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Avoidance | Interview with Romesh Ranganathan (Jonathan)

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Tell us about your new series Avoidance and what audiences can expect from the show?

Avoidance is about a conflict-avoidant beta male, who is so frustrating to live with that his partner leaves. He is then forced to try and sort himself out, for the sake of this son. He ends up staying with his sister and her wife…it’s funnier than it sounds. It’s supposed to be funny with a bit of heart, but I’d settle for mildly diverting at this point. 

This is your first series with your own production company Ranga Bee for the BBC, how was that?

It’s cool to have a production company, but it does add extra anxiety when you know that any issues are something you need to worry about. I didn’t enjoy the idea that if I moaned about anything I was essentially slagging myself off. 

Tell us about the writing process for Avoidance. 

Ben Green and I had a version of this idea about five years ago and every now and then we would dip back into it and develop it further. Eventually we decided to put it together as an idea for the BBC. Ben, Neil Webster, Shaun Pye, Kefi Chadwick and myself thrashed out storylines and ideas, and then eventually wrote individual scripts before poring over them to make sure our characters seemed like real people. Then we spent the rest of the process worrying it was all rubbish. 

Do you have any similarities to your character Jonathan? 

His conflict-avoidant beta maledom is based on my own character, but I would like to think I hide it a bit better than Jonathan does. The fact that Ben agreed it would be a good starting point for a comedy suggests I don’t. 

Do you have any favourite memories from filming?

I think the first scene with Kieran who plays Spencer – he was who I filmed with on the first few days. He was just so natural and brilliant and I remember thinking we were onto something good with him. It was a really nice moment, swiftly followed by waves of anxiety about my own performance. 

You have some great talent involved, when you wrote it did you have the casting in mind?

We didn’t have people in mind specifically, but we were lucky that in each of the main roles, the cast had taken the characters beyond how we even imagined they could be. Jess, Lisa and Mandeep are the most incredible actors, and they brought their characters to life in a way that had us all buzzing. We have really lucked out with them – every day they were looking at scenes and how to approach them and improve them. 

How was filming with your fellow cast mates? Have you worked with any of them before?

I worked with Lisa on King Gary and thought she was amazing and worked with Jess on Judge Romesh, which I thought went well, but she has since told me I seemed a bit stressed on that, and I thought I was being charming, so I’m glad we’ve had this experience to wash that away. I watched Mandeep in After Life and thought she was excellent, but had never worked with her. Kieran is of course a megastar in the making.

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