Vampires are so yesterday – post-apocalyptic is all the rage these days. And that’s handy when it comes to spanking new ITV2 comedy Cockroaches, which stars Daniel Lawrence Taylor (Uncle, The IT Crowd) and Esther Smith (Cuckoo2, Skins and Uncle).
The show centres around a disparate group of nuclear holocaust survivors and features cannibals, poser-turned-psycho ex-boyfriend and chess-playing bather. Slice of thigh, anyone?
IT’S post-apocalyptic nuclear war and there are cannibals roaming the streets along with three-eyed bunnies and green-faced humans.
What you and your friends really crave is…diet coke?!
Luckily it doesn’t matter that Cockroaches star Esther Smith’s friends’ imagination doesn’t appear to have stretched as far as romcom writer Freddy Syborn’s but a soft drink craving, really?
Esther admits: “I asked a lot of people ‘what would you miss’ and Diet Coke came up!
“For me it would be not being able to have clean water or a hot shower. I don’t think I’d be able to survive, I’d be in a corner crying! I can barely look after myself now. You think, ‘what effectively do we need?’ As long as you have people around you you’re okay.”
The hint of positivity from Esther isn’t a patch on her character Suze, an optimist who attacks every challenge with an open heart.
And that’s no mean feat as Suze, her family and boyfriend Tom had been stuck in a basement for ten years following a nuclear fallout.
During that time Esther became pregnant (I hope there was some loud music and a room divider) and have only just resurfaced to see what damage has been done above ground.
Esther said: “When I read the script I loved it. It’s a romantic comedy which is a nice thing to be involved in.
“It’s off the wall and dark and because it’s post-apocalyptic and something that’s not happened there’s so much freedom with what to do.
“There’s a lot of post-apocalyptic things out right now. It feels like it’s becoming fashionable looking into it and what you would do.
“We don’t see much before the war. My character Suze was popular, had a lucky upbringing, enjoyed partying before but she now has a family to care for and becomes feral.
“She would kill people now because she has to survive. She does everything in slightly f*cked-up ways.
“You kind of forgive her for it. She has a lot of heart. The story is quite scary and it’s not romantic in the doey-eyed sense.
“It’s more what romance would be in a post-apocalyptic world. Tom and Suze might not have ended up together so it’s a particular type of love story.
“Cockroaches are famously what’s thought of as left from a nuclear war and we are like cockroaches. It was funny but someone I told thought we dressed like cockroaches!” The Skins and Cuckoo 2 actress originally studied ballet and contemporary dance but a nudge from a teacher led her to switch to the Guildford School of Acting and she now has a full plate of roles on offer.
Esther is mid-filming the second series of Uncle with her Cockroaches co-star Daniel and is about to work on a radio sitcom for BBC3 with Ardal O’Hanlon (Father Ted).
Although she has worked with a number of established actors Esther admits to still being start struck now and again.
She recalls, “I starred alongside Taylor Lautner in Cuckoo 2.That was insane. Taylor was sitting next to me chatting away and I was thinking, ‘Okay, this is Monday’.
“I quickly forgot he was in Twilight and had a huge following. We all got on so well. With Cockroaches I feel like I was on set with the funniest actors in the world.
“Jack (Whitehall) would throw in ad libs and improvise things. It was really difficult to keep a straight face. Tom Davis was so funny. I was blown away by who I was going to be acting with. I had to censor myself.
“I grew up watching men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek so I was excited to meet Caroline Quentin. I have no censorship so I had to tell her I was a fan and she thought it was nice to hear that someone was affected by her career.
“I think she was chuffed. She had no ego at all.”
The backdrop and reality of a nuclear fallout sent shivers down Daniel Lawrence Taylor’s body on his first day of filming.
Filmed in an old gunpowder factory in east London the derelict, half-destroyed building created the perfect air of destructive aftermath.
Daniel reveals: “When I read the script and auditions it didn’t affect me but I had a moment when we get to actually film on location and we are in the middle of nowhere.
“There are burnt-out cars and you see all this destruction around I thought, ‘Wow, if this actually happened this would be horrible’.
“It has people from all walks of life on the same level, class and riches so anything that divided people has gone. There’s now no rules, no police, no holds barred.
“Don’t get me wrong though, it would be amazing running into shops to get things and never having to pay!
“With Cockroaches we’ve gone past the initial panic and what’s so funny is how people respond and they’re still bickering over the smallest things like ‘why do you keep talking about the weather?’ or ‘why do we have to have tuna every night?’
“In one scene there’s a massive dance-off and because there’s a holocaust there’s no music so they all use any makeshift instruments they can find. One of the things is a lute and the other is a kids’ toy piano you blow into and they’re all clapping and rapping. It’s funny.”
Daniel’s character Tom is the reason Suze’s family leave the basement. He’s lazy but the incessant whining from Suze’s parents tip him over the edge. Daniel says: “Tom’s wimpy and not practical at all and he only survives because of Suze. He seems to think he’s always right and tries to get his point across all the time. He tends to see the funny side of a nuclear holocaust. Suze is trying to be a good mum to Laura and Tom’s not as good. He’s comedic value.”