Heydon Prowse has had an interesting and varied career. First appearing on screen in an adaptation of The Secret Garden, he has since gone on to co create with Joylon Rubinstein one of BBC Three’s biggest shows, the BAFTA award winning The Revolution Will Be Televised. Aside from writing and acting in the programme Heydon is a tireless activist for freedom of speech. He can be found on Twitter at @HeydonProwse.
To begin with, we discussed the recent spin off The Revolution Presents: Democracy Dealers which followed two of the programmes most well known characters James Twottington – Burbage (Rubinstein) and Barnaby Plankton (Prowse).
How did it feel making The Revolution Presents: Democracy Dealers?
Well, it was a bit of a departure from the last series we did as it was much more narrative and scripted. It was different but interesting: a lot more relaxed because we didn’t have to get in front of Prime Ministers and get through all the security. It was nice to create something that had a narrative arch and explore the characters more.
How do you feel the series compares to other satirical programmes?
With the series we script lines and then ad. lib. I mean you can’t really have a full on script when you’re trying to punt a politician. It is different in that sense. We’re all about going to politicians and bringing the satire to them. The most recent programme was more of a traditional form of satire in the style of The Thick of It and things like that.
There is a lot of risk taking involved with some of the things you do, has there ever been a point where you have felt you can’t continue because of the risk?
No, we will always vet everything first and a lot of hard work and procedure goes into it. There are times though where we’ve been on EDL marches and that got quite hairy. Tommy Robinson’s mate tried to “have it out” with me at one point. There are times when you are quite worried about what might happen. When we went to meet a group who were associated with the Klu Klux Klan, they had guns and we started to get worried how they’d react to us taking the mick. There are times when the sh*t hits the fan. We went to the National Criminal Court and we almost got incarcerated in one of their cells. Even legally sometimes you can find yourself in hot water but we have a really thorough production research team. However you do get used to the level of confrontation though which is useful in some ways but can be harmful ‘cos you can get a bit addicted to that sort of thing in some sense.
Has there ever been a group or an intuition that you’ve thought about including in the show but haven’t for whatever reason?
Yes, we had thought about doing something on ISIS but obviously it isn’t the right time. It is very fragile situation. Saturday Night Live just came out and did their ISIS sketch. You have to be very careful. You don’t want to offend people and you get people saying “Why are you making fun of it, it is a really important issue”. There is a place for satire, for comedy for not taking things too seriously and if you don’t laugh at things and not take them too seriously then that can sometimes lead to extremism. You have to be careful of things that really affect people’s lives.
So in that case do you think satire can be sometimes detrimental to an important point someone is making?
Yes, it depends whether it is good satire or bad satire. With The Revolution Will Be Televised we’ve had a lot of smart people working out what we want to say and figuring out whether we are going below the belt or just rude and it is about whether the point is worth making.
You’ve been described as an actor and an activist. Do you see yourself as primarily one or the other?
I dunno – I see myself as loads of things. I see myself as a journalist (writing things for The Guardian for example) and a “citizen journalist” in the show, an actor, a satirist and lots of other things. It’s kind of weird bag really.
How do you think the divided feeling that there is about politics has impacted on the show?
Well when we first got the show commissioned the coalition has just formed and bankers were being bailed out and things like that and I think all of this helped because there are times when people are hungrier for satire than at other points.
The best of series one to three is on BBC 2 on the 8th of March. Was it difficult choosing the best of each series?
It was actually fun, finding your best clips and we always knew what the best bits were. I wish we had three years to make one series as it would have been amazing but yeah it was fun. It was nice as it showcases the best of what we’ve done.
With the recent news about BBC 3, what do you see the future of the programme being?
We’ve got stuff in the pipeline and are speaking to people about new ideas, so watch this space. Not necessarily the same thing with the same characters. We’d like to do more with the James and Barnaby characters but we are happy to leave The Revolution Will Be Televised where it is and move onto something new.
With thanks to Heydon Prowse. The two specials of THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED… THE BEST OF SERIES 1 – 3 will air on Sunday 8th March at 10.05pm & Sunday 15th March at 10.30pm on BBC Two.