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I TALK TO Daniel Lawrence Taylor

In 2018 Timewasters was BAFTA nominated and Daniel Lawrence Taylor who wrote and starred in the series was awarded the RTS Breakthrough Award, so it's no surprise that the time-travelling comedy is back for another run on ITV2.

"I think we all knew how important this show was because there aren't many shows in the UK with an all-black cast in it."

Written and created by Daniel Lawrence Taylor, Timewasters centres around a four-piece jazz band from South London made up of Daniel's character Nick, Jason (Kadiff Kirwan), Lauren (Adelayo Adedayo) and Horace (Samson Kayo) who in the first series end up in 1920s London high-society after getting into a urine-sodden South London lift that just happened to be a time machine!

In the second series, the band are transported to 1950s London where the future has arrived, the birth of the teenager, slick-haired Teddy Boys, the vibrant Windrush crowd, box-fresh televisions and crucially, the dawn of Rock n’ Roll.

I recently caught up with Daniel to find out more about the hit series, to get his thoughts and diversity on television and to discuss the possibility of a US remake.

Were you surprised by the success of the first series, not to mention the award nominations and wins?

Yeah, massively! I was definitely surprised. My intention was just to write a good sitcom that people could enjoy that was fun and a little bit different. I never expected the response I'd get for it and didn't ever think that it would get BAFTA nominated or that I would win an RTS award. It's been quite an amazing journey to be honest.

How long had you been sitting on Timewasters before it made it to air?

Weirdly enough, it was quite a quick turnaround from idea to getting it down on paper and then to the production company. That all happened within a few months. I was working on Cockroaches which was also on ITV2 and I was also learning to play the trumpet at the same time, so I thought wouldn't it be cool to write a show about a jazz band.

What I loved about Cockroaches was that it was very high concept and that's what I wanted to try and write as well. The idea of time travelling came about and it was bizarre but made me laugh a lot and that's when it started to feel like a good show.

I was already working with Big Talk on a high concept TV show so I thought that would be the best place for it. That was back in 2015 so it all started then and it was quite a quick turnaround from inception to getting it out there.

Why do you think the series has resonated so well with viewers?

Because it does a little bit of everything I think. There's a bit of a gear shift to what we've had on TV for quite some time. A lot of sitcoms tend to be flat shares or workplace comedies and I think there's a real appetite for high concept comedies now. You see a lot more coming through and I think that's a big reason why it's resonated with people.

I make a joke out of it in the show, but to see black people time travelling is quite a new thing. So I think the premise alone really drew people in. The performers in it are all brilliant and the characters they play are fun to watch and the world is exciting.

Why did you choose to shift from the 1920s to the 1950s for series two?

As I was writing series one and getting to the end, everyone was getting quite excited about the series and I thought "Oh God, what if we get another series? Where would we go?" and 1950s was the obvious choice.

It resonates a lot with me because it was the era of the Windrush and a lot of my family came over as part of Windrush and were part of that generation. I really wanted to explore those characters. In this series, there are a lot of characters who are named after family members.

So it was a lot of fun to play with those characters that I was used to seeing during my childhood and all through my life, and putting them on screen.

Did you ever think of a version of Timewasters where episode would go back to a different era?

Funnily enough no and that's for two reasons. First of all, budget. But most importantly, I think part of the charm of Timewasters is that you get to not only enjoy the band but also the other characters in that world. So to go in and then leap out when the episode ends, I don't think audiences would be as satisfied.

Six episodes is the perfect amount of time to sit in that world, build that story and see where the new characters take our regular characters. Weirdly, being restricted by the budget has enhanced the show.

Did you find the second series easier to write because you knew who the actors were and you knew what the audience liked about the show?

Yeah definitely, knowing the characters and being able to write in my actors' voices made it a whole load easier.

When you're writing a high concept show, especially time travel, there are so many rules that you have to stick to which means that a lot of series one was working out what you could do and what you couldn't do.

Once I got to the second series, I knew everything. I knew the world, I knew exactly who homeless Peter was and I knew how the time machine worked.

Were you always going to be in Timewasters?

I 100% wanted to be in it. In fact, it was in my contract. I really wanted to write a vehicle, not really for myself, but for other young black actors. I never really get to perform with other black actors.

It's always been a very one in one out industry. I remember working with Javone Prince once on a TV show and we were both talking about how odd it was for us to be on set together at the same time.

As a result of you giving lots of young actors a real opportunity, what's the atmosphere like on set?

It's great! We get on like a proper family. I think we all knew how important this show was because there aren't many shows in the UK with an all-black cast in it.

At the time I think there was Chewing Gum and Sunny D and now there's a few more like Famalam, but at the time there were only a handful of shows so a different kind of excitement going into it. We knew that we were creating something new and completely different.

Any exciting guest stars for series two?

Yeah! We've got loads and they all brought their A-game. What I found most touching was that everyone told me how excited they were to be in the show. Tom Bennett read for many different roles, because he was filming another show at the same time, but he was so determined to be in it in any way shape or form.

He was like "I don't care what role I play. I just want to be in it." When you hear something like that from an actor I really admire, it's so touching.

The same with Anna Chancellor as well. She came in and talked about how great it was to play a character like Victoria because she rarely gets to play characters like that.

Daniel Rigby is one of my close friends, but he's an incredible actor. When I asked him I was like "Please be in my little show" and he was like "Of course I'll be in it! It's great." which was really touching as well.

I've always been a massive fan of Javone Prince and he's in it as well. He absolutely nailed it. Ellie White is incredible and I think she's going to be a household name so it was great nabbing her before she disappears into stardom!

That's just a handful of the names that were involved. There are so many!

Who would be your dream guest star?

Funnily enough, we're hoping to make an American version of Timewasters and LL Cool J is set to produce it. It's all very early days but I met him in LA a few weeks ago and at the end he said to me "Make sure you write me a guest role in series three" and I was like "Err... absolutely! Of course I will."

So it's my goal to squeeze him into series three in any way, shape or form. He's such a busy man that I'm just hoping filming doesn't clash with his schedule. But we'll see...

Has exploring issues of race in the 1920s and 1950s surprised you about how society deals with race in 2019?

It varies. In some ways we've moved on so little because one of the opening gags in series one is the gang doing graffiti on the time machine door, and it was just a couple of weeks ago up in Manchester in which racist graffiti was all over that kid's door. So in some ways I don't think we have come very far.

But on the flipside, I think that's a bit pessimistic of me because we are much more integrated now. In episode five of this series the West Indian family go to church and the reason why they had their own church is because they weren't allowed in white churches back in the 1950s. And obviously that's changed so much now.

It's a real mixture. We have come so far, but then there are a lot of things in which we're lagging behind.

Do you feel like you have to make a comment on society through your work?

Definitely. Race plays such a massive part of my life and for all people of colour and those from a minority. When you watch a time travelling show with a group of white men in a time machine, their concern is about chasing the girl. Whereas for people of colour, your main worry is "Oh my God, what year is this because it's most likely not going to be a good time for us.

I suppose it's just being realistic of the time and hopefully educates people. It's really important to me and all the work that I tend to do always has social commentary on race.

Do you have any favourite scenes from this series?

Ooh... there are so many! Jason gets naked a lot in this series which is always funny. Lauren gets even more ruthless as she starts a strip club and ends up dating Jason's son who's older than he is.

Horace sings some great numbers as well. He sings Blinded By Your Grace by Stormzy which is a wonderful moment. Nick becomes like a Malcolm X style figure when he rallies up the West Indians... so yeah, there are lots of great scenes. Loads!

Do you have an idea of where you'd set the third series?

I do have ideas for series three but I'm going to keep those close to my chest because I want it to be a surprise.

Can you ever see yourself doing a series set in the future?

Ooh, I'd like that. As long as you've got a time machine, anything is possible. I think it's whatever takes my fancy which is the wonderful thing about being able to jump around. We can go all the way back or all the way forward. Anything is possible with this show.

If you could travel back to any moment in time, where would you travel back to?

I've given this answer before and it sounds so boring, but probably the early 2000s. I love the music, I was at university, I was having a great old time and I would just love to live it again. I know it sounds lame and I should say that I want to go back and visit the pyramids or whatnot, but I just want to go and get pissed at my university again.

What's next for you?

I'm already starting work on a possible series three just in case we get the green light. Everyone's making good noises so we might have another series on the cards. So I'm getting that ball rolling. I'm also hoping to get the US version on the go as well which I'll be overseeing with LL Cool J.

I've also got another project with the BBC so I'll be getting that ball rolling again soon too. And then everything else for the rest of the year is to play for!

Timewasters returns Monday at 10pm on ITV2


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