Hugh Bonneville: ‘I’m bringing the BBC into the 21st Century!’

The Olympics may have finished but Ian Fletcher – centre-piece of hit BBC sitcom Twenty Twelve – is back for a new series, W1A (Weds, March 19), but this time Ian (played by Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville) will be helping to restructure the BBC!

We caught up with him to talk about the new show and ask if Ian ever did manage to get together with his lovely assistant Sally (Broadchurch star Olivia Colman)…

We first met the character Ian Fletcher in sitcom Twenty Twelve and now he’s back in this spin-off. We’re really excited!
“So am I. When we finished Twenty Twelve I always felt that there were other areas you could explore with Ian. Possibly him working for the NHS, or managing the reduction in armed forces. The writer came to me and said he had an idea about a show set in broadcasting…”

Ian’s now working at BBC…
“Yes, Ian’s back with a spring in his step with this new challenge of taking on defining what the BBC is – essentially ‘bringing the brand into the 21st Century’. What he’s not quite banking on is the ‘expertise’ of Jessica’s Hyne’s character Siobhan Sharpe being brought on board too!”

But what about Olivia Colman’s character, Sally – where is she? Did they get together?
“I think Ian would say it best, he’d say ‘It’s a private situation and it’s time to move on.'”

Who else can we expect to see pop up?
We’ve got a great new cast who play a whole new team. Sarah Parish plays Anna, ‘Head of Output’. Her default setting is ‘no’. Then there’s Jason Watkins who plays Simon – you’re never really sure what he does. He just wafts around the building. Ian is again trying to steer the right course.”

Are you poking fun at the BBC with this?
Twenty Twelve didn’t really deride the Olympics, and with this we’re not satirising the BBC. We’re having fun at the nonsense of meetings. Whether it’s a parish council or a big corporation, I think it’s something we all recognise.”

Presumably Ian is back on his bike too?
He’s got a new bike! We film quite a lot outside the actual BBC building at W1A with long lenses from a distance. I’m forever being told I can’t park my bike in a particular place, or being asked about my bike. We had to tell a man from Radio Four’s Shipping Forecast that he was in shot the other day when he came over to ask me about the bike.”

It must be nice to do this as a complete contrast to Downton Abbey?
Yes, that’s the joy of Twenty Twelve for me, being so contemporary. It’s much faster to film too, which is a nice change. Obviously I give exactly the same performance in both shows!”