sue Johnston and James Fleet.

"The idea is that everyone's being hilarious, and we feel as if we're being really flat," elaborates the St Helens-born star, famous for his work in stand-up, as well as roles in Benidorm, Still Open All Hours and Bleak House.

"We're just doing facial expressions!" quips Gibson, best known for her collaborations with Peter Kay, including starring in and co-writing the comedy series Peter Kay's Car Share.

"It gives you that confidence to go, 'No, the straighter we play it, the funnier it makes everyone else'," Vegas elaborates.

"You're not tempted to take it into comedy overdrive. That wouldn't work for the characters."

The duo have become great friends thanks to this show, so does that make their performances easier?

"I think so, purely because you're not embarrassed to try things out and play about with it; you're not intimidated," suggests Gibson, who was born in Wales.

"We're very like-minded, in the comedy that we like anyway," notes Vegas.

"We're not embarrassed to go, 'Does this feel right?' You're not hijacking the script but you're going, 'Would we do this as a couple?'"

In Murder On The Blackpool Express, there was a "Will they, won't they?" situation with Gemma and Terry.

This time, the focus on the couple is what it's like to date somebody you work with, with a sideline story of Terry wanting to propose (and it never quite going to plan...)

"What I enjoyed about the second time is that we felt like we'd established the characters so we kind of knew what we were doing," notes Gibson.

"So it was easier for us than for all the new cast because they were still getting to grips with it, whereas we were doing what we did before, but the relationship has moved on a stage. It felt even more comfortable."

"They are very relatable in that they're constantly on these trips surrounded by larger-than-life characters," adds Vegas. "The two of them are a good anchor for each other."

Vegas for Death On The Tyne expressed the self-doubt he feels about being a comedian who has moved into doing dramas.

It seems these feelings haven't particularly eased off with doing a sequel.

"I don't think I've ever felt as secure in acting as I do in stand-up," he confides.

"You go on jobs and it's like the first day of school. As time goes on, you get to know more people; it becomes a more reassuring environment.

"The great thing with this is, I will watch it because I'm watching everybody else's performances and I can blank myself out," he says.

"I can enjoy it - it's not like a massive two-hander. I think eventually I'll end up the other side of the camera.

"I love acting, but I am more than aware of my abilities and limitations, whereas, creatively, on the other side [of the camera]... I love working with brilliant actors and when you direct, it's a great thing."

It goes without saying there is more TV available to us now than ever before.

It's rare though, says Gibson, "that a programme like this comes along and it can span quite a large age group and demographic".

Leading on from that, Vegas warns it's getting harder and harder to pitch original ideas like Death On The Tyne, especially in an age of reality TV.

"Certainly with one-offs, I think it's a 'No, we need a commitment to three series'.

"But if it works, it works and the first one [Murder On The Blackpool Express] proved that; it had this catchment area and audience that was massive, down to this amazing cast that they pulled together, and great writing.

"If you look at the cast that we've got, it'd be far cheaper to put two people from Cumbria, in the arse end of nowhere, and film them having an argument.

"It does restore your faith in commissioners going, 'Good writing, good cast'. There is still an audience out there for that."

Watch Death On The Tyne on Gold on Saturday, December 15.