Misfits man’s mad malarkey.
Prepare to triple yourself, Misfits fans: Howard Overman, creator of the edgy E4 show, is back with another youthful genre show for the channel. This time though he’s putting an offbeat spin on demonology, rather than superpowers. Filmed in Bristol, six-part series Crazyhead is set in a world where the underworld exists, and the only way that souls can escape being trapped there is by possessing the living.
Understandably, fans of Overman’s Asbo-superheroes show will immediately want to know just how much Crazyhead has in common with it. He says there are
similarities and differences. “Obviously Misfits was a comedic take on genre, and this is a comedic take on genre,” Overman explains. “It’s not as extreme as Misfits though, as it’s designed for an earlier time slot. I’d also say it’s a warmer show. Misfits was always about five people who quite often didn’t really like each other, and were horrible to one another! Whereas this has a real friendship at its core.”
That central relationship is the one between a duo of amateur demon hunters. Cara Theobold plays Amy who, in episode one, learns that her “hallucinations” are actually a special ability to see the faces of the demons walking among us. Enter Susan Wokoma as Raquel, the fellow “see-er” she teams up with. “It’s that classic buddy tale,” Overman explains. “Two lost souls who find each other, and despite their differences the world makes more sense when they’re together. They become each other’s rocks, because for the first time both of them have that person they can be honest with, and is having the same experience as them. They can be their true selves with one another.”
Overman’s starting point was the “funny woman” of this “straight/funny” pairing, Raquel. “I wanted to have this outlandish character who could wield a truncheon and beat people up but also be vulnerable and quirky,” Overman says. “A demon slayer the like of which we hadn’t seen before. Usually they’re the person telling you all the rules, whereas she’s not professional, is not a very good driver, is incompetent… But she’s incredibly loveable for it – that just makes her more real and more human.”
“Raquel’s been able to see the demons since her early teens,” Susan Wokoma explains. “She’s a self-made demon hunter. So she relies on Google, and she bought her taser and her baton off eBay. Since she was 13 she’s been going out trying to waste these guys. And she’s very funny, but she’s also very socially awkward, because of the world telling her that she’s crazy. So as soon as she clocks that Amy can see them too she’s like, ‘A friend! A friend!’”
The demons aren’t necessarily what you might be expecting from a show like this either. “We didn’t want just a simple good or evil thing,” Overman explains. “We wanted the devils to end up having complex feelings themselves. I wanted to give them personality. The best vampire in Buffy The Vampire Slayer was always Angel, because he had character and personality, and was conflicted.” He’s achieved that complexity by making the act of possession something of a two-way street.
“One of the characters possesses a single mum,” Overman reveals. “Now, if you possess someone who has children, what does that do to your demon side? Can you change and come to care for them? If you possess someone and fall in love with a human, does that change you? That’s what you look for – you take a genre trope and try to do something a bit more interesting with it.”
It’s a philosophy he’s also applied to the Big Bad of the piece – head demon Callum, played by Tony Curran (Datak Tarr in Defiance and Vincent Van Gogh in Doctor Who).
“He’s a stickler for attention to detail,” says Overman, “so when he does something he wants it done competently, and he gets very angry when his minions don’t perform! He’s a foodie, and very stylish – the guy might be evil, but he has panache! In some ways he’s that classic managing director, it’s just what he’s managing is quite evil.”
And don’t expect any kind of centuries-old secret organisation dedicated to protecting humanity, of the sort you often see in this kind of series. These girls are going to have to muddle through on their own. “When a show starts with the line ‘A secret organisation set up to fight…’ I just go, ‘Oh yeah?’” Overman says, with a note of weariness. “I’m much more drawn to a couple of normal people making do and finding out for themselves how to deal with it. Whatever you do in life, to a certain extent we’re all bullshitting, aren’t we? Half the time you’re winging it!”
Crazyhead starts airing on E4 later in October, with Netflix then streaming it globally.
If you possess someone and fall in love with a human, does that change you?
Five seconds later they launched into their awardwinning dance routine.
At least the gag was colour co-ordinated. The world’s most evil managing director.