What a difference a year makes. Pretty much exactly this time 12 months ago, series one of BBC Three's latest commission was unveiled at a small screening at the BFI on London's South Bank.
Being Human was the little show that could, starting off as a pilot that the BBC broadcast and then quickly said they wouldn't be commissioning. Fulsome fan reaction made them change their mind and commit to a full series, albeit with cast changes leaving some of those who had so loved the pilot fearful they were going to get Hollyoaks with fangs.
Twelve months on, it's fair to say those fears were unfounded. The series aired to critical acclaim, garnering great ratings on BBC Three and regularly taking top spot as most popular show on the Beeb's iPlayer, before being repeated on BBC1. It's been sold to more than a dozen countries, while the SyFy Channel in America have bought the rights to remake it - although we can debate whether or not that's a good thing. Meanwhile, its leads' profiles increased with Lenora Crichlow joining the star-studded cast of Anthony Horowitz's Collision, Aidan Turner proving there was more to him than smouldering (although he remains good at that too) in Desperate Romantics, while Russell Tovey, well he ended up meeting some Doctor or other...
Suffice to say, Toby Whithouse's very British, very funny comedy drama (we're still not calling it a dramedy) has a slightly higher profile than last year – as the series two launch in a swish cinema in London's swanky Mayfair this week attested. The velvet ropes outside, the security on the door, the screaming fangirls as Aidan Turner walked into the building (his response was a slightly embarrassed "f**king hell!") all the signs were there that Being Human is now officially a Very Big Thing.
There were props tucked away in the corner for fans to get a glimpse at - from George's sofa and the full moonish light fitting from the living room to the B-movie posters from Mitchell's bedroom - and freebie posters for fans to pick up. Meanwhile, queueing for the bar or trying to get into the loo became a surreal experience as "CenSSA officials" (this season's big threat to our heroes – a group of humans desperate to stop the supernatural threat by any means necessary) dragged flailing semi-naked "type threes" covered in blankets away from the crowds. There was even a vampire there who looked a bit like Spike from Buffy - if he'd had a very hard life.
The cast were on hand to mingle, meet fans and talk to meeja types about what to expect from the next eight jam-packed episodes, along with production team bigwigs and Toby Whithouse himself.
All of which was great and everything, but the main event was the grand unveiling of the first episode. And before we went in, Russell Tovey was keen to tell us what to expect – warning that season two is even darker than ever before, especially for George who is dealing with the ramifications of murdering Herrick.
“George starts off very dark. He killed someone. It was his biggest fear, something he didn't ever want to do, and he's done it. He didn't ever want to embrace the wolf, but now he has. So he's in a state of shock. He's started to use his power to his benefit which is something he always said he'd never do, so he's living in fear of the fact that he's not afraid of it any more. That scares him.”
That's all well and good but if the first couple of episodes are anything to go by, George deals with this shock by being, well, a bit of a tosser to those around him actually...
“It's brilliant because it's a shift for George. I had a fear that people wouldn't like him any more. He's the lovable one and people like him and I like that because people like me and that's quite nice. I didn't want people to start going, 'Oooooh Russell, what a bastard!', and I'd be going, 'No, it's George, it's not me, I'm nice!' He does have his moments, but I think you kind of forgive what he's going through because you care about him and you want him to be alright and you want him to be happy. I think you can understand what's going on in his head and you can see it. But as the scripts come through for me to play as an actor it's great. Because it's some diversity to George and exploring a side to him we've not seen before and it's so well written.”
For fellow Doctor Who alumni (she played Addams in this year's Christmas special) Sinead Keenan, Being Human started off as a two episode guest role but kept expanding – leading this year to a promotion to main cast member and full-time housemate at Windsor Terrace. But while Sinead's thrilled with this development, Nina's not quite so cheery, with some very raw emotional moments coming up.
Sinead told us: “Nina's had a lot to deal with in the space of 27 or 28 days. To find out her boyfriend's a werewolf, and he's living with a vampire and a ghost and then he scratched her, so is she or isn't she a werewolf too? There's all that going on. To deal with that is a big ask of a little person. When we were filming the heavy scenes I was thinking, 'God those were the days when Nina just said a funny line and walked off.' There are some scenes which were not very nice to do – but they're amazing, really well written. I'm very proud of them.”
Lovely Lenora Crichlow is never more giddy than when talking about Annie's wardrobe – although spending four months of the year wearing identical clothes will probably do that to you. So she was keen to tell us about all the things happening with Annie this season, not least some subtle sartorial changes: “Annie's still dead and still in grey. But there are variations to her clothes, they're morphing and growing and changing with her. It's very clever. It's lovely. This year she's asked to be brave, to confront more stuff. She's kind of on the run, kind of embracing it, she's learning what it is to be a poltergeist, learning what it is to be a friend. She's got a lot of stuff going on.”
That's somewhat of an understatement. Annie's exuberance and joy at life – and the fact that she can be seen by people who aren't George and Mitchell again – mean that she also gets her fair share of male attention: “Calling them love interests is probably overstating it, but there are some people interested in her, there's a bit of a thing, some pecking but no snog. She'd love a snog, she's not against snogging but there isn't one, she's not there yet. And one of the people is lovely, but the other is bad news. Really bad news.”
But what about everyone who wants Mitchell and Annie to get together after their moment in series one? The signs aren't good for now. Lenora explains: “It's not really explored this series but you never know. At the moment Mitchell is too busy drinking blood...”
Series two also sees the return of Kemp - the creepy looking man talking gathering information on the housemates from Annie's mad ex Owen in the final episode of series one. Actor Donald Sumpter's career has spanned more than 40 years, including genre roles in Doctor Who in the late '60s and early '70 (as Enrico Casali) and more recently The Sarah Jane Adventures (where he played Erasmus Darkening). He was also considered for the role of Blake in Blake's 7. We found him supping a drink in the bar before the screening, and since he was much friendlier and approachable than his alter ego (although, let's face it, that's not difficult) nabbed him for a chat to ask how he felt about his return for series two.
“I'm very pleased to be back,” he said. “When I came in for the final episode there was a hint of, 'If you're crap, forget it. We'll recast it or pretend he's dead.' Toby was going, 'I love what you do, it's very exciting,' but I didn't know where it was going to go after that one episode. I was thinking they can kill him off, say that he disappeared somewhere. Anything could have happened but it struck a note and I felt very comfortable with it from the beginning. The scripts are brilliant, really extraordinary.”
As for exactly why creepy Kemp is so keen to get his hands on the housemates, Donald remained tightlipped. “Creepy? He's not creepy. No, I just wander around being nice. Madam, you're being very insulting. Kemp as far as he is concerned is absolutely saving the world and I'm offended that you have this attitude.”
Breaking off from the - frankly rather creepy - Kempish voice he's slipped into as we talked, Donald smiles. “It's very difficult to say anything without giving anything away - I don't want to get my legs smacked. But I can tell you I'm the joke interest. When everyone gets bored of those others, wittering on about their affairs, and moving on and all that, when they get too boring, the action cuts to Kemp for a laugh. He's the comic relief. A bon mot for every occasion. That's his purpose, to liven everyone else up. And he gets the girl in the end. Although obviously I can't say anything else. In fact I may have said too much...”
* You can find out for yourself if Donald Sumpter's summation is accurate when Being Human Series 2 begins on Sunday, 10 January at 9.30pm on BBC Three. Come back here to discuss the episode after the show with our episode one review or check out the SFX forum thread on the show.