TV Quickfire: David Walliams on Hansel And Gretel: After Ever After
As David Walliams returns to the Christmas TV schedules, we found out more about what to expect from the latest instalment of his After Ever After series...
WERE THERE ANY CHALLENGES THAT CAME WITH ADAPTING HANSEL AND GRETEL?
I LOVED this story as a kid – it was my favourite. Writing a sequel, your main concern as a writer is 'what does the average person remember of the original story?'. They tend to know the names of Hansel and Gretel but not know much about them as characters.
I think with this fairytale what you feel the most is the real sense of danger. As a kid, when you're told about the House of Sweets, it's like the best thing you've ever heard. It sounds almost like a medieval version of a theme park. It's really terrifying when you realise the children are going to be eaten.
So, for the sequel we wanted to keep in touch with the surrealism of the House of Sweets. We had to show that and it's looking brilliant. You also want to make sure there is a genuine threat. It's not really a jokey threat in this one.
THE WITCH HAS A SHOT AT REDEMPTION IN THIS VERSION...
If you're going to do a sequel, it's got to tell a different type of story. It can't just be like, "Oh, the witch is bad again and she's chucked in the oven again". It's interesting with fairy stories because they obviously mean different things at different periods of time.
Obviously, the idea of witches is an interesting one, because we assumed all witches are bad, but then, if you look back in history, it just seems like a really brutal way in which certain people would treat outsiders. And so we wanted to bring in that element to it, to make it feel modern, and really give a reason for it to exist. I think if it was just a retread of the first story, there would be no point to it.
WHY DID YOU CAST SHERIDAN SMITH AS THE WICKED WITCH?
I really like to give her roles where she gets to transform. She's almost become like a folk hero with the TV drama roles she plays, so it's really fun to see her dressed up, looking really scary and revolting. We feel very lucky to have her; she's just a joy.
YOU PLAY A TROLL IMPORTED FROM THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF. HOW DID THE TWO FAIRYTALES INTERTWINE?
The troll is such a good character, but I think it would be quite hard to do the Billy Goat story – it's too slight, and also it's goats, and goats aren't very Christmassy! But it's a great story; I love that story.
As a kid, I was really interested in the troll… I had a book, and I would just constantly look at the picture of him under the bridge. So I kept on thinking, with this, how can we maybe bring in that character? And I thought, well, we're in fairytale land and this is a sequel, and it worked well with this idea of another person whose story mirrors the witch's in some way.
Also, what's good about it now is there is this term that we all know, 'trolling'. So there was plenty to play off with that.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR TRANSFORMATION INTO THE TROLL…
It's about three hours in make-up and prosthetics and then they put me in this big suit. I love a massive transformation, so I've really enjoyed being the troll. That's one of the most exciting things you can do as an actor. To my mind, the more unrecognisable you are, the more fun it is.
:: Hansel And Gretel: After Ever After airs on Sky Max this Christmas.