The definition of a cameo, according to Collins Dictionary reads: “a single and often brief dramatic scene played by a well-known actor or actress in a film.”
It’s hard to argue with that, even if it does come across as a little cold and clinical. For the audience, a cameo appearance can point to anything from an actor’s endorsement of a reboot, it can build bridges between films and franchises, or it can signal the ultimate in self-service and ego-inflation. Hell, sometimes it can be nothing more than a bit of fun.
Sometimes, it’s a slice of fried gold.
Yvonne’s alt-crew in Shaun of the Dead
In Edgar Wright’s rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead, it’s safe to say that our protagonist isn’t the likeliest of heroes. From getting undermined by the younglings at his day job, to being strong-armed into visiting his mum, via not having enough change for the shop, there’s always someone who’s doing better in life than our hero. And that person is Yvonne (Jessica Hynes).
Having met up just as the undead apocalypse (we’re not using the ‘Zed’ word) was beginning to kick off, the audience learns that old friend Yvonne is already much better at adulting than Shaun (Simon Pegg), having just bought her own house whilst Shaun is still house-shares. Having Hynes, Pegg’s old Spaced co-star and co-writer turn up for a cameo in Shaun of the Dead was enough of a treat for any fan of the Channel 4 cult comedy but her second appearance is a cameo classic.
Having cooked up the plan to head to The Winchester’s Arms pub whilst all this blows over, Shaun’s gang of survivors is led through the back alleys and gitties of suburbia, before bumping into Yvonne and a gang of her own. All tooled up and ready for action, it’s clear that this gang is much more adept at navigating the end of the world than Shaun. Not one of them has a spot of red on them.
The gang are made up of a who’s who of British talent and a knowing nod to the comedy crossovers which first brought them together. Each of Yvonne’s gang is akin to an alt-universe version of Shaun’s, with each more successful than their counterpart.
Martin Freeman (who appeared in both the following instalments of The Cornetto Trilogy) stars as Yyonnes’ boyf Declan and is the yin to Liz’s (Kate Ashfield) yang. And at least they’re still together. On the ‘failed actress and a tw*t’ front you have Black Books’ Tasmin Greig as Maggie and The League of Gentlemen‘s Reece Shearsmith as Mark, mirroring Lucy Davis’ Dianne and Dylan Moran’s David.
Bringing up the rear, fellow Spaced star Julie “Hello Bryan” Deakin stars as Yvonne’s mum and is equally as lovely as Penelope Wilton’s “we’re coming to get you” Barbara. The only one that always seems to not quite scan properly is Matt Lucas as Cousin Tom, the alt-Ed . He can get his own Cornetto.
After hearing of Shaun’s plan to hold over in the pub, he receives a consolatory hug from Yvonne, before each character nods an acknowledgement to their counterpart before being on their way. The meeting reminds the audience just how hapless our own heroes are, leaving us with a slight feeling of “can’t we go with them instead”? Nope. Off to the Winchester, we go. There’s a rifle above the bar.
Have we struck gold with our cameo of choice? Or have we blinked and missed something? Let us know in the comments below.