You think you’ve had some bad nights? Spare a thought for the poor women of Midwich.
When the entire town passes out simultaneously one evening amid a flurry of electrical failings and an ominous glowing hue, every women of child-bearing age awakens the next morning to find they are pregnant. Is it an alien or a miracle?
Based on John Wyndham’s novel, which was turned into two feature films both titled The Village Of The Damned, new Sky series The Midwich Cuckoos is a modern retelling of the story.
It casts Keeley Hawes as Dr Susannah Zellaby (a role smartly gender-flipped from the original), a child psychologist in the leafy commuter town of Midwich.
She ends working closely with the government to help the mothers come to terms with what has happened to them – including her own daughter. She is also the first to quickly realise that the kids are very much not alright.
‘It feels timely on so many levels with Covid and the government taking over the streets and people being isolated in their homes,’ says Hawes. ‘Something coming along that we know nothing about and taking over our bodies.
‘There is a weird relatability to it and a timeliness to lots of things that have been going on in the world, which I don’t think anybody could have predicted even three or four years ago.’
More than just timely, it’s also creepy as heck. It’s one of television’s unwritten rules that there’s nothing scarier than a weird child and The Midwich Cuckoos is no exception. But what is it about children that spooks us?
‘Well, they should be innocent so it feels unnatural when they’re not and that is quite frightening,’ says Hawes. ‘And in our show there’s a maturity to them as well. Plus, kids are creepy, at least sometimes!’
Although if you really want to spook an actor, the quickest way is to tell them they have to work with children. There were loads of the blighters on the set of The Midwich Cuckoos – but it seems they were as good as gold.
‘Well, I mean, I’m never going to say that they were awful and we all hated them,’ laughs Keeley. ‘But we really loved them. They were brilliant, we were so lucky. They were so patient and brilliant, it’s really difficult being on set, they’re long days and it’s nerve-racking having such high expectations of you when you’re eight.
‘I was working with one little boy, Joe, and he was just about to go for a take and he turned to look at me and said, “This is so great, isn’t it!” And, actually, it is great. Seeing it through their eyes, you know, that excitement and, look, I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I love my job, but it really reminded me that, yeah, we’re really lucky to be doing what we do.’
The Midwich Cuckoos is streaming on Sky Max now.