The League Of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton returned to the small screen this week with their new series, Inside No. 9
They’re responsible for some of TV’s darkest creations, from the grotesque villagers in The League Of Gentlemen to a hook-handed clown and a murderous man-child in Psychoville.
Now Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are back with a new BBC Two comedy series Inside No. 9, which promises to be just as deliciously macabre.
Written by and starring the pair, the show consists of six standalone stories about the peculiar goings-on at different houses with the same door number.
With genres ranging from gothic horror to psychological thriller, the series is, as Shearsmith promises, “undiluted us”.
So it comes as a surprise to meet the talented duo and discover they seem really rather normal.
There isn’t a prosthetic limb or fake blood capsule in sight as Shearsmith and Pemberton sit side by side in a BBC office, checking their phones and chatting quietly before the interview begins.
Life outside work also sounds fairly typical for the pair, who met at college and went on to form The League Of Gentlemen with friends Mark Gatiss and Jeremy Dyson.
“We have lunch a lot. We both have kids in the same school and we live very close to each other [in North London], so we see each other pretty much all the time,” says Pemberton, who has three children - Lucas, 13, Madeleine, 11, and Adam, eight - with partner Alison. But the Blackburn-born 46-year-old soon admits that, a bit like the homes in Inside No. 9, things aren’t completely average in his household.
“I’ve got three severed heads in my study which we used in Psychoville. One is my face and head carved into a pumpkin, which is quite horrible,” he reveals.
“The kids take it in their stride really. That’s what their dad does.”
Pemberton’s children are yet to watch his darker work, while Shearsmith, 44, is also protective of his children, Danny, nine, and Holly, 11, with wife Jane.
“I’m quite puritanical - they’ve not seen anything I’ve done, apart from [BBC children’s series] Horrible Histories. They know I do weird things. I think they’ve seen some pictures of League Of Gentlemen, but they haven’t watched it yet.
“They’ll have a treat, a back catalogue when they’re old enough. When they’re about 25,” he laughs.
Pemberton adds: “When I was 13, I’d watched [horror films] I Spit On Your Grave and The Exorcist. There wasn’t the same control as now, parents didn’t know what you were doing. You’d go down to the video library and get whatever you want.
“We’re a lot more aware of what our kids are doing and what’s going into their heads now, and that’s a good thing. But at the end of the day, we watched all that stuff...”
“And we turned out alright,” adds Hull-native Shearsmith, as the pair break into laughter.
In fact, it was their spine-tingling childhood viewing which provided the inspiration for anthology series Inside No. 9.
“It used to be such fun to watch Tales Of The Unexpected or Hammer House Of Horror and just get a one-off story,” Shearsmith explains.
“You can enjoy the twists and turns and the fact it’s got great character actors in, and it seemed right up our street to do that.”
The series boasts a stellar cast with appearances from veteran actor Timothy West, Bond star Helen McCrory and Hollywood darling Gemma Arterton - a bit of a coup, Pemberton admits. “When Gemma said yes, we were quite surprised, because she’s a big movie star. She just said, ‘Well I don’t read scripts like this’ and that made us feel very excited.”