Can you tell us a bit about your new series?
Yes, so our new series for W, Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over, is a really interesting idea. Essentially, I arrive at a family home in the UK on the Friday, and then I stay with them right through until the Monday. The idea is that we're trying to really immerse ourselves into their way of life and we've got a lot of fascinating characters who've got a lot to say.
It might be that they have a really regimented routine that we need to adhere to, or it might be a bit looser. I'm just a house guest and I think that's what perhaps makes this slightly different as well. It's the idea that I'm not finishing at 8pm or 9pm and checking myself into a hotel, I think that's what gives the series quite a different feel. It feels quite unique, so I'm made up and really excited about it.
Why did you want to make this series?
I suppose I was keen to make this series for a couple of reasons. I'm often further afield and overseas and the stories can be quite obviously extreme, but actually there's so much to say at home, particularly now. I think we're very tribal at the minute in the sense that you either vote the same or you don't, you think the same or you don't, you're liberal or you're Conservative, a Brexiteer or a Remainer. We're putting everyone in these camps and so it's about putting yourself into a situation where it may not always feel comfortable, but it's the art of debate that I think we might have lost. I think it's really important to surround yourself with people you don't understand or agree with all of the time. That's what this series will do.
What sort of families are you staying with?
We've definitely got a mixed bag! We are spending time with a landed gentry family, polyamorists, a massive YouTube family, a teen cage fighter, a family who believe in child-led parenting and some Mormons who belong to the Latter-Day Saints Church. They're all very very different which was important for us. I feel like you get a real understanding of what life is like for lots of families even though there are lots of similarities. I imagine that although we all live here in the same country, it can feel quite extreme in some cases.
What's the benefit of actually moving in with these families?
I think staying with them puts a different spin on things, because when you arrive at someone's home you're on good form and you're on your best behaviour and you leave at 9pm or whatever and you can sort of exhale, as you get back to your hotel room and switch off. But I think when you stay the night as a house guest, naturally it just feels very different. I also think it probably makes it harder to ask those slightly prickly questions because they are being so accommodating, by hosting you and feeding you, and you're in their shower. So, it all feels a bit more personal, if that makes sense.
Did you expect to be faced with unusual attitudes or values?
Without question! Throughout this series, perhaps particularly with landed gentry, we have come from very different places and had very different backgrounds. You know your environment, to a certain extent, shapes who you are and what you believe. So, we definitely had to have some uncomfortable conversations, or I had to dig my heels in a bit. But I have also been staying in their homes, so I really did respect that and didn't take it as a given that everyone was just going to open their doors. I'm not entitled to come into your home!
How does this series differ from other documentaries you've made?
Well, this is my first one for W and I suppose it is a bit of a departure in terms of tone. I'm very proud of the stuff I've done prior to this, it's very serious and often quite hard-hitting. This series feels a lot lighter, there's humour there and it gives me the opportunity to sit down and have conversations with people at home. These are people who we go about with everyday who are part of our society and there's so much to be said, particularly in 2019 here in the UK.
You mentioned that you stayed with a 'Throuple'. What do you think makes a relationship like this work?
I mean, clearly, I'm not a polyamorist so I can only speculate, but from what I understand they mirror everything you would do in a relationship where there's only two of you, but there's obviously three of them. Everyone has sex with everyone, everyone texts and calls everyone and you check in with both, or all of your partners and make sure they're ok. So many people, I can imagine, will watch this and just think that they'd be riddled with jealousy or they wouldn't be able to hack it. It's going to be great this one.
The Saccone Jolys have a huge following online! What were the key questions to cover with this family?
I think this will be a really great watch for a couple of reasons, but I think ultimately the main question is that clearly it's very beneficial financially to be a YouTuber, as you can make loads of money and your kids can be really comfortable, and every parent wants to be able to fund and support their babies. However, it does come at a cost and that cost is their privacy. I think that's a big sacrifice and the kids are going to be eighteen or twenty years old one day and it might be that they never wanted any of that documented. It's really interesting territory and I think it'll make for great conversation.
What are your thoughts on unschooling and child-led parenting?
Well, obviously many of us go to school and it's all very traditional and predictable. I accept that sometimes school doesn't work for certain kids and they end up getting home-schooled, but that still means that they follow a curriculum, so they're still learning. But the kids in the family I stay with are unschooled, so they aren't following a curriculum. Instead the parents take the lead, so when the kids say they want to learn about something, that's when they have the conversation. To me, that feels pretty mad.
Do you think no rules for kids can be a good thing?
Yeah, I mean I do admire the fact that they are so willing to go against the grain and stand for what they think is right because I can imagine that's not always easy and probably a lot of people sit and judge you. Maybe I'm doing that a little bit here, but I think you've always got to do what you believe is right and they're clearly doing that. They'll be doing this because it's what they believe is best for their children, so I would say they are prioritising their kids and I suppose that's what every decent parent ought to do.
How did you find your weekend with a Mormon family?
Well I definitely had to be on my best behaviour! Swearing is a massive no no for Mormons, and my mouth is like a sewer, so I had to be mindful of that. They don't drink tea, or any hot caffeine and I go through ten cups a day! It was like rehab for me.
The main thing I wanted from this weekend was to hear where they're coming from and to understand what the religion gives them. People take so much comfort from believing that there's this guy, this higher being, that has their back and loves them unconditionally. I don't believe that, so I imagine that's a lovely feeling.
A cage-fighting teen is an interesting topic to explore. What do you think of kids cage fighting?
I follow cage fighting, I recognise it as a sport, I admire the stars with the dedication they put in, but I can understand people not getting on board with kids fighting. I completely hear that, and it is food for thought. I don't know what age is too young, but then if you want to be the Venus Williams or the Anthony Joshua of your world, you have to start young and you have to sacrifice almost everything and it's all or nothing, you're in or out. That's how you become great.
I accept that fourteen is very young. At fourteen are you old enough to decide whether or not you want to go into a cage and potentially get your head kicked in? Some people think yes, some people think absolutely not. Some people will think that the parents are really irresponsible, some will think that the parents are very admirable because they're trying everything to make sure that this lad doesn't go off the rails. The great thing about this series is it gives you the time to sit down with them at dinner or over breakfast and talk about everything.
You spent some time with the Arkwrights who own acres of land. What were your first thoughts about this family?
I suppose they were very much born into real privilege, right? The house is enormous, there are so many bedrooms, acres and acres and acres of land. Naturally, the way that they pass the time and the things that they're involved in are a million miles away from what I'm used to doing. It was a really great weekend because we talked about subjects that I feel quite passionately about, for example privilege generally speaking, private education, the responsibility to recognise the position that you're in. They also used to fox hunt, so another very emotive topic and the mum is a bit of a character as well!
What are you favourite type of contributors in documentaries?
The best contributors are those who are willing to say what they truly believe. Whether you're on board or not, if they are honest, transparent and forthcoming you're so appreciative and it makes for remarkable television. I think it's harder to get in the UK, if I'm being totally honest, which is why I think we've done so well to find the families that we have. We self-edit because we're petrified, we don't want to rock the boat and we don't want to say anything that's going to annoy people or make people jump on Twitter and kick off. I think we've done that with this series, I think we have stripped back the layers and the niceties and people have told us what they think about, in some cases, quite controversial subjects.