'Being Human' Boss Toby Whithouse on Season 4 Cast Changes, Challenges and 'Doctor Who' (Q&A)

Being Human UK Season 4 Episode 1 - H 2012
Touchpaper/BBC America

Big changes are ahead on the original supernatural U.K. series Being Human, debuting its fourth season as part of BBC America's weekend lineup on Saturday.

With former regular Aidan Turner departing at the end of season 3 and a slew of other cast changes, series creator Toby Whithouse admitted to going through a rough spell.

"If I look back on it realistically and remember it properly, it was quite a nightmare when we realized we were losing so many of the cast," Whithouse told The Hollywood Reporter. "Losing Mitchell (Turner) was one thing we expected, but when it was announced that Russell Tovey (George) and Sinead Keenan (Nina) was leaving, a lot of the fans were terribly upset about this. From my point of view, it was really a problem, because episode 1 specifically became quite a tricky one to write."

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He added: "It felt like it was almost a shopping list of requirements and that I had to get that character out, explain why that character wasn't there and get this character in and so on. It was quite a daunting prospect, but to be honest, once I started writing the script, I realized we could slightly reset the show."

With that comes new (and old) faces, including Damien Molony as new vampire Hal and Michael Socha as werewolf Tom, for Whithouse, "it opened up a rich vein of new narratives."

Whithouse went into further detail during an in-depth interview with THR about the challenges he faced as a writer and executive producer, what fans of the series can expect moving forward (new characters! a baby!) and what he's found out about the new companion on Doctor Who.

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The Hollywood Reporter: During big changes on television series, at the onset, there is fear and worry. What were some of the challenges?

Toby Whithouse: Creating new characters was the easiest bit, because to be honest, every single episode of Being Human I write there will be new characters. The DNA of the show has been evolving since the pilot. The last episode of series three was a very different show to the first episode of series one, but that’s a very normal, natural progression and a very natural road, you come to expect that from a show. For it to then move forward into another phase seems to me perfectly natural and perfectly reasonable. It almost depends on your viewpoint and on your perspective and once I realized that this was a benefit rather than a hindrance, it opened up so many stories and gave us a renewed direction and energy.

THR: What can you tease about the first few episodes of season 4?

Whithouse: The first scene of the first episode we take the audience to a place that we’ve never ever been to before. By doing that, we are setting out the direction for the new series. In the first episode we introduce our new villains. We said at the end of series three that the old ones, the kind of vampire royalty, they were on their way and their arrival is discussed at the beginning of the episode, all the way through the series, like a storm cloud. We’re staying true to our roots and the big successes of the show is always our guest characters.

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THR: Why is that?

Whithouse: Our budget is, compared to most U.K. shows and certainly to most U.S. shows, our budget is very, very small, which means that we’ve always had to rely on character as being kind of our [key] and character is free. Whenever we have a guest character, we have to create complex, three-dimensional, funny, terrifying guest characters.

THR: Is there an overarching theme of journey for the new season?

Whithouse: George and Nina’s baby has an incredibly important role within vampire mythology and that provides the motive for the entire series. Similarly there’s another plan afoot by one of the vampires who has a very interesting idea about how to ease the transition from a human world into a vampire world. That’s an encroaching threat for our heroes. The arrival of the new vampire Hal, he’s one of the old ones, that has been living a human life and living sober, clean life for the last 55 years. The way he’s held himself together is a strict regime of control and discipline and routine.We visit his home in episode 1, but gradually through the course of events in the first episode that stability starts to crumble. That brings direct conflict and contact with our guys.

THR: Looking back at the series, did you ever expect to be at this place?

Whithouse: No, not at all. When I wrote the pilot it never occurred to me that series one would get made, let alone developing series five. It never occurred to us for a moment that the show would have this much longevity and achieve this much success. Another difference between how we make TV in the U.K. and the U.S. is that we can only [have] actors for one or two series, so when we get to the end of each series we sit down and look at who we’ve got. We were lucky with Russell, Lenora [Crichlow], Aidan, Sinead because we managed to hold onto them for three years and in some cases longer. And that’s, I mean, we were incredibly lucky to be able to do that. In terms of mapping out, that's difficult, but I relish that challenge.

THR: Can you recall any surprises or arcs that changed?

TW: The initial plan [for Sinead's character Nina] was that she would be written out at the end of the first series, but while filming her first episode, I was writing the finale and the dynamic between her and Russell onscreen was so much fun. As I was watching her, I was thinking, "I would be absolutely nuts to get rid of her." She stayed with us for another two years. 

THR: What can you say about working on Doctor Who and what's next there?

Whithouse: In terms of the series as a whole I know, there are quite a few things I know. I know some plans for the new companion and that kind of thing. The one downside of working on Doctor Who is that you know what’s coming up. I knew who River Song was months and months and months before most other people, and it was great. Doctor Who is not necessarily a job I need to do because Being Human keeps me very busy, but I love it.

THR: Fans of the show were surprised when it was announced there would be a new companion. Were you aware of it?

Whithouse: To be honest it was probably more of a mutual decision than people would assume. These things tend to be kind of agreed, particularly the companions have a natural shelf life. I know a bit about the new companion, I don’t know who they cast and even if I did if I told you Steven Moffat would come out here and punch me in the neck. Steven is one of the cleverest, most inventive people I’ve ever met in my life, and so you know it is in very safe hands with him. If he makes decisions, the chances are it’s for the best, it’s the best thing for the show.

Being Human premieres Feb. 25 at 9 p.m. on BBC America.