English comedians Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc have traded biscuits on “The Great British Bake-off” to bloodshed in their new comedy series “Hitmen.”
“The writers had envisioned it as a couple of young guys,” Perkins, 50 tells The Post. “And we said, ‘Look, that trope is great, but it’s pretty well known. How about you have two tired middle-aged women — not necessarily in the most splendid of physical shape, not particularly stylish, not particularly cool?’
“They were gracious to go along with that, and we were involved in developing it.”
Premiering Thursday on NBC streamer Peacock, the dark comedy (which originally aired on Sky in the UK) follows Fran (Perkins) and Jamie (Giedroyc), best friends who happen to be contract killers. The pair spend much of their time sitting in their van awaiting orders — often discussing mundane issues in their lives — while somebody is tied up in the back. One episode features Fran haggling with a credit card company customer service rep on the phone as Jamie subdues and ties up an accountant (played by “Fleabag’s” Sian Clifford) in the background.
“Basically, I got to sit in a van with my best mate for about seven weeks, whilst occasionally getting out and pretending to do stunts,” says Perkins. “Coming together [to do ‘Hitmen’] was just joyful.”
The women have a 30-year creative partnership going back to their days at the University of Cambridge in the late ’80s. Prior to “Hitmen,” the duo have done a variety of shows together, including “Light Lunch” and “The Great British Bake-off,” which they hosted from 2010-2016 and shepherded into a worldwide sensation.
“[‘The Great British Bake-off’] started out in a backwater of BBC’s second channel,” Perkins says. “BBC2, which is less mainstream than BBC1. Year on year it started to build, and I think it just was a time when those sorts of shows were very judgmental and critical and pushed contestants into crying. And that’s just not how Mel and I [operate].
“We did try and do something which wasn’t very cool at the time, which was to be nice,” she says. “People thought, ‘This was a show I can watch with my family.’ There’s no malice, no one will feel like a fool for trying their best. I can’t attest to why it was successful in the States, but here, it captured something of a lost feeling — a lost sense of community or sharing or passing things down through the generations.
“There’s something about that got a response. And by the time we looked up, it was 6 seasons in and we were getting more viewers than [soccer]!”
Going from a feelgood baking show to a tongue-in-cheek comedy involving murder might seem like a leap, but Perkins says both subjects interest her.
“My secret passion is action movies, and I was so disappointed to realize that, although in my head I’m Trinity from ‘The Matrix,’ the reality is different,” she says. “I love ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Pulp Fiction,’ and ‘Barry,’ of course – Barry is a great modern hitman. I think [the reason] we return to the idea of hitmen is that when you’ve got such a violent job, it provides an interesting clash with that person and their domestic life. It allows us to play with the two extremes of our own existence — that murderous rageful side that gets ignited when I watch the news, and my placid side sitting with my rescue dog. I actually find it restful [to watch action]. I used to watch Van Damme films on a loop.
“What draws me to all these things is the story, and the idea that women can be strong both physically and mentally,” she says. “They don’t have to be in the margins making tea for the hero.”