Misfits: Interview: Mike O’Leary

The Misfits book is a neat recreation of the TV series – which isn’t too surprising, given that it’s written by Mike O’Leary, who is part of the BAFTA Award-nominated team for the show’s new media presence, writing the tweets for the characters that accompany the series. Mike took some time to chat with Paul Simpson about the show and its spin-offs…

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How did you get involved with the Misfits crew initially?

I started back on series 2. I’d just graduated from the National Film and Television School and a friend of mine who had been in the year ahead and had been working on the ‘behind the scenes’ suggested me as someone who could write the twitter feeds for the characters. Nathan was in the show back then so I like to think, being Irish, there was a bit of positive discrimination involved. So luck really. But that’s the key to my involvement in Misfits: luck and sheer tenacity. Nothing else.

What was/is the process like for writing the tweets – how involved are you with the story being broken? Or do you come in after it’s all completed and filmed?

I think you always have to let the story form first as its own entity for television and then come in after to explore and embellish the themes and storylines for online, otherwise you run the risk of it becoming hokum. Once the scripts were together we had an online team – myself, the script editor, the producer and the media manager – come in and developed little mini-narratives that could play across the week, using Howard’s scripts as a springboard to jump off from. It’s the best way to work. They hadn’t finished filming though, so if we thought of anything to film that could help us out we could still do that. We did with a Rudy/ Rudy Too bet forfeit last series… which is still knocking around YouTube is anyone’s interested.

The tweets and the book are written in the voices of the different characters. Who has the hardest to capture in print?

Well, I had been writing for Simon, Kelly, Nathan and Rudy for a few years but I had to try and find Alisha and Curtis from scratch on the book. And not that I’d say he’s hard to capture but I always had to be careful with Simon since he’s so precise. Not like Rudy or Nathan where you can start a sentence as a flight of fancy, not really knowing where you’d end up (but having a fair idea it’d probably be scrotum-related).

What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

I would say the sheer volume of ideas. We were keen to have it as Misfits spin on an old annual, which basically meant coming up with an idea per page. Thankfully it wasn’t just me involved at that stage – otherwise the book would pretty much be a 192 dick-joke compendium  – I had Matt and Petra at Clerkenwell coming up with ideas too.

The book has many cool elements to it: what was the bit that you were most pleased with?

No question. The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ pages. Our illustrator knocked it out of the park. We actually had a very short amount of time to write it and that was one of those dark 3am ideas. I never thought they’d actually be able to use it. But ‘lo behold, p.121: Rhesus monkeys doing unspeakable things.’ It’s weird though, because of the nature of the book everyone involved and everyone that has read it has a different answer for ‘what’s your favourite page?’ I am genuinely shocked by some.

The show has pushed the boundaries a lot – do you think there’s anywhere that it couldn’t go? Any taboos that it simply wouldn’t break?

I don’t think the show has ever broken a taboo just for the sake of breaking a taboo. There’s always been a story or character reason for it. And there’s always some sort of truth to it. So maybe that’s a taboo it wouldn’t break: gratuitous and unnecessary taboo-breaking. Boom. How’s that?

What sort of shows do you like to watch? And which ones would you give your eye teeth (or other appropriate anatomical part) to write for?

I watch everything. I think you have to really. Body parts? Right, let’s have a run-down. Off the top of my head. Left nut: new series of Arrested Development. Right nut: Already given to Misfits. I’d give an eye each to Girls and Louie. Then toes to Fresh Meat, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Being Human, Delocated and Eastbound and Down. (I have nine toes.) I think we’re missing a big horror series so I’d lop off an ear for The Fades to return. And another ear for Deadwood. I’d obviously have to leave my fingers.

What question do you wish that interviewers would ask you but never do? (and what’s the answer to it?)

Weirdly, it’s that.

Thanks to Lucy Zilberkweit at Hodders for help in setting up this interview.

Members of the cast will be signing copies of the Misfits book at Waterstones in Bluewater this Saturday, 10 November, at 12.30 p.m. For more details click here

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