Porters interview - Susan Wokoma (Frankie)

From demon hunter in Crazyhead to bossy porter Frankie in our brand new comedy, meet Susan Wokoma.

Porters interview - Susan Wokoma (Frankie)

How would you describe Porters?

It's about three people who find themselves working in a hospital and doing a job they never set out to do but making the most of it in their own ways. Tillman belongs in a mindfulness seminar, Frankie doesn't have any other ambition but it's not this, so she's trying to make time pass quickly and then there's Simon, who really wants to be a doctor but doesn't realise the effort it actually takes to become one.

Is there a divide between the staff upstairs and those downstairs?

It's very Downton Abbey, upstairs/downstairs. This focuses on the downstairs. There are loads of medical based shows but I don't think we've ever seen anything that focuses on porters. That's really exciting. My little sister, Jo, is a nurse so before I started this I asked her to talk me through what porters do and she listed off all these jobs including dealing with the post. They are the hardest working people in the hospital, they have so many different layers to their job and pick up the slack.

Does your sister have any funny stories about life in the hospital?

During one of her first placements, I remember her calling me on her first day and she was crying because she had to look after a dead body. She was saying she couldn't do it and I had to calm her down. By the end of the day she was absolutely fine.

What is Frankie like?

She's an old hand at being a porter and making boring jobs interesting. She's got her rules about being a porter, she rules the roost, she's a big fish in a small pond. Simon kind of wants to make things sunnier and brighter but she's like, 'No, none of us like this job but we get on with it!'. She's really tough and a bit bossy.

What was it about this comedy that drew you to the role?

I'm obsessed with Green Wing, so I loved the idea of working in a hospital. Hospitals are full of characters, and for me, comedy comes from dark or difficult situations, which a hospital is teeming with.

The line-up for the show must have been a draw too?

Oh wow, it's ridiculous! First of all there's Rutger Hauer, who's Frankie's best mate. Then there was Claudia and Ed who I have been a big fan of. And of course, we've got Kelsey Grammer, which is amazing. He's a guest role in an episode and he's absolutely amazing. He's so dreamy, I was an absolute mess when I met him for the first time. He said hello and I was screaming inside, 'Oh my god!'. He was on holiday so came in and did a couple of hours. That's always a really good sign of how good a show is going to be when someone says they have one day free and they're willing to come in and join us.

What was your first scene with Rutger like?

Oh my god, this is really embarrassing. So it's day one, scene one and you want be the good student, showing everyone what you're made of. What I ended up doing was corpsing the entire day. Rutger really likes it when it happens, but then Ed said something, and it wasn't even that funny, but I spat my tea all over both of them. It went all over them and the props, I was mortified. I thought everyone would hate me.

Does Rutger bring a touch of Hollywood to this show?

Well, he's not done comedy before so he actually admitted that he was learning so much from us. I guess as an actor, you never really stop learning. It's exciting to see someone of his calibre and experience still being excited to learn new things. It's so cool. It's taught me to be more confident in my own skills because if someone of his age and experience can be nervous yet still try something new, then I can too.

Watch a clip from Porters

You film in an old wing of a working hospital, have there been any spooky situations during filming?

Not as such, but we did shoot a party scene in the mortuary. That was really weird, so strange. As soon as I walked in I was hit by the realisation there have been dead bodies in there, it was spooky. It's weird. The toughest thing was that across the hall from where we were working was a proper mortuary that's still in use, so we had to stop every time they brought someone through. There we are, dressed as the grim reaper for this party scene and you have that happening at the end of the hall, it's creepy. A couple of the runners stayed overnight and they said the lights switched off when no one was around.

You've worked on shows like Crazyhead and Chewing Gum - how does Porters compare?

I've been very lucky that the last couple of comedies I've done have been original, new shows. The scary thing about that is you have no idea how it's going to be taken by the public, which is not something you can worry about. With something like this it really feels like you are creating something and not just being a meat puppet, as some actors are treated.

Would you like to come back and film more Porters?

Fingers crossed there's more. I'd absolutely love to be able to slip back into Frankie's shoes. It's hard because every now and again you get these types of jobs where you get attached to it and you're like, 'Please, let's do it again!'. I just hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we have.

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