Interview: Fresh Meat's Greg McHugh – 'It felt like we’d all been to university together'
Scottish comic reprises his role as weirdo Howard in the final series of Channel 4's student sitcom
First, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong waved goodbye to Peep Show. Now the writing partners are saying farewell to another of their co-creations as Fresh Meat returns for its final series. Since 2011, we've followed mismatched students Howard (Greg McHugh), Vod (Zawe Ashton), Josie (Kimberley Nixon), Oregon (Charlotte Ritchie), JP (Jack Whitehall) and Kingsley (Joe Thomas) as they've shared a house in Manchester over their three years at university.
Fresh Meat is a scarily realistic portrayal of student life for anyone who spent their 'academic' years smoking weed and drinking way too much. There's something about the way the characters interact that even within this over exaggerated comedy still rings true, as the writers take several uni archetypes and make them believable. 'I met a lot of Howards, I met a lot of JPs,' explains Scottish comedian McHugh, remembering his own days at university. 'I don’t think I met anyone as cool as Vod, but I certainly met a lot of Oregons. And everyone knows a pretentious Kingsley.'
Of course McHugh has experience writing his own sitcom, Gary Tank Commander. 'Writing a comedy-drama is incredibly difficult,' he says. 'I wrote a sitcom centred really around one central character, and lots of characters around him. But Sam and Jesse had something with real emotion and heart, but also a brilliant selection of very rounded characters. In terms of writing, meshing all those storylines and characters, and getting an audience to care about them, that really is writing on another level. I learned a huge amount from their scripts.'
The characters have grown together in each series, getting their first experience of pretending to be adults. 'I think in this series, [Howard] is more open,' adds McHugh. 'I think he’s scared about leaving university. Not to ruin it too much, but a couple of the characters say to him "Actually Howard, you’re probably not as weird as you think you are".'
Unfortunately they couldn't stay at uni forever. Fresh Meat always had an inbuilt shelf life, and season four sees the group preparing for their final exams. 'It feels good now,' says McHugh. 'It felt odd when we were doing it and it felt upsetting on the final day. A lot of people say this about productions but we all became such good friends, it was more than just a production. How we met and how good the chemistry was from day one meant that by the time you’ve done four series over five-and-a-bit years, it was really emotional. It felt like we’d all been to university together, and had loads of laughs and made a really great show with great writers and great producers.'
Series 4 of Fresh Meat will broadcast on Channel 4, Mon 22 Feb.