Interview by Paul Salfen
Love and Insomnia. Still Up” is an almost romantic comedy set in the after-hours world of insomniacs Danny (Roberts) and Lisa (Thomas) who have no secrets except their feelings for each other.
Bonded by insomnia, best friends Lisa and Danny stay connected to each other late into the night and find their way through a world of wonderfully weird surprises as their relationship deepens.
“Still Up” is the story of two insomniacs, Lisa and Danny, and how their relationship develops over the course of regular late night conversations. “The premise of the show is that there are these two people who, on the surface, lead quite different lives,” explains John Addis, who directed all of the season’s episodes. “Lisa is a mum to a young girl and in a relationship with a dependable partner, while Danny is single and very much stuck at home. What ties them together is their shared experience of insomnia and through a series of chats in the dead of night they form a deep connection. In so many ways they’re perfect for each other but they both have complications which would make it hard for them to actually be together.
The series charts the course of their slowly developing relationship from platonic friendship to the potential of something more.” The show’s creators, Steve Budge and Natalie Walter, based the series on their real life experiences — they’re both insomniacs — and characters they recognized. The pair first met ten years ago when Walter was performing a Radio 4 sketch series for which Budge was one of the main writers. “I always thought Steve was one of the most talented comedy writers I’ve ever worked with,” says Walter. “His sense of humor is so funny, offbeat and original. Steve liked my stories and so we decided to work on some comedy scripts together. ‘Still Up’ wasn’t the first script Steve and I wrote together but it was the first one where all the different elements came together — the characters, the setting and the storylines all clicked.”
They realized that their sleep issues could be a great starting point for a comedy series after they began talking late in the evenings and into the early mornings. “Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I would log onto Facebook in the middle of the night and I noticed that Steve was on Facebook, too,” recalls Walter. “So we started chatting and exchanging silly messages, jokes and pictures. It was that time, really late at night – after 3am – when it’s easy to have these strange, funny, freewheeling conversations and not really worry about what you’re saying. The idea for ‘Still Up’ gradually emerged from those chats with Steve.”
Budge and Walter’s co-writer Bryce Hart also related to the central characters the creators had developed, himself having struggled with insomnia for years. “The thing about being awake at a time when the rest of the world is asleep is that anything seems possible,” Hart says. “It’s an exciting world full of possibility where dreams feel like they can come true which was the perfect environment for Danny and Lisa to slowly explore their feelings for one another.”
Walter notes that a few of the show’s characters — and the strange situations they find themselves in — are loosely inspired by people the pair know or things that have personally happened to them. Burge describes Danny as a “less pathetic version of me.”
Lisa’s partner, the fitness-obsessed Veggie, played by Blake Harrison is the world’s most regimented sleeper. “He’s a lovely guy but just doesn’t have the shorthand that Danny has with her – although it doesn’t stop him trying,” says Hart. “And he’s happy that Lisa has someone to chat with through the night.”
Producer Arabella McGuigan says that finding the actors for so many guest roles was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series. “One of the joys about a show so focused on two people is that you can be very free with your guest characters,” she says. “They’re there for comedy, insight or poignancy, and when you only have them for one episode, that can be a gift for casting. We have some wonderful, starry guests, and the diversity and range our casting director, Lauren Evans, has brought to the whole cast makes it all the more real for our metropolitan show.”