Likely Stories, a new four-part adaptation for Sky Arts produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd., is a collection of extraordinary short stories from the pen of Neil Gaiman. Starring a host of British acting talent led by Tom Hughes, Johnny Vegas, George MacKay and Kenneth Cranham. On Feeders & Eaters, we’re caught in the nocturnal world of the all-night cafe. Joyce, a very pregnant young waitress, is our way in. A man from her past, Eddie Barrow, appears as if from nowhere with a pressing urgency to tell his story. Joyce wants us to hear it. Eddie tells us a love story – a strange, Gothic, warped and weird love story. He tells us about Effie, the old lady who lives in a room opposite his in a boarding house. Effie is a remarkable, magical woman. However, she needs raw meat to survive. Tom Hughes talks about playing Eddie Barrow on the episode.
What’s your role in Feeders & Eaters?
I play Eddie Barrow, who’s a man of about 30 years, late 20s, and we meet him at a point where he walks into a cafe and he bumps into the younger sister of an old friend of his. She’s pregnant and working in the cafe and kind of introduces the story to the audience. Eddie’s not seen this woman, this old friend of his, in quite a while, and he’s a changed man. He’s gone from being young and full of life, a youthful, optimistic bloke, to seeming haggard and drawn. And he starts to tell his story about what happened, how he ended up being the guy he is, who we meet at the start of the story. There are plenty of twists and turns, a deep and dark kind of story that we find out about.
Were you excited to be working from Neil’s writing?
Very much so. Neil’s writing and stories are very dark; they can almost exist in a different realm. But there’s also humanity in them, so you get this lovely balance where nothing feels too far-fetched. It feels very rooted in the real world even though it contains some extreme ideas. So it was great to work with that.
What was it like working with Iain and Jane?
They were both incredible. They’ve got a real depth and warmth as people, as well as being great artists. It was great to have that balance. Plus, with all the intricacies within the character and the story, the fact that Rita [Tushingham] and Montserrat [Lombard] were involved and knowing Jarvis Cocker was going to be doing the music... the whole combination meant it was a project that I was really, really excited to be involved in.
What attracted you most about the role?
It’s always three things for me. It’s the character, the story and the director... and if I can tick all three boxes then that’s great. In this case, the writing was obviously there. Neil’s got a very unique voice and the writing within that was fantastic. The adaptation of Neil’s story that we had was so detailed. Jane and Iain were obviously there and then the part, Eddie Barrow, was so fascinating because everything about him was a contradiction, and it’s always those elements of characters that I’ve been drawn to. I like looking at the contradictions within us and also the lies that we tell ourselves, the actions that we allow ourselves to go through in life... the paths that we’re led down. Those are the characters that I’m drawn to, so this one ticked every box. I was excited to be involved.
What was the biggest challenge?
Neil’s voice is so unique. The show has things that will excite but also challenge an audience. You’re showing them something they’re not used to and taking them on a journey; you have to make sure that rather than being alienating it will be quite the opposite. The challenge was leaving the door open and taking them down the rabbit hole.
What kind of audience will this appeal to?
I would hope fans of Neil would come to it and enjoy it, but I also hope there’s something in there for other people too. They have a different tone and depth. We get drawn into things that are outside the run of the mill and the everyday, and I think this beautifully bridges two worlds. It feels very real and visceral, but at the same time has those fantastical elements. That’s something that will hopefully appeal to a wider audience, young and old. It was also a real treat for me to play a part that was a step away from the last few things I’ve done. A lot of the actors in this are going against the grain and hopefully that will be interesting for the audience as well. I think it could be quite a lot of people’s cup of tea. I think people will get a kick out of it.
Neil has such a devoted, almost cult following. Was there any added pressure living up to fans’ expectations?
I think with anything you have to simplify your job and just worry about the immediate challenge of what you’re doing. For me it was about taking what was on the page, the depth of the character and story... bringing that to life. Then you have to trust in the people working around you and – with the team we had – there was an inherent trust right from the beginning. That allowed me to focus on my job, bringing life and humanity, and hopefully humour to the character... then leaving the rest to other people and looking forward to the final result.