We love Holli Dempsey in Channel 4’s Derek and were delighted to find out she’d been cast as Vera in the comedy film Dad’s Army, out this year and based on the BBC television sitcom of the same name. Funny Women writer Kady Potter caught up with Holli for a chat about girdles, Twitter and plans for a Mum’s Army…
Kady Potter: 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of Dad’s Army – know if there’s anything special planned you can hint at for us?
Holli Dempsey: I literally know nothing! Sorry! But if you find out, please let me know!!
KP: What would your dream ‘Mum’s Army’ look like?
HD: Well my mum is one in a million so she would have to be in there. I read Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman recently and loved her outlook on growing up. It’s a book you can read at any age and still really relate to. I really respect Adele too. She’s carved out such an incredible career for herself, yet still keeps her private life private.
My agent’s assistant Ali is a woman I really admire too. Funny, honest, strong and makes a great cake. She’d keep us fed and in fits of giggles. I love Morgana and Ronni Ancona’s impression shows too. What incredible talents they are! They’d be such a laugh and they could double up as other people – sort of a two for one deal! Imagine that film!
KP: You’ve been on Twitter since 2009, how have the interactions you get on social media (particularly as a young woman) changed?
HD: As an actress people get to know your characters more than you, so I think your fanbase usually reflects that. A lot of my followers are Derek fans, which is a show about kindness, so all of them are bloody lovely!
It’s so wonderful to share your hard work with people who are interested in what you’re doing. Social media can be a great way to keep people ‘in the loop’. I know Twitter can be a harsh place for some but so far – touch wood – I’ve had no nasty tweets! I’m sure if I played a child snatcher or something, my followers may change their tune!
KP: What do you think makes the humour of Dad’s Army so enduringly popular?
HD: It’s easy, for a young person especially, to write the original series off as ‘old’ or ‘out of date’ just by the look of it. The beauty of Dad’s Army is that it’s still so funny and so relevant. The country may have moved on somewhat since the 1940s but the themes of the show stay the same. Just like most great British comedy shows, we aren’t afraid of laughing at ourselves. Fawlty Towers, The Office, Dad’s Army are all about well meaning British folk getting it quite wrong, to hilarious effect.
KP: The original series didn’t have as many female characters. Do you think having more women in the film reflects changes in the times?
HD: This show was always about the men and you’d occasionally glimpse the women behind them such as Pike’s mum. I think the writer Hamish McColl is a genius for writing such brilliant, strong female leads for the film. It definitely shows how we have moved on and become more equal in recent years; wage-gap and Tampon tax aside!
Also, the actresses they have cast are absolutely brilliant. It gives a whole new dynamic to see the women who stand side by side with their men. But what happens when their men’s eyes begin to wander!?
KP: How different was the costume style for filming to your usual wardrobe?
HD: Well I’ve never been seen dashing to the corner shop in my ATS uniform, but it was lovely dressing up in the same style as my grandmother would have done during the war. It made me realise how much effort a woman was expected to make back then too. The costume department are so detailed – we even had to wear the classic 1940s girdle underneath our uniforms which made going to the loo a lot more difficult than I’m used to! As an actress you spend so much time wearing other people’s clothes, whether filming or auditioning, that you can forget what your own style is!
KP: You worked with our lovely Funny Women Awards finalist (and host) Kerry Godliman while working on Derek – any behind the scenes gossip?
HD: She’s the head of the Illuminati. Fact!
KP: And we also know you’re mates with Michaela Coel. We previewed Chewing Gum, have you kept up with the series?
HD: Have I heck! Me and Michaela have known each other for years, when we were hard working youngsters dreaming of breaking in to the industry! I was out filming a new E4 series in Bulgaria with Michaela when her series began to air. We all had stuff out on telly at the same time but couldn’t watch it out there!
It was such a treat to come home after working so hard with her and be able to watch something she’s made from scratch. It’s so funny and I’m delighted it’s been so well received. I know she’s writing series two now and I can’t wait to see it!
Dad’s Army is out in UK cinemas 5th February