Eddie Izzard stars in BBC1’s new adaptation of the classic sci-fi story, The Day Of The Triffids. The comedian tells What’s On TV about his part in the horrific story…

Who do you play in this version of The Day Of The Triffids?
“For people who don’t know the story, suddenly 90 per cent of the world goes blind after watching a solar storm, but my character Torrence is in the lucky 10 per cent who keep their sight. Torrence is a bloke on a plane who decided he wouldn’t watch the amazing solar storm. In fact, he sleeps through it while it makes everyone else on board go blind. So he’s left as the only one who can see on the plane and he deals with it in a very bizarre way. Torrence decides to get all the life jackets out from under everyone’s feet, and ignores people as they’re screaming. Then he goes into the cabin toilet and inflates them so he’s surrounded himself with them like he’s cocooned in a massive airbag. He’s the only person who survives the plane crash!”

What’s Torrence like?
“He’s a sociopath and emotionally cut-off. I like to think of Torrence as maybe an orphan. I was trying to put my own back-story into him a bit. So we’ll see how that plays out. Hopefully he should look like a charismatic sociopath. He actually seems quite intriguing and flirty but gradually gets dangerous and attracted to the power he can have by being sighted. He even tries to take over at Downing Street. I also felt like he should have had a military background, so I put that into him, too. It was probably Territorial Army, not an elite force. He wouldn’t have the fear of killing or being killed, so doesn’t fear the Triffids. So he’s probably quite useful when dealing with nasty things like Triffids.”

How were the Triffids?
“They’re dangerous b****rds! They’re so tall and they can sting you from such a long way away. And if they sting you, that’s the end of you. You’ll never keep a pot plant in the house again after seeing one of these things. I do get to shoot a couple of Triffids. Towards the end I’m actually trying to kill Dougray Scott’s character Dr Bill Masen, but the Triffids get in the way of me doing it.”

How does the two-part story pan out?
“I suppose it’s kind of like a zombie film. There’s also something in it about what happens if the structure of the country breaks down and what would you do? In my head, as an acting transvestite, I’d of course immediately think: ‘I know there’s a shop down there where they sell some lovely dresses. Go down there, kick the window in!’ I’d have to put a cushion there before kicking the window in. I know because I’ve sliced up my finger breaking a window before.”

Is Torrence a flirty character?
“He’s definitely flirty with Joely Richardson’s character. I wanted him to seem charming, like Hitler was supposed to be charming. He’s not full of hate, though, he’s just quite cut off from reality. I carry a certain amount of rage within me, because my mum was ripped out of my life when I was so young, which is very pushed down within me so I did try to channel that in Torrence. Dougray Scott’s character – Triffid expert Dr Bill Masen – is immediately very wary of Torrance, who’s kind of breezy when we first meet. But after a while I’m Tasering him and stuff.”

Have you seen previous adaptations of the Triffids story? There was a 1962 film starring Howard Keel and a six-part BBC1 series in 1981…
“I hadn’t seen the previous BBC production, but I’d seen the film. I remember being really scared of that, especially when someone was carried across a field injured and by the end of it they were dead. And it ends up in the lighthouse, doesn’t it? I like the updating of the story we’ve done here, the idea that we were taking the story on and setting it just slightly in the future where Triffids are cultivated to provide a new cleaner fuel. Of course it eventually has fatal consequences. It’s all very clever.”

*The Day of the Triffids will be shown on BBC1 at 9pm on 28 and 29 December*