It's time to say goodbye to Button House as the final series of excellent comedy Ghosts starts on BBC One this Friday (October 6).
If you're feeling sad about that, don't worry, so are the creators and cast of the show.
"The truth is, it's sad. There's no way of getting around it. Whatever happens, however it happens, it's always going to feel a bit grim. That's the nature of it," Charlotte Ritchie tells Digital Spy.
"I think fans will be really sad, but I think [the writers] have done it really beautifully and very tactfully. The writers care so deeply about the show. It's not like they're just chucking it in the bin. For them, it's so emotional for it to be ending. They pulled out all the stops to make it a thoughtful and loving ending. I think it's great."
The final series of Ghosts picks up with Alison (Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) looking for ways to keep afloat after the gatehouse fire in series four, before some unexpected news brings major changes for them and the Ghosts.
To mark the final series, Digital Spy sat down with Charlotte Ritchie to reflect back on the start of the show, whether she's got any better at keeping a straight face and whether this really is the end for Alison, Mike and the Ghosts.
Going right back to the start, can you remember what your first reaction was when you first read the script for Ghosts?
Charlotte Ritchie: Yeah. I genuinely was like, "Oh my God, oh my God, I want to do this. I really want to do this." They're really funny. The script's really good. The part's really fun. I really was desperate to get the job. It was a very simple emotion. It was not complicated.
And that's really rarely the case. I'm always like, "Oh, but should I? Oh, but what if it's like this?" I was like, "No, it'll be great. I just know it'll be great."
There wasn't any hesitation that this would work?
I wasn't like, "This will be a hit". It was literally like, "I'll have fun doing this. This will be a good way for me to spend my time." [laughs]
As jobs go, that's the kind of job I know I want to be doing. A big group of people, all very funny. A really great concept. It was technically quite difficult, the first series, in terms of ignoring the ghosts, but all of that stuff got really fun.
Last series, we had the devastating loss of Katy Wix's Mary. How much do you feel that changes the dynamic in the final season?
We were already sort of feeling that from the second half of that series. It's really sad. You really miss her – I think not just because she's a character that you grew to love, but I think the kind of humour that Katy brings is so specific, and so uniquely funny in its own way.
I don't know how to define it, but Mary was such an iconic character. It filled an area of performance that was really specific, and we miss it. Luckily, the show has so much going on that we can still continue, and there's so much to get through.
But of course, we really miss her in the line-up. It's just one of those things that you have to adapt to and it reminds you that things end. It was a precursor to an actual ending, because it makes you go, "Oh yeah, these things don't last forever".
Did it also feel different on set knowing that this was the final season?
Yeah, it did. I did feel pressure to deliver, and not ever slack, because it felt like you're not going to get to do this again. But that was more the feeling of, "This is it, so make you sure make the very most of it".
I think it meant that you just soaked it up a bit more, and didn't take anything for granted. I usually know how grateful I am, but halfway through a shoot, no matter how good the job, you end up being a bit like, "Ugh, I really miss being at home in the week, and I really miss having more than five hours' sleep".
You get kind of grumpy about it. But actually, you had to just go, "But this is the last time we're doing this". It's a really great lesson for life in general. It's a very Buddhist thing to imagine that things are always the last time, and you should make the most of it. But when it's actually the last time, you really do just try and soak it up.
After every series, we get the outtakes from filming and as sad as it is to end, we're already looking forward to see the new ones as they're always a joy with nobody able to keep a straight face at all times.
I think I'm the worst at keeping a straight face.
Have you got better at it over the course of the show?
Yeah, probably, but broadly, I think I'm still pretty bad at it. It's a lovely feeling and, in a way, you wish you had a bit more time for that to happen. The reason it doesn't happen more is just because of the time pressure of getting through a million scenes.
But I think if we had a lot longer, I think that would happen a lot more. People would play more, and they'd try to make each other laugh more. But sometimes it feels a bit like, "Can you not make me laugh? I don't have time to do this."
Whereas what you really want is, "Try and make me laugh as much as possible. Let's see what we get."
Jim [Howick] is someone that when you laugh, he ups the ante. He won't do it the same as the last time, to make time and keep moving. He'll do it funnier.
It's increasingly rare that shows can build their audience and end on its own terms. What is it you feel about Ghosts that has given it that special sauce that has allowed it to carry on and do its five series, and end the way it wants to?
Well, the truth is, the people who create it are very thoughtful and clever and funny, and also have a lovely friendship between them. They all do it for that reason. They enjoy working together. They've chosen to work together; they've chosen to create it together.
I think, also, the BBC were really supportive, and have backed them. So they have that confidence, the confidence of being part of a group – they all have each other's backs to back each other up. That's such a great way to work.
I love to work in groups. It just makes you feel like you've all got this shared responsibility.
Is it that close-knit group that you'll miss the most when it comes to next year and you're not filming another series of Ghosts?
Definitely. It's also really good because, in between each series, I've done other things, and had that feeling of a fish out of water and not knowing anyone. Then you come back to something you know, and you go, "Wow, this is such an unusual thing to feel in this line to work".
Normally, if you've got a good year of work, you're meeting hundreds of different people, and going to new places, and making new friends, and then not seeing them for months and months. You get so used to that sense of loss all the time.
But this one has allowed us to be a bit softer about it, a bit more attached. We see a lot of the same crew come back, and we stay in touch with them and that's been really special. But it's quite good to get a contrast, because then you understand how unusual that is.
I think it's also the nature of it, just being a long-running thing. People do say that about a long-running show. You get that sense of homeliness, which you really crave in this industry because it's so rare.
There's a rich tradition of British comedies having specials long after the show has ended, so does this feel like the actual end of Ghosts or is it a classic 'never say never' situation?
As far as I'm concerned, if they pick up the phone, I'm there.
You're already ready to go.
Yeah, 100%. But from their point of view, the clock is ticking, because, with all due respect, the years are going by. How plausible is Thomas going to be as Thomas in 10 years' time? Can we leave it that long?
Mat [Baynton], I'm sure has an amazing skin routine, and there's all sort of treatments he can try, but the truth is that we've got to do it quite soon if we're going to do it. So I think I'm going to keep texting him – maybe daily.
They can de-age Harrison Ford so why can't they de-age all of the ghosts for a future special?
Totally. AI is terrifying, and it has all sorts of problems, but this technology stuff can really work. Deepfakes can be great if you're trying to do a reunion Christmas special of Ghosts in 20 years' time.
If this is the end, have you been able to keep a part of Alison at home?
My main thing has been Alison's costume. She has a pair of red boots that I now have sitting in my hallway. I've got quite a few of her jumpers. All with the okay of the costume department and all with the promise to take good care of them in case they need to come out of storage.
But that's been it, those are the things. That character's costumes were so much the making of how I felt as Alison. Not to say there's a huge line between me and her, but the line is there, you know? It's crossed by that costume. That's been the main thing I've taken.
Outside of Ghosts, you've had movie roles recently such as Repeat. Now that the show is over, is that something you're looking to do more of?
I think so. I liked doing Repeat particularly because it felt very collaborative, and we were all working together to try and make that happen in a short period of time. I did another indie film last September that felt quite similar as it was 10 days in one room.
I love that kind of thing where it feels like you have to really rely on each other, and try things out a bit, but I really don't know. I'm waiting to see what happens with the fifth series of You, and what happens with the strike.
But in the meantime, I'm doing little projects and little, tiny things. But it's been nice to have a bit of break and be at home, and to have kind of normal hours for a bit.
Just finally, what are you hoping that Ghosts fans get from this final series – if this truly is the end?
They will get the answers from some of the questions of the characters' backstories and I hope that they feel that the ending does justice to the show, to the characters. It's hard to say as that's quite a tall order. I also hope that they feel optimistic at the end of it.
And it will make us cry, probably.
Yeah, unless you've got a heart of stone. But if you have a heart of stone, you're probably not watching Ghosts.
The final series of Ghosts starts on Friday, October 6 at 8.30pm on BBC One and the full series will be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer on the same day.
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