Tim Sullivan on his role as a researcher on Alfresco

I know what happened at the end of entertainment. Some chums of mine from university came up to do a show called Alfresco. And I was the researcher on it, which was very odd because they were a year or so junior to me at Cambridge, but I’d worked with some of them and I knew them all. And here I was suddenly, they were the stars and I was the researcher, but it was a great time.

Was this with Sandy Ross?

Sandy Ross was producing.

Yes. Morrison was in…

There was one moment where the director was a really lovely bloke called Stuart Orme. Stephen Fry was having trouble in a scene. We were shooting in the hospital, I remember really well. And Stephen was having trouble in the scene and I could see exactly what was wrong, so I went up and I whispered to him… a note. And we came back. We did the tape, everyone laughed and Stuart went “Brilliant. Stephen, what did you do?” And Stephen went “Oh, it wasn’t me. Tim told me.” Oh, my god, did I get a bollocking for that. That was not my job.

And who were the other stars who worked on that programme?

There was Ben Elton, and weirdly I’d met Ben on Live From Two, a year or so before. Nervous young man then, he was on a programme with Terry Jones and Alan Bennett. I then got to know Alan Bennett very well. I’ll tell you a story about that later. But Ben was going to do this stand up piece as a representative of a new generation. And it was about 18 minutes long. And I said, “Ben, the programme’s only 22. You can’t do…” So I honed it down to about 90 seconds for them, which was great fun. And he was lovely about it, very modest. So there was Ben. Robbie Coltrane. I remember on the first week of shooting, Robbie turned to me and said, “Go get me a coffee, will you?” And I went “Fuck off, go get it yourself.” And to be fair to him, he came back five minutes later, the two coffees and gave me one. I hadn’t quite got the hang of what I was doing yet, you know what I mean? And he was lovely, used to do up old cars. And Stephen and Hugh, and Emma Thompson, and Siobhan Redmond. Siobhan would come down from Scotland. And it was interesting because Ben was a prolific writer. We’d work a full day and he’d go home, and he’d come back in the morning with three scripts. And I kind of felt at the time that Stephen and Hugh were slightly intimidated by this. But they all got on like a house on fire. They’re all still friends to this day, but that was a great time.

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