Best known for playing omelette-obsessive Gwen in hit comedy Gavin & Stacey, Melanie Walters stars in new CBeebies series Biff & Chip, which is inspired by the series of children’s books that are widely used to teach kids English in Britain’s schools.
The series follows the adventures of twins Biff (Tilly Kaye) and Chip (George Robinson), and their little brother Kipper (Freddie James). The siblings make up games, solve problems, create make believe worlds in their homes and play in the park.
Joining the trio will be their parents Mr Robinson (Jack Wilkinson) and Mrs Robinson (Kellie Shirley) alongside next door neighbours Mr Page (Des Yankson) and Mrs Page (Shauna Shim), and best friends Wilf (Inathi Rozani) and Wilma (Dorothy Peters-Lowe). Melanie plays their energetic and fun-loving Gran.
Here, Melanie tells us about the series, working with children and animals and why we won't be seeing her making any more omelettes…
When is Biff & Chip on CBeebies?
Biff & Chip airs weekdays at 5.05pm from Monday 13 September on CBeebies.
What can you tell us about Biff & Chip?
"It’s inspired by the books featuring Biff and Chip, but the series isn’t an adaptation of the books because they are all new stories using the characters from the books. There’s Biff, her brothers Chip and Kipper, and their mum, dad, gran, neighbours, friends and their dog, Floppy. It’s about what they get up to, which is a lot of play, make-believe, dressing up and problem-solving. In one episode, they imagine they go to the moon and in another, they build an obstacle course for Floppy. There’s also a great episode about pirates. It’s great fun. All the episodes are brilliantly written and each one is only about 10 minutes long. I hope it inspires kids to use their imagination and be creative. "
How long does it take to film each episode?
"I don’t know because we were jumping all over the place, filming different stories at the same time. We’d film a scene from one episode and then film one from another. Although each episode is only about 10 minutes, there are 25 episodes in a series, so there was a lot to film. We filmed in Manchester for three months, on and off. There was a lot of chopping and changing but the kids all knew their lines. They were fantastic."
Tell us about your character, Gran…
"When I read the scripts, she sort of leapt off the page. She’s quirky and mischievous, and I think there’s part of her that is still a kid. There’s part of her that has not grown up and I think that’s why she can’t wait to go and see the kids. She has an inner child which is almost on the outer surface. I think everyone would want a gran like her in their lives because she’s very loving, but the biggest thing about her is that she’s very energetic and great fun to be with. She’s brilliant at football, she hurdles and she’s good with a hula hoop. I tell you what, she certainly kept me fit!"
Had you heard of the books before?
"I was really surprised that the books had been written in the late 1980s because I hadn’t come across them. When I talked to people about being in Biff & Chip, they would say, ‘Oh, I love those books!’ My son was born in 1998, so well in time for the books and we read voraciously to him so I don’t know how they passed me by. I did take a few out of the library to see what the fuss was about and I think they’re really great books. Even though the series is inspired by the books, we’re hoping it will encourage people to read the books."
They say you should never work with children and animals and here you are with both!
"Ha! In my experience, all the children I’ve worked with have been great, thank goodness, and the kids in Biff & Chip were fantastic! Floppy is quite boisterous in the books and the dog in the series certainly lived up to that, so if anyone held up filming it was probably him!"
Many of the mums and dads watching will recognise you as Gwen from Gavin & Stacey…
"Well, hopefully they will realise I’m an actor and I do other things! One of the joys of being an actor is being able to do lots of different things. I’ve done plenty more on the telly but of course Gwen West and Gavin & Stacey will stand out… and even Gwen is a gran now so maybe they’re the parts I’m going to be playing but hopefully they’re different from each other. I’d be worried if Gran from Biff & Chip was like Gwen from Gavin & Stacey, but I can guarantee she’s not!"
So we won’t see Gran making lots of omelettes like Gwen in Gavin & Stacey then?
"No. There are no omelettes… maybe just a pan!"
You’ve done lots of other things, it must be nice to mix it up a bit…
"It’s just the joy of being an actor. To have versatility in my career is just great because I don’t want to play the same thing all the time or to be typecast. I’m just not interested in that. I’ve done some heavy duty stuff and I’ve done some less heavy duty stuff. I’ve been very very lucky to do all mediums: film, radio, telly, theatre. So yes, variety is the spice of life. I’m always looking to do something different."
What else have been up to?
"In August 2020, when the restrictions lifted a bit, I worked on a film called La Cha Cha. We were all living in a bubble on a farm on the Gower Peninsula in south-west Wales. Most of the scenes were outdoors and there were two terrible storms. We’d do long days filming and the crew would go back to their tents to find they had been washed away! They had nowhere to sleep. Everything was wet. I don’t know how we managed to make the film, but it’s coming out on 10 September."
"Now I’m off to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre for the musical What’s New Pussycat? It’s based on Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones which is a 19th century romp but the show is set in the 1960s but it has Tom Jones’ music in it. It’s very funny, A great romp through the 1960s but based on the novel and it’s fun. It’s going to be good."
Finally, we have to ask, do you know if there will be any more Gavin & Stacey?
"As far as I know, there aren’t any plans for another series. If I got a call to do more, I would do it. I think we all would, but I think that’s it for Gavin & Stacey."
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