They could be heroes(from left to right): Excelsor (Patrick Baladi), She-Force (Rebekah Staton), Timebomb (James Lance), Electroclash (Claire Keelan) and The Hotness (Nicholas Burns).
ITV2’s first ever homegrown sitcom, No Heroics, makes its debut this week, so we caught up with one of its stars for an exclusive natter on the phone. Rebekah Staton (who you might recognise from BBC3 comedy Pulling and as one member of Doctor Who baddies the Family of Blood) plays Jenny, a seemingly ordinary 20-something whose alter-ego is She-Force, the world’s third strongest woman.
But as the title suggests, No Heroics is more concerned with what Jenny and superpals The Hotness (who controls heat), Electroclash (who has a complete mastery of electrical items) and Timebomb (who can see one minute into the future) get up to when they’re off duty. It’s mostly sitting in a pub and chatting – “capes” are clearly just like us…
Have you always wanted to be a superhero?
“The thought had never crossed my mind. In fact, I would say quite the opposite, I never really realised I would ever have the opportunity, so the fact that it’s come up has been thrilling.”
So were you into superheroes as a kid?
“I liked Superman and Supergirl, and He-Man and She-Ra. I’ve still got my She-Ra doll. I found it the other day in the loft, and I thought, ‘That’s going to be quite cool in a few years time.’ I’d quite like her outfit now! I wasn’t into comics or anything, though. Now that I’ve met [series creator] Drew Pearce I’ve realised what ‘into comics’ means.”
What was your reaction to the show when you first read the script?
“I’m looking totally at Jenny in that world, and it’s just this really interesting paradox between somebody who has this super strength but it actually quite fragile on the inside and I just loved this idea of someone who is quite so human and wants to actually be human and doesn’t want her power. And she doesn’t look like any superhero girl you’ve seen before, because they don’t tend to do the chunkier version, so it was like, ‘Let’s go for it – how celebratory!’ That’s what I was attracted to.”
Were you involved much in the development of the character?
“I think Jenny changed more visually than any other character, so in the pilot she’s kind of a blonde, curly-haired suit. And it just didn’t work, and Drew, Ben [Gregor, director] and myself talked at great length about what we could do. We said, ‘What do we know about superheroes?’ Thinking about Clark Kent, they tend to be a bit geeky in their everyday lives, so Jenny needs glasses, she does it by the book. She will be law-abiding, while the others may break the rules, she will stick to them like glue, and then the sort of gingery hair and the idea that her outfit should be a little bit like Wonderwoman, but still soft and sweet, which I think we got.
I think the glasses make me look like a young Su Pollard, and my friend said they made me look like a young Deidre Rachid. I was quite proud of that.”
Have you found that glasses work as a reliable disguise? They’ve worked for Clark Kent all these years…
“I’m more likely to be recognised for the following reason – I look like people’s aunty or friend back home, and people just go, ‘You look just like my friend from home.’ I never get recognised from anything I do, which I like very much.”
Does being the third strongest woman in the world change the way you carry yourself?
“It does. After a while I did start to forget that I wasn’t that strong. In life I’m a weakling, really weak, and I just started to see that having super strength is very helpful. I loved the bits where I get to push away cars and lift up wardrobes. It was really good fun pretending to be that strong.”
Of course, you don’t get to do all that much heroic stuff in the show…
“We’re in the pub, it’s our time off and we don’t really get to see that and when we do see them as superheroes it’s a little treat in the episode when the rest of the time we’re actually getting to find out how being a superhero affects them as human beings. Then we learn, of course, that love lives are exactly the same for them as for most normal people.”
The pub set’s packed with in-jokes, with beers named after Alan Moore, the X-Men referencing Logan’s Rum and even postcards from Metropolis in the background. Did you have fun hunting down all the gags?
“I remember one day Ben and Drew were talking about some reference, I think it was written on a blackboard, and it just went over the top of my head, and they said they were everywhere, that the set’s littered with them – for somebody who doesn’t know about that, you just don’t notice!”
So where do you go after playing a superhero?
“Well, I did get chucked out of the TARDIS in Doctor Who and I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of my career as I was falling. They dropped me 30 feet to get that shot, and I was like, it doesn’t get any better than this, being pushed out of the TARDIS by David Tennant, and then of course She-Force, super strength. I don’t know what I can do next. I just did Tess of the D’Urbervilles so I think that’s basically as far removed as you could imagine. No superpowers there. But I never like to do the same thing twice. I like to keep moving an make unpredictable choices, mix it up.”
Will you be getting your own action figures?
“With Doctor Who they took my picture for a doll, but I don’t think they made the Family of Blood, which I was gutted about, they just made some scarecrows. But it would be brilliant to have my She-Force doll in one cabinet with my She-Ra. But I don’t know whether the people who are going to be watching the show are going to want dolls. I’m hoping they’re going to be over 18, because it’s very sweary! But if they want them I think they should write letters, and I’m behind them, 100 percent.”
No Heroics starts on Thursday 18 September at 10.30pm on ITV2.
You can listen to an interview with the show's creator, Drew Pearce, over at Geek Syndicate .