The first thing Serena does when she gets home from their first team bonding exercise is head online and order all of Bernie Wolfe’s previous works. Even that old horror movie she did back when she was first starting out. Throughout the day all of the cast had got on well but it was Bernie that Serena found herself utterly drawn to; Bernie who she spent her lunch break giggling with over shared experiences and mishaps. It’s Bernie Serena is most excited about working with.
Jason comes home to ask how Serena found the day and she cannot help but tell him all about Bernie, gushing about what a professional she is and how Serena is glad to be working on Gory Stories with her. Jason wants to know when Serena will be filming so they can arrange for his care and she tells him she’s going to find out soon enough. He’s very excited about her getting her first scripts through, volunteers to help her rehearse her lines.
The first time she gets her scripts, Serena reads through eagerly to see which historical roles she’s going to be playing first. She’s rather excited by the thought of Queen Victoria and has a celebratory orange juice with Jason when she discovers her gossip-loving journalist has been fleshed out into a full character. Thelma Lyes on behalf of Her Story Magazine is going to be such fun to play. Bernie, it would appear, is something of a gift to the producers and designers. Whereas Raf, Fletch, Morven and Serena have their specific ‘roles’ in the sketches, Bernie is rather more fluid in what she is cast as. Not that Serena’s complaining. She already knows that the range of costumes the other woman wears is going to be quite special.
Their first ‘on location’ filming is going to be a big group number: a large song about the English Civil War. Serena is a Roundhead lady and Raf is Oliver Cromwell. Meanwhile, Morven is a Royalist lady and Fletch is a dashing King Charles. Bernie, to everyone’s surprise (but Serena’s secret delight) has been cast as a Cavalier gentleman. She has not seen the costumes yet but she’s already picturing how spectacular the blonde will look, her tousled blonde hair peaking out from under a large feathered hat.
The song may only be close to three minutes long but they spend long days in rehearsals with a dance company of extras. Serena hasn’t done any dance since her drama school days and finds herself woefully out of shape. Thankfully, the professional dancers pick up a lot of the more complex moves, leaving her and the rest of the actors to just do simple box steps and gentle kicks. Bernie, of course, proves herself to be lithe and graceful and the choreographer has a special section where she, alongside two of the dancers who will also be in Cavalier dress, step forwards, raising their legs out almost ninety degrees from the floor, in moves Serena’s only ever seen ballerinas do against bars.
When Serena comments on her new friend’s dance ability over lunch, Bernie just shrugs humbly.
“I did ballet from the age of three and keeping supple helps me get roles.”
Serena smiles and pats her hand.
“Well, I’m glad you got this one.”
The day of filming, Serena nearly faints. Bernie arrives out of the costume trailer fully decked out in bright red Cavalier dress: breeches, feathered hat, the lot. Fletch is a convincing Charles I but Serena’s eyes are all on Bernie as she moves across the lawn of the country house they’re filming at.
They finally wrap and Serena heads back to their trailers, exhausted. Bernie jogs to catch her up and pulls her hat from her head, fanning herself with it.
“Whew! Making kids’ TV is exhausting!”
“Mmm, it is. You look rather handsome though, Captain Wolfe.” Serena winks and Bernie blushes.
“And you look ever so lovely too, Lady Serena.”
“Careful soldier, I might be tempted to switch teams if you keep on like that.”
Filming for Gory Stories is much more full on than when Serena was filming for the hospital drama Wyvern Wing. They’re constantly in and out of costume and make-up and are taken to various locations up and down the country. Serena rather thinks she’d be tired of it all by now if it wasn’t for Jason’s constant excitement at there being a TV adaptation of his favourite books. That and Bernie’s smile when she brings Serena a coffee she picked up as she left the train station in the morning.
Bernie’s fluid range of roles continues and for one sketch, Serena finds herself cast as Bernie’s wife. They’re doing a Historical Wife Swap sketch and Serena is to be switched with Morven. Serena and Bernie are rich aristocrats, a lord and his lady. Morven and Fletch are playing peasants out in the fields. It’s a relatively quick sketch to film. Nobody forgets their lines and the slapstick elements are all done in single takes.
When they’re done, Bernie brushes Serena’s shoulder as they walk off set.
“I’d have you as a wife any day of the week,” she murmurs before sauntering off to change.
Serena’s mind whirs with the implications for the rest of the day.
Serena rather thinks she likes her Roman costume the best. She’s wearing fine robes and is surrounded by prop vats of wine and grapes. It’s only a shame they’re not filled with actual Shiraz, she thinks wistfully. Raf lounges alongside her as they pretend to order Morven about.
They finish filming that element before Fletch and Bernie are required. When they appear on set, Serena’s jaw drops. Bernie is the poster girl Iceni warrior, a long flowing wig on her head and face paint highlighting her cheekbones and nose. She’s wearing a simple dress and cloak and holding Fletch’s arm but she still manages to look stunning. Serena shakes her head and tries not to get caught up in Roman and Iceni runaway fantasies. They’re for another time. Right now, they have a sketch to film.
Bernie in uniform should be illegal, Serena thinks, as they do the final rehearsal on their RAF song. Raf and Fletch are taking the lead on this one, doing a Take That-style dance all about the RAF. The rest of the cast are just providing backup with the professional dance crew. They’re in uniform though, pencil skirts and blazers. Serena feels a fool in hers but Bernie looks like something straight out of one of Serena’s dreams (not that she dreams about Bernie, of course). In another life, Serena thinks Bernie Wolfe would have made a great soldier. She’d probably have medals and a high ranking and everything. Serena is snapped out of her fantasising about whether she’d prefer to call Bernie Major, Sergeant or some other title by the woman herself.
“Serena? Serena?” A hand with elegant fingers waving in front of her face causes Serena to finally look up (and hopefully not blush too much).
“Ahem.” She coughs to clear her suddenly dry throat. “Sorry about that, don’t know what came over me.”
“These uniforms are awfully hot, aren’t they?” Bernie agrees. “The sooner we can get out of them, the better.”
Serena’s mind has gone to the gutter again. Those words will feature heavily in her dreams tonight.
Another episode, another historical wife swap sketch. Another Bernie playing a devilishly handsome character.
In this sketch, Serena and Raf are Lord and Lady of the Manor in a Victorian sketch. Bernie is the master carpenter on the estate with Morven as her wife.
They’re filming the part where Bernie moves into the manor for a while and Serena tries to be the lady she’s playing and say her lines. When they’ve been running through their lines, she could swear Bernie has been teasing her – tossing her head and winking at certain parts. They’re reaching that part now and Serena is determined to be a professional and not laugh. The more takes this sketch needs, the more Serena has to compose herself when Bernie is looking so roguishly attractive.
“Tell me, Master Carpenter, what do you think of my fine home?” Serena says, her nose in the air.
“I rather think it’s mighty fine, ma’am,” Bernie responds, the accent she’s affecting a stark contrast from her usual soft voice. “You see, my family made most of this house.”
“Yes, my father made these dining chairs and I helped him with that clock over there,” Bernie gestures at an ornate grandfather clock on set. “And I made you that fine rocking horse in the corner, if you remember.”
“I don’t deal with the workers,” Serena sniffs primly. “But that rocking horse looks like it was a very hard creation.”
“Oh very hard indeed, ma’am, I’ve only ever made one like that.” Bernie nods her head before making direct eye contact with Serena. “But I’m very good with my hands, ma’am.”
Serena bites her cheeks to stop them needing another take.
Morven is in her element, running around the set in her frock as they wait for everyone to be ready to film.
“My boyfriend Arthur would love this!!” She squeals, snapping a selfie in front of the wooden doors. Serena raises an eyebrow at her from where she’s leaning.
“Absolutely! It’s straight out of a cowboy movie!” Morven’s American accent is very good, Serena will admit. Her own is only so natural because she spent some time during her early career in the States, trying to make it big in the business before returning to the UK with a couple of minor Hollywood roles under her belt.
Almost on cue, the saloon doors swing open and in strides the Sherriff. Serena places the back of her right hand to her forehead and her left over her chest.
“My, my Sherriff… Is that a gun in your there pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”
Bernie grins and strides over to where Serena is stood before mounting the stool beside her.
“Wouldn’t you like to know, little miss? Shall we ride off into the sunset together and I can make you my lawful wife?”
Time seems to stand still as they gaze at one another, the rest of their conversation continuing wordlessly. It’s only the arrival of Raf and Fletch in their cowboy outfits which snaps them out of it. The director shouts for them to take their positions so they can begin their educational song about cowboys in America.
Serena has a rare day off; she’s not scheduled to be filming. She knows Bernie is filming on location though because by now they know one another’s filming slots off by heart. And even when they’re not on set together they’re messaging, the texts flying back and forth quicker than the one-liners in Gory Stories.
It’s a little after 10am when Serena gets a photo message through. It’s a selfie Bernie has taken of herself leaning against a gate, a tricorne hat and curled black wig atop her head. Her eyes are outlined dramatically and her outfit is black and filled with braiding. Serena nearly swoons off her breakfast stool.
‘Finally living out the Adam Ant vibe I wished I had as a teen x’ the accompanying message says and Serena grins.
‘I’d let you stand and deliver me 😉 x’ she replies. Only realises that it’s the flirtiest message she’s sent to Bernie since they met when the message is registered as delivered.
Nearly an hour later, Serena gets a response.
‘You’d definitely enjoy just how good I am with my pistol 😉 x’
Serena’s mouth is suddenly very, very dry. She’s glad Jason’s at school because she decides that she might just need a little while in bed. To recuperate from her hectic filming schedule, of course.
This may be the most hilarious two days of shooting. They’re shooting all of the sketches (one per episode) of the ‘Daft Demises’ section of the show. It involves Fletch as a sassy grim reaper whilst the rest of them play out historical figures who had strange and amusing deaths. It’s a lot of costume changes but Fletch is relishing his role, constantly making them corpse. The outtake reel for this segment alone will be vast.
They’re on their lunch break when Morven shares an amusing story she heard about someone who died “in the middle of getting it on because it was so good, imagine!” They all laugh and Serena shrugs.
“I can think of worse ways to go, at least it’d mean they knew what they were doing compared to some of the disappointments I’ve had over the years.”
Bernie nearly sprays sandwich crumbs everywhere. Before anyone can respond, they’re called back to makeup ready for the afternoon’s takes. As they stand up, Serena leans close to Bernie.
“Not bringing back bad memories is it, Berenice? I bet you know how to show a girl a good time.”
Morven is very excited to be playing Rosa Parks in a sketch. From their position offset, Bernie nods towards the scene they’re shooting.
“I’m glad they’re not whitewashing the history and are actually telling it as it was.”
“Mm, I agree. This is probably why Jason has to educate me on things sometimes. They never taught all that much on civil rights in school. Presumably because of the good old Empire.”
“I’m glad things are more accepting nowadays. Makes it less scary to be who you are.”
Bernie stands in her Ancient Egyptian costume, tugging at the dress self-consciously. They’re at a quarry to film this Ancient Egypt sketch – a song all about Cleopatra. She, Morven and Serena (Cleopatra herself) have been rehearsing the choreography for days but this is the day of the shoot. There’s a commotion behind her and she turns to see Serena leaving the make-up trailer. Bernie forgets to breathe. Serena is wearing a sleek golden gown with plunging neckline. Her eye make-up is dramatic and her arms (more muscular than Bernie had been expecting, she notes appreciatively) are on show. One part of Bernie’s brain would happily direct her to sink to her knees to worship the Queen who stands before her. The more rational part forces her to clear her throat and speak.
“Ready to get it on then?”
Serena raises an eyebrow wickedly and Bernie, realising what she has said, flushes a shade of red she knows will be clashing horribly with her costume.
“Get going. Ready to get this going.”
“Jason, the taxi to the station will be here soon!” Serena shouts up the stairs, frantically tousling her hair and checking her lipstick in the mirror. The sound of heavy footsteps thundering across the landing tells her that her nephew is ready and sure enough, he appears at the top of the stairs before launching himself down them two steps at a time.
“I’m ready, Auntie Serena! I’m so excited, this is going to be the best day ever!”
Serena smiles at his enthusiasm, pleased beyond measure that she was allowed to bring him along to today’s end of series one wrap party.
They arrive at the venue, nothing fancy – just a function room in London. They drop their bags in the cloakroom then enter the space, Jason’s eyes immediately trying to take the whole thing in at once.
“Serena!” An arm snakes around her shoulders and a glass of fizz is placed in her hand. “No Shiraz yet, but I’ll buy us a bottle later.” Bernie winks. Serena beams up at her and takes a sip of her drink.
“You must be Bernie!” Jason grins. “Hello! It’s nice to meet my auntie’s girlfriend at last.”
Champagne goes spraying across the room. Jason only manages to avoid being covered in it by his quick dodge when he realises his aunt is choking. Bernie is beside her quickly, rubbing her back and muttering softly to her.
“My… WHAT?” Serena gasps, chest heaving after her shock.
“Your girlfriend. Or partner. Whatever Bernie is to you. You’re always talking about her and her acting talents and her hair – which is much neater than how she described it, by the way,” he turns to Bernie.
“Jason, Jason, love. Bernie’s not- ah, um, she, we, we haven’t discussed-” Serena stammers as she turns to look at the woman beside her. Her eyes are warm and her face shines with hope. Serena’s voice trails off as she reads Bernie’s face and all she sees is Bernie echoing what Serena has been wanting for weeks. Bernie wraps one arm around Serena’s waist and holds her other hand out to Jason.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Jason, I’m glad my partner has such a charming nephew.”
Serena looks at the two people she’s stood with, her nephew and, dare she say it, her partner. Bernie Wolfe, of all people. She hadn’t been sure what she’d been feeling when she first met Bernie at that first rehearsal all those months ago. Now, well. Now it’s no longer a mystery.