Daisy May Cooper on Barbie, James Bond and Buzzcocks

Daisy May Cooper ponders what’s harder: playing a character like Kerry on her hit show This Country or being herself on a show like the perennially hilarious music quiz Never Mind The Buzzcocks. “Oh, being myself a thousand percent,” she answers, instantly. “Because I’m massively insecure. I’m so insecure. I’ll be sat there, and I’ll think of something that’s funny, and I’ll go to say it, and my brain will say ‘Nobody will fucking laugh at that. You think you’re fucking funny up against this lot? You’re a fucking joke!’”

Admittedly, Buzzcocks – back now for its third season since Sky Max rebooted it in 2021 – boasts an intimidating roster of talent. Host Greg Davies, Cooper’s fellow team captain Noel Fielding and regular Jamali Maddix. “I mean, it’s one thing to think you’re the fucking class clown drinking Prosecco at your book club,” continues Cooper, “but it’s another thing… to be on a panel show. I don’t know if I’ll ever get quite comfortable with it. But it’s bloody great money. And it’s a bloody great laugh. So long as they want me, I’ll keep doing it.”

Daisy May Cooper
CREDIT: Justin Downing/Sky UK

This is Cooper all over. No filter. Tells it like it is. And screamingly funny. She really should cut herself some slack. We’re talking on Zoom, with Cooper sporting a red-and-white T-shirt as she lounges in her front room. Our hugely entertaining conversation moves wildly from Pete Doherty’s drinking habits to ghost hunting, from Barbie (has she seen it? “No, fuck that”) to watching Chris Morris satire Brass Eye as a seven-year-old, with the folks (“It would be that or the cricket highlights that we’d have on VHS,” she shrugs).

She was the perfect co-host last year at our own BandLab NME Awards at O2 Academy Brixton. It was easier than being on Buzzcocks “because I was sober and everyone else was pissed out of their tree. It really wasn’t intimidating at all. Everybody was smashed… and the next day would have had hangover anxiety about themselves. So nobody would have worried about my presenting.” Hobnobbing with comics and musicians, though, must feel like a dream come true? “Yeah,” she sighs. “I’ve come a long way since working in the sausage factory.”

“I was sober and everyone else was pissed out of their tree”

It was 2017 when the Cirencester-raised Cooper shot to fame as Kerry Mucklowe in This Country, the BBC Three mockumentary about two Cotswolds cousins, created with her younger brother Charlie, who co-stars. BAFTAs for Best Female Comedy Performance and Breakthrough Talent arrived in 2018, followed by two more series and a special. If that wasn’t enough, she married her long-term partner Will Weston in 2019 and gave birth to two children, daughter Pip and son Jack. And – in July 2021 – became single again after splitting from Will.

How did she cope, living through motherhood and a marriage so publicly? “It’s been a fucking mental few years. It’s been hard. It’s been really hard,” she admits. “And I think losing Michael Sleggs as well, who played ‘Slugs’ in the show – that was something actually that weirdly didn’t really hit us until after we filmed that third series.” Sleggs, who featured as Kerry and cousin Kurtan’s annoying neighbour, died in 2019, aged 33, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. So what pulled her through?

Daisy May Cooper
Daisy returns for a third season of pop panel show ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’. CREDIT: Sky

“All I do… do you know what? I entered my local village show with my chutney and I came second, which I was really fucking chuffed about.” She gets up, wanders into her kitchen and shows NME her certificate. This may or may not be how she copes with personal trauma, but you suspect it helps. During lockdown, Cooper was one of the famous faces that kept the country smiling, with her Instagram posts – including an ongoing ‘romance’ with an American sea captain who randomly messaged her, unaware of who she was.

Chutney aside, she loves ghost-hunting. “You know what I would love to do more than anything? Is to shadow an exorcist. There’s a guy that’s in Dorset… he’s meant to be the most amazing exorcist. He’s not a priest. He’s not religious. He just goes into the haunted houses and tells them to fuck off. ‘You bloody bastards, coming in here haunting the fucking house, you fuck off, this aint’ your house!’ That’s all he does and then they just go! He gets paid like 20 quid to go round haunted houses and tell ghosts to fuck off. That would be my ideal job!”

Daisy May Cooper
CREDIT: Justin Downing/Sky UK

Navigating the post-This Country high has been tough, though. “We thought, ‘fuck, we’re just a one trick pony, actually’, because it had been so many years in the making of This Country… finally getting it in front of people and it was the only character that I could fucking do. It was terrifying having to go back to the drawing board and think, ‘What else? What was going to be the next step?’” That next step, as a creator, turned out to be Am I Being Unreasonable? – the BBC comedy-drama co-written with friend Selin Hizli, in which Cooper plays an unhappily married mother.

Although that’s been satisfying, Cooper feels sad that her relationship with her brother suffered. “You’ve just got all these different schedules, and everybody wants a piece of you… it was awful. We drifted apart and we weren’t in contact really.” Now they see each other “pretty much every day”, and Cooper is even editing a film script that Charlie has written with The Office star Mackenzie Crook. “I’m annoyed actually because he’s managed to do this without me. And I was convinced that it was me that was the talented one, [that] he was just the monkey that types at the computer.”

“Me Play M? Move over Judi Dench!”

Still, Cooper’s been in demand, directed by comedy genius Armando Iannucci in his 2019 film The Personal History Of David Copperfield and sci-fi show Avenue 5, and recently starring in black comedy Rain Dogs. But what about other movie roles? Has she turned things down? “Um, no, I think I’m pretty much trying to take everything I fucking get offered. I think the offers are drying up quite fast! What have I been offered? I was offered a guard in one of the Fast And Furious movies that I couldn’t do but it literally [was] two lines.”

Recently, a rumour spread that she was going to play 007’s boss M in the new post-Daniel Craig James Bond movies. “I think it was on the radio… they were discussing who they want to be the next M and then somebody mentioned my name and from then it just went like fucking wildfires. I had the Daily Mail knocking at my parents’ door at night.” She’d be great, I tell her, as a younger, spunkier M after Judi Dench or – more recently – Ralph Fiennes. “Yeah, give me a fucking part,” she chuckles. “Move over Dench!”

Never Mind The Buzzcocks
The ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ team. CREDIT: Sky

As for Buzzcocks, Cooper’s – well – buzzing to be back. “Greg is like the Dad. I’m the mum. Jamali is like the difficult stepson. And Noel is the uncle that’s just sort of appeared after vanishing for 10 years. I add the female energy. So I like to think that I make our guests feels comfortable and welcome. Maybe make them a scone, that kind of thing.” Does she actually bring in baked goods? “No… but I’m the one that’s always making sure the guests have got a drink and they know where the toilets are. The blokes couldn’t give a shit.”

Already, she’s enjoyed some classic guests. Like the Happy MondaysShaun Ryder. “Between him and Bez, it was like having an acid trip. It’s honestly like trying to look after toddlers. They’re like two Furbies – you just put them together and they’re just gibbering away at each other.” Apparently, Ryder’s favourite topic of conversation was ex-sports presenter David Icke’s conspiracy theories about shapeshifting reptilians taking over the world. “I don’t think they realise quite how funny they are just naturally. Mental but brilliant.”

“Speaking to Suggs is like talking to a mechanic”

Pete Doherty also guested, leading Fielding to reminisce about getting trashed with the Libertines musician in a hotel room. “He just remembered Pete coming into his room at three in the morning with a bowler hat filled with kittens!” On the show, Doherty was drinking mugs filled with port and sherry. “To use sherry as a mixer is just genius,” Cooper marvels. “He downed 10 of those and then got up on the desk and started dancing. And it was magnificent!” Then there was the time Cooper’s fave boy band 911 appeared. “I was screaming when I saw them,” she says. “I think they were terrified that I was gonna maul them.”

This season, she got to work with Madness lead singer Suggs, who she met years ago when she was 14 at a They Might Be Giants gig. “If somebody told me then I’d be sitting next to him on a Never Mind The Buzzcocks panel… that would’ve just blown my mind. But he is so funny. Just so down to earth and brilliant. It’s like talking to a mechanic.” And then, of course, there are her co-stars. She spends a lot of her time chatting to Fielding about witchcraft. “It’s great to go to him for my occult knowledge. And then Jamali on who to get drugs from!”

Does she feel the show’s cleaned up since it went on Sky? “Would I say it’s more gentle? I don’t think so actually. I think when they come on the show all the guests know that they’ve got to take it.” Does she feel close, spiritually speaking, to former presenters Simon Amstell and Mark Lamarr? “Oh, God, I mean, they’re just absolute legends, aren’t they? Simon is more like Jamali, where he just doesn’t have a filter. But whatever does come out of his mouth is just genius. I’m probably like the Phil Jupitus that just chips in every now and again, probably once or twice an entire episode.”

This Country
Charlie and Daisy May Cooper in ‘This County’. CREDIT: BBC

Given Cooper’s bountiful talent, it’s surprising to hear how intimidated she can be – although she recently hinted why. In an interview, she revealed she was subjected to bullying at acting school RADA, when she was studying there in the mid-2000s. Tutors were getting the students to talk about deeply personal traumas, like rapes and miscarriages. “I came out feeling fucking suicidal,” she tells us. “A lot of us did. A lot of us felt absolutely fucking worthless. I remember, on our first day, the principal [who is not now in the post] – who’s a fucking asshole – said, ‘What we’re doing is we’re breaking you down to build you back up again.’ They broke us down. They never built us back up.”

She doesn’t hold back. “People are so scared because they hold your career in their hands. So they’re like, ‘We can make you or break you in this industry.’ It’s appalling. And you’re so scared and in fear. And you want to be successful, and you want to pursue your career at the cost of fucking staying quiet and getting on with it, which is just awful.” To this day, she’s turned down every play she’s been offered, fearful of going on stage and remembering lines.

We’d love to do a ‘This Country’ Christmas special”

Right now, the ripple effect from the SAG-AFTRA actor strikes means that nothing’s being made, leaving her unemployed. “It’s scary but I think it’s good that people are going on strike,” she says. “It’s such a hard one because then you get crew that are really missing out on wages.” Like her brother, she’s writing a film script. But what about This Country? “We’d love to do, at some point, a Christmas special,” she reveals. But there’s no doubt that Cooper is all too aware of just how fickle the entertainment industry can be.

“I think coming from a poor background, I’m always panicking about work not coming in and just waking up the next day and being cancelled. So it’s always trying to look for the next thing,” she says. “Only Fans might be the next thing for me! My cousin is on Only Fans. And she says because of the [cost of living] crisis at the minute… she’s not earning as much money. She was getting thirty grand a fucking month for getting her norks out! [Now] people can’t afford pornography! Heating’s got to come first!” What can you say after that?

‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ is available on Sky Max from August 23

NME contacted RADA for comment regarding Daisy May Cooper’s description of her time there. They said: “We are very sorry to hear Daisy May Cooper’s account of the time she had at RADA when she trained here. We would not tolerate the practices she describes in our present teaching environment. The wellbeing of our students is critical to us, and our wellbeing team works closely with students while they are exploring challenging material, and afterwards. We are also committed to a zero tolerance policy on any discrimination, harassment or bullying.”

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