Zawe Ashton can totally identify with her character Vod’s sense of style in Fresh Meat because she has been there and done it herself.

“It’s not even like I have outfits in mind for Vod – I have influences in mind. So after last year instead of listening to so much riot girl punk, Vod is maybe going into a more androgynous place where she is playing with gender and masculinity and at the same time her musical influences are extending to discovering more Bowie or New Romantic post punk music.

“She’s not that self-conscious, she draws so much from her surroundings and is so perceptive that anything that seems vaguely anti-establishment she can really chime with and I can identify with that because that is exactly what happened to me when I was studying in Manchester. Being in a smaller environment with people from so many different backgrounds I changed on a daily basis. One day you’d be having an existentialist conversation with a random in a bar then someone would say ‘do you want to get pissed and dance all night to 80s music’. And I’d be like ‘Yeah’. And because Vod is a yes woman she will say yes to all of that and have all these different influences and experiences. She’ll never miss out. Never regret something she didn’t do…I totally did that at uni after I broke up with my first boyfriend, who of course was a musician. I thought, “Right I am going to have a summer of saying yes to everything.” Which I did.

“This job is such a touch! It is so collaborative but you can also trust every single department to just be on it. If I send June, our costume designer, a picture of Prince and say this is our touchstone for this series – the next thing you know I’m wearing a ruffle shirt, a bolero jacket and my hair’s sticking up and it’s Prince. She runs with it, she is so inventive.”

So how has Vod changed since last term?

Explains Zawe: “This series Vod is exploring the friendships she’s made with these people. What is interesting is having new characters come in and seeing Vod’s reaction – she doesn’t like it at all. She is fiercely protective over the whole group. Vod takes on a hell of a lot more than she lets on and the fact that she has lived with these people and let them in over the course of a term has been a big deal. Seeing her relationship with other characters deepen, especially with JP and Josie, has been really satisfying. Also the episode where she falls in what she thinks is love was really funny because it’s Vod opening up even more to different experiences.

“This season we do see her slightly more vulnerable side but she is also almost like a narrator in a way, she clocks absolutely everything – nothing happens in the house without her knowing about it.

“She’s really caring but at the same time she’s sort of weirdly indestructible. She has such a big heart but is also one of those amazing people who can drink far too much and take too many drugs – like you might say to Iggy Pop ‘you’ve put yourself in some bad situations but you seem to have come through them alright. Still rolling on…’

Also because she is so blunt about things I think she has got a really good grip on what life is. If people die that is just something that happens and you move on. Who knows, maybe aged 40 she’ll have a huge emotional breakdown but for now she’s just a character who has very little subtext, enjoys a good time, has time for people but also insight and will share that. She is her own little thing.”

But Vod also has a few money worries this term and needs to find a job…

“Starting work as a chamber maid is Vod’s idea of hell – that is working for the man. But she is also really good at it. She is massively creative and hard-working but she doesn’t fit into a system and I really identify with that – your work ethic not being that of an institution or a machine. She could probably be great at anything she put her hand to, she’s not limited. But you wouldn’t get out of it what you think… She is definitely born out of her time, she is really modern but at same time there is something sort of old school and punk about her.”

And what are Zawe’s stand-out moments of this series?

“I love doing the scenes where we are all together. Those big group scenes are beasts – seriously we are there all day – but they are so satisfying. What is so nice is that you can have reactions off of people, even if you are not saying anything I get an awful lot out of those scenes. The reaction shots are my favourite bits. And exploring the physical proximity of each other – giving this real sense of being in a student house.

Talking of her eclectic mix of fans, Zawe says: “Some people are really drawn in by the hard-living side of Vod and are watching the show thinking ‘that’s someone really good on a night out’. Unfortunately I’m not that person anymore. It is the realisation that I can’t go clubbing all night; I have a job and I’m tired. On the flip side I get lots of lovely mature men and women in their 50s and 60s coming over and saying how nostalgic the whole show feels and how much they like the character because they knew someone like that, so I get both ends of the spectrum. Some lovely fans on twitter made t shirts saying Keep Calm and Trust in the Vod… in that font with a little picture of me. That is definitely the nicest thing that has happened.”

Zawe is currently filming Case Histories for the BBC. She also has another project in the pipeline.

“I’ve written a short film for Greg (McHugh). Greg is a superstar, one of the best actors out there working – the characters he creates on screen are superb. I want to direct that. To have a production company and be working out of that writing, directing and acting and hiring teams of people I know will do a good job would be amazing; a dream come true.”

 –

Fresh Meat returns to Channel 4 on Tuesday 9th October at 10pm.

Don’t forget to check out Fresh Meat House which will launch 9th October directly after transmission of the first episode on Channel 4. Go to www.channel4.com/freshmeathouse for a tour of the student digs and to watch exclusive content released at the end of each episode.

Fresh Meat House is a new commission from Channel 4’s Education team who have a focus on life skills for young people

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