Interview: “The Inbetweeners” Rock in a Hard Place
by Luke Y. Thompson on September 5, 2012
Known to UK viewers since 2008, The Inbetweeners – a group of four awkward teenage boys just looking to party and have some fun, often with embarrassing consequences for them – has recently been remade for the U.S. in a version that premiered on MTV last month. The originals aren’t done yet, however, as they’re hitting these shores with a movie that was the #3 box-office hit in their home country last year. Simon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas and Blake Harrison play the lads, and we can attest to the fact that their real-life personalities are slightly different – in person, it’s Buckley rather than Bird who does most of the narration, and none of the group seems the least bit shy. Nerdist was granted the boys’ first-ever U.S. interview on behalf of the movie, but we have to admit that in some ways, they ended up interviewing themselves…
Nerdist: Is this your first stop on the U.S. press tour?
James Buckley: This is our very first interview. So be gentle.
N: Do you have a sense of what kind of U.S. fan base there is for this show?
JB: Absolutely not. I’m assuming there isn’t one.
Simon Bird: My sense is there isn’t one, since it’s only opening on eight screens.
JB: Yeah, we’ll have to see. I mean…
Joe Thomas: We’ve got a small audience for the series, I think.
JB: It was the same back home, I think. No one watched the first series, and then the people that did watch it told their friends to watch it, and maybe hopefully there’ll be a snowball effect over here. It’s a bigger country, though. You’ve got more choice.
SB: A lot more competition.
N: When you were promoting the movie in the UK, was it even an issue that you might be promoting it to people who hadn’t seen the show, or was it assumed they all had?
Blake Harrison: It’s gotten to the stage now, though, where if they hadn’t seen it, they would have heard of it and at least have a grasp on what the idea of the show is, which is helpful. This is different.
SB: There’s about 18 people in the UK, and 15, 16 of them know us…
BH: And you got four of them here…
SB: One of them’s the Queen.
N: Have you seen any of the U.S. version?
JT: I have seen a couple of episodes. I thought it was good, but it was quite strange, because I thought the guy that was playing me was sort of basing his performance on what I’d done, so I thought, “Well don’t do that! Do something else; don’t feel obliged to copy. Improve on it, by all means!”
SB: He has.
JT: So it was kind of surreal. But I enjoyed it; I thought it was everything it should be.
JB: I think The Inbetweeners is very American-influenced anyway: that gross-out teen comedy that has a heart is what we enjoy watching, and what the writers enjoy.
SB: We stole it from you in the first place.
JB: We just watched Superbad.
N: It does seem like maybe, because of the Internet, pop-culture is more universal in this generation. Like, in my parents’ generation, you had something like Alfie, which had totally different slang than any American movie. There are one or two words in this movie I didn’t know but could figure out in context, but overall I wonder if you think it’s maybe easier to relate to international youth in general, more so maybe than your parents’ generation of slang and youth culture.
JB: I think it’s almost timeless in that boys will always be boys, no matter if they’re at school or in a bar together, or they’re at work together – if you get a group of guys together, they’ll always talk about the same stuff and make the same jokes, no matter what age or decade it was.
SB: There was the assumption when the first series came out that it was a show for teenagers – it was on a quite teen-centric channel, but it seems to have found an audience across the age range.
BH: When lads are that age, they always have the same goals. It doesn’t matter if they grow up in the ’70s or now; if you’re a group of 17 year-old guys, you’re gonna be thinking about girls, and looking cool in front of your friends. You’re not going to be thinking about, like, politics and global warming as much, you know?
JT: It is interesting, talking about our parents’ generation, there was no way you could watch random clips of shows from other countries when you were our parents; that couldn’t have happened. I think what’s interesting is a lot of the shows that influenced us growing up were American shows, but that was also just watching it through fairly traditional means – things like The Simpsons and that kind of American comedy had just come over to British TV. I think for quite a long time, British comedy’s been influenced by American comedy, and it’s probably just more difficult to do it the other way – The Office was very successful over here, but…
BH: It was a very different show, though, that’s the thing
N: We steal your shows all the time, though, even going back to Sanford and Son.
JT: I suppose Monty Python…
JB: Is Monty Python big over here, though?
JT: It is quite a bit, yeah. It seems to come up a lot, with people, as a good example of English comedy.
SB: I lived here quite a bit when I was younger, and whenever people talked about British comedy, Americans, they said Monty Python, Benny Hill, and Are You Being Served? Whereas now people have, I mean, those shows have not been popular in England for around 30, 40 years. Whereas now with the Internet, people are much more finger-on-the-pulse of what’s actually going on.
JT: Things like The Office and people like Richard Ayoade who’ve been in shows that probably would’ve been more difficult to get if this were all happening 30, 40 years ago, I mean, The IT Crowd…
BH: Our computer lingo would’ve been weird about 40 years ago.
JT: “What’s I.T.?”
BH: This futuristic comedy…
JT: But maybe it’s, um…I dunno.
JB: Maybe it’s, “um, I dunno!”
N: So how much “research” did you have to do to be able to properly portray boys partying on the continent?
JB: I’ve never been on, like a lad’s – that’s what they call it at home, a lad’s holiday, where it’s about ten guys go to places like Crete or Malia…
SB: These beautiful European islands that the British people go to and…
JB:…have just destroyed, yeah. I’ve never fancied it, even when I was younger. I’ve always felt that a holiday should be relaxing. But I do have friends that used to go on them, annually, and they’d say, “Oh, are you coming, you’re coming!” I’d go “Naah,” and then I’d hear back, and I’d ask them how was it, and they’d be like, “The last few nights, it felt like work, we’ve gotta get up, we’ve gotta go out, gotta keep drinking, come on, we’re only here for a coupla nights!” You can, I guess, never sleep if you want. But you have, haven’t you? [points to Harrison]
BH: Yeah, I did it when I was about 18, and I had that to kind of draw upon as an experience. Nothing quite as bad happened to me as it did to the characters in the show, but also I’ve got a little brother that’s still doing those kinds of lad’s holidays now. He’s in his early 20s. I think we’ve all had our own experiences or know people that have been on those holidays, and they’re documented quite a lot: there was a show that came on just before we started filming this called Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents…
JT: It was a really interesting documentary. Teenagers went over and the production company lied to the teenagers and told them they were going to make a program about their holiday, and then what they actually did was invited their parents over as well and got the parents to watch what the teenagers were doing…
JB: …watch the teenagers have sex…
JT: So it was like…
BH: It was weird…
JT: I would be outraged if someone…
JB: Why would you agree to it, if you were a parent? What would you expect?
BH: They were quite controlling parents, where they needed to know what was going on, and that in itself was quite interesting to watch, to see how these people would go about their holiday and stuff.
JB: But there’s always been that sort of culture as well, because I remember when I was younger, when I was at primary school, there was a show called Ibiza Uncovered, something like that…
All: Yeah, yeah…
JB: there’s always been that culture since, basically, the cheap holiday began. Since people started flying planes, I think the lad’s holiday has existed.
SB: Since 1928.
BH: The pioneers of lad’s holidays.
JB: Not the point I was making, but…
JB: That’s right. Thanks, Joe.
SB: We probably did quite an extended promotional bit for Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.
JT: We’re not really affiliated with that show at all.
BH: Don’t worry about The Inbetweeners, but go watch Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents.
JT: It actually is a really good show.
JB: Yeah, if they wanna make an American version of a British show, then do that about Spring Break.
JT: It’s already formatted; you can look at how they do it.
JB: Spring Break version, a load of kids on holiday, their parents watching…
SB: I don’t think it’s available on DVD, but they should think about…I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube.
N: So on the set of this movie, was it pretty professional, or did you ever indulge in local partying?
JB: It was off-season – it was January – so it was really cold.
JT: It was March.
JB: Oh, it was March. It was freezing.
SB: So there was nobody in these sort of “party towns.”
SB: The people who were left were, like, out-of-work strippers…
JB: The people who lived there; just out-of-work strippers, sitting on the side of the road, with cardboard signs, “Will strip for cash.”
JT: It was weird, though. It really was like being on a set because it was there and it was empty.
SB: It felt like it had been built specifically for the movie, because it was perfect. We just had all these “sets,” and they were totally empty; we could use any of them that we wanted to.
JT: And actually, quite a lot of the people who lived there year-round ended up being in the film.
N: Given that it was such a cold time of year, that puts a new perspective on your big diving scene. Tell me about that.
JT: It was really fun. I felt a bit guilty the whole time, because my coach was a multi-world champion and I think some of his time would have been better spent preparing the British Olympic divers, but instead he’s having to train me. The training for the diving was humiliating, because it was basically loads of Olympic hopefuls in diving, who were all basically about 13, and they’re amazing at it. And then me, kind of practicing how to do little jumps into the pool, and they would all clap when I’d done a new move, which was sort of, um, twitty. Felt pretty humiliating. But I enjoyed it. It doesn’t look as high as it really should in the film. It was quite high. If it helps, I was really scared. It was great; it was a real bonus. Obviously, at the time I was training, I was like, “Mate, honestly, when we finish the film, I’m gonna keep diving, I love it so much.” Haven’t done that at all.
N: Is it that you want to come back to it and hadn’t had the time, or you really had no fun doing the final one?
N: Is it premature to ask about another movie after this one?
JB: I think the idea of making a film is there…
BH: The idea is set in stone…
JB: We all like working together; we all have fun together, so I think it’s been a while since we’ve done that and we’ve forgotten all the stress, so we’re like, “That was really fun, wasn’t it?”
JT: None of us cried…
JB:…and there isn’t actually an idea.
JT: We’d all really like to see another one and we’re talking about it.
N: Would you want to go the American Pie route, where you see the graduation, wedding, reunion and all the stages?
JT: I haven’t seen a lot of those American Pie sequels. I don’t think we’d wanna do lots and lots.
JB: I think we’ll do ten; a nice round ten.
JT: I’ll stop when I’m a nice round 16. Then retire.
The Inbetweeners opens in the U.S. this Friday.