But physically how did it work?
AC: Can I just say that when I got the script I got the full print version and I basically read it and wanted to know every version, so it took me like three hours to read. Then as soon as I read it I got an email through saying ‘by the way there is an on-line document’, so I basically wasted three hours of my life reading the hard copy. Which was insane.
FW: I was lucky I didn’t do that because I met with Charlie and Annabelle when they gave me the script and Charlie went ‘don’t read that, doesn’t make any sense. I’m going to send you an on-line copy thing when it’s done and read that instead. You can read that but it won’t make any sense and it’s really thick and boring’.
AC: So they made an on-line document where you read the script and press a button playing the game basically, but that’s what me and Will obviously found out the hard way.
Have you played it?
AC: Yes I played it multiple times, got obsessed by flowcharts on-line along with my friends. You do this, you do that, all my friends are trying to find the version where Stefan kills me; bastards.
FW: I didn’t actually play it but watched it when it came out. I watched it with my flatmate so I didn’t make the decisions, I made them make the decisions because I kind of knew what was going to happen which sort of ruined the fun of it really.
So in terms of getting into your characters was there anything specifically you had to do. Because for you Finn you seemed to be in a perpetual state of anxiety how did you maintain that?
FW: We were talking earlier about character work and the different ways to go about it. I said one of the key things for me in order to relate to a character, you need to be able to emphasise with them which is key when you’re acting. Finding aspects of their personality you can pick up from the page and drawing them out in yourself, which sounds really obvious. For instance reading the script and looking at Stefan, very clearly he was very shy, introverted, nervous and then its thinking about a time when I personally have been like that and inhabiting it. So that meant a lot of it was thinking about my physicality because often that can affect your mental state anyway. That was a lot of my work.
What do you think Bandersnatch is about and how does it resonant today?
FW: We’ve all said it in different ways at different points today but what it does is force you to really think about what you are doing, really focus on what you’re watching. For most viewers it makes you feel a certain amount of guilt unless you have a total disconnect with the character. What I think it does is break the fourth wall literally within it, but what that does is break the barrier between the screen and the person. Which when you go to the theatre is not there as much. It forces you to confront your decisions and really think about what that is, which is why the backlash against the episode comes from people who feel it takes them out of the zone. But I would combat that by saying if you are there just passively taking in the information and zoning out, then you’re missing the point. Whereas as if you are engaged then it evokes feelings.
AC: Plus Black Mirror is a metaphor for personal introspection. Look what you’ve done, take a look at yourself. And I thought about this when I was watching because you are all doing this to Stefan but you are also sort of not its just an illusion. Because when it finishes and the Black Mirror comes up you are there staring at yourself.
FW: It is that level of desensitisation which can only happen when you are taking in high levels of violence, programming or whatever it is. The difference with this is that it is very violent but you are forced to deal with the violence, because you are in a way forced to deal with it being a part of it.
As an actor do you have to act in a different way to accomodate for audience reactions?
FW: The challenge of this in relation to anything else we might have worked on, is that most of the time when you are filming something, you are doing everything you can to forget the camera is there and people will be watching it. To get the most natural performance possible and it was no different in this. The only difference was at the same time as doing that you had to think about the options people might choose and everything else going on. So it didn’t necessarily affect performance as much, because for me I was basing any reactions to a choice point rather than trying to preempt what they might choose. So it didn’t alter it too much.
Would you do it again?
AC: We did do it again many times.
FW: Do you mean an interactive show?
WP: If it was as good because anyone who tries to embark on this has got their work cut out. Because we were so lucky to work with the best of the best.
AC: This has set the tone now for anyone to do interactive stuff. It took Charlie two years to write this so a lot of work went into it. I think there will be more. Just remember we did it first yeah.
Bandersnatch is available now to watch on Netflix.
Many thanks to Fionn Whitehead, Asim Chaudhry and Will Poulter for taking the time for this interview.