I Talk Telly

i talk to: jack whitehall

It’s very rare these days for a sitcom to really take off and not receive a hounding from the press But in August 2012 Bad Education managed just that. Written by Jack Whitehall and his friend from school Freddy Syborn, Bad Education is a sitcom set in Abbey Grove School where Jack plays one of the teachers, Alfie Wickers. You can read more about series 1 here.

Back in April of this year, I was very excited to be invited along to the Bad Education set in Wimbledon Studios to see Jack Whitehall, Sarah Solemani and those rather brilliant kids in action. Having toured the set; including the head-teacher’s office, Alfie Wicker’s classroom and the new Science lab it was time to sit down with Jack Whitehall and find out what’s in store for series 2…

Q So, series 2 of Bad Education. Can you tell us what’s in store for Alfie?

Well more of the will they won’t they. Oh! And Sarah’s character (Miss Gulliver) has a little friend. A new friend, who… is a woman. And she is a lady as well. (Laughs) So that’s what happens in episode one, and then a love rival comes along in one of the episodes as well, so we thought we’d throw that into the mix.

Q And what can you tell us about the new series?

We’ve got some new characters, my dad appears. We’ve got some new teachers, some mix ups with the members of staff. I lose my class – I get it back. (Laughs). I loseMiss Gulliver – I get her back. (Laughs).

 Q What does your dad do in it Jack?

Well we really wanted to have him in series one. We wrote the dad character, but we didn’t feel we had enough time to establish him, that we ended up cutting it all. So were very keen for him to come into this series, which he does about halfway through, played by Harry Enfield.

It’s amazing working with him – Harry gave me one of my first jobs. He asked me to be in one of his sketches for Harry And Paul when he was dressed up as Tony Blair. I was very small but i was totally in awe of him. So… scratch my back… (Laughs).

Q What was it like coming back to write a second series after the first series was such a huge success?

There was quite a lot of pressure I guess, but it was really nice and we sort of felt like we’d picked up right from where we left off.

It’s so much nicer once you know who all the cast are and all the crew are. It’s more of a family now.

I found the writing this time around, not easier, but more enjoyable because we knew who was playing each character and we had more of a sense of how each of the actors had sort of made them their own.

Q And how did you cope with the pressure knowing how well the first series was received by fans especially?

Yeah I guess so. I think if people like a series, and really enjoy it then you’ve got that pressure with the second series not to let them down. Hopefully we haven’t done that. But it’s good because you get feedback of what people like, what they didn’t like – so you hopefully try and give them more of what they want.

Q Now Jack, at the end of the last series we saw Alfie finally kiss Miss Gulliver. Is there any fallout from that in the new series?

Ooh there is! Indeed. I think that we’re going out. For me a little kiss is a green light and means you’re in a relationship – I mean the character, Alfie, not me.

There’s a Valentine’s Day episode and it goes disastrously wrong and he sets up a whole date which is when we introduce Harry (Enfield) actually.

That’s when Alfie wants to introduce his dad to his girlfriend. It’s quite fun, it’s a big dinner party – and it’s in Alfie’s flat.

Q You mention your flat there, does more of the action take place out of the classroom in this series then?

There are some bigger set pieces I think it’s safe to say. And even when we’re outside of the school we’ve tried to keep that same kind of dynamic that we have in the classroom but just in other places. It’s still me and the kids and quite fast dialogue from them.

Q If you had to write Alfie a school report from the end of series 1 and going into the next one, how would you mark him?

Enthusiasm, I think is high. He’s very enthusiastic. Dickish (laughs) – and maturity is probably very low. We’ve definitely upped the man-child element of him in this series. He’s more of a fucking loser than a teacher.

Basically, what’s happened is, and no disrespect to Freddy (Syborn who co-writes the series), I think in the first series it was quite a lot of the more geeky elements of my character that we transposed onto Alfie, and then the second series we’ve also added Freddy’s geeky elements and Freddy is… quite geeky! So we’ve got a double geek.

In fact, this is Wimbledon Studios and you walk around the corridors and some amazing stuff has been shot here, most recently Run For Your Wife was filmed in these very studios. So every day I will pass the poster of Danny Dyer and throughout the series I have tried to channel a lot of Danny Dyer in my performance. So you’ll notice him getting a little bit more, cockney geeker, laddish, loveable c**t.

Q I hear there’s quite a lot of nudity in this series. Discuss…

Yes, there’s a fair old bit of nudity in this series. The other day we filmed a big sequence where Alfie cooks up drugs with his class a la Breaking Bad – but then ends up consuming some of the drugs and getting really high and we do a scene where I’m tripping out and I go completely fucking mad and end up losing some of my clothes – and a LOT of my dignity.

Q And finally, what was your own time at school like?

I went to an inner city state school and did a lot of drugs. (Laughs). I enjoyed school, I liked it. In fact we’ve stolen some stuff that happened at school for Bad Education – not the cooking of drugs (laughs). I got in trouble, but always for kind of weird shit – never getting caught having sex, or doing drugs – nothing like that.

Bad Education returns to BBC Three at 10pm, 3rd September or you can watch the first episode on BBC iPlayer now.