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I TALK TO Dylan Llewellyn

"It's an amazing LGBTQ-led show with so much going for it and I'm just glad I got to be a part of it."

Unless you're a Hollyoaks fan, the first time you're likely to have watched Dylan Llewellyn on television was as lovable James, the "wee English fella" in Channel 4's huge hit Derry Girls which has just come to an end.

Dylan is wasting no time in gracing our screens once more, this time in another Channel 4 comedy. Although brand new, Big Boys, written by comedian Jack Rooke, already has all the makings of a classic Channel 4 comedy.

Big Boys is about two boys from very different ends of the “spectrum of masculinity” who become best mates at Brent Uni Freshers Week 2013. Part of the show's strength is its authenticity and that's thanks in part to Jack Rooke whose voice shines through, both in his writing and narration, but also thanks to Dylan Llewellyn whose performance proves how important casting is. And here, they've got that spot on.

Jack is a dweeby, sheltered, closeted boy from Watford, trying to overcome grief after his dad’s passing as well as figure out what he actually wants in life. His potty-mouthed mother Peggy, played by Camille Coduri, persuades him to take up a scholarship at a local uni so he can make something of himself and not just be stuck at home, masturbating and knitting blankets to sell on Etsy.

It's there that he meets Jon's character Danny, a typically loud and proud lads’ lad. Hailing from a run-down seaside town, Danny is a few years older than every other fresher, trying to live out a lost adolescence whilst confronting the demons of his own mental health.

Living in an ex-classroom shed on campus, the boys get thrown together by the enigmatic Jules, played by Katy Wix, the head of the SU who was once a student herself a decade ago and has just never, ever, left.

They soon meet Corinne, played by Izuka Hoyle, a sharp, study-centric Scot who’s also learning to let her hair down and Yemi, played by Olisa Odele, the savvy fashion kid who at 19 has already seen it all, done it all and begrudgingly guides this gang of misfits through Freshers and beyond.

I caught up with Dylan Llewellyn at the launch of Big Boys to discuss what it was like playing Jack, why he's so proud of being part of the show and whether dressing up as Posh Spice in Derry Girls was his idea.

What was it about Big Boys that made you say yes?

It's an amazing LGBTQ-led show with so much going for it and I'm just glad I got to be a part of it. What's unique about it is that it tackles these deep and important subjects that need to be addressed like mental health but it's also really really funny.

It’s about young males being comfortable in their masculinity, dealing with loss, opening up and not bottling up their emotions. Because the writing is so good, it makes the job for us actors so easy.

And you've been attached to this show for a very long time, haven't you?

Yes, we shot the pilot after series one of Derry Girls and we were just praying that it would happen because it's such a great show.

I'm so proud of the show and the cast and Jack and Jim the director. I'm just really proud that it's finally getting the recognition it deserves. I'm really looking forward to people seeing it.

Knowing Jack Rooke and having to play the version of himself he'd written, was that daunting?

It was and it wasn't. Jack is a good friend who I know through Nicola (Coughlan) and he's so sweet that I never felt intimidated by him. He was there on set every day, making sure everything was all good, and it was!

He was such a big help and I got to throw ideas at him and ask if what I'm doing is how he would do it. It was a pleasure.

How would you describe your character, Jack?

In the first few episodes, Jack is trying to find himself following the death of his dad, discover his crowd and come out of his shell. Once he gets comfortable. Once he's making friends with Danny, Yemi and Corinne, he really comes into his own. With that confidence, he builds special relationships with people and is full of life. He's a lovely character to play.

Can you relate to Jack's experiences? Did you go to university?

I didn't go to university. I went to drama school and commuted from home, so I didn't get to live in halls. But Jack and I grew up around the same time so I can relate to a lot of the references. Also, I could relate to the subject of grief because I sadly had a family member pass as well. So I'm really proud to be a part of a show that not only tells Jack's story but other people's experiences of going through grief too.

Jack and I had a few chats about our experiences of grief and tried to work together on how best to portray that in the show.

That friendship between Danny and Jack is so beautiful to watch on screen. What was it like working with Jon Pointing?

Ah, thank you. Jon's a pleasure to work with. He's an amazing guy. And so talented, which made my job so easy to play off that. And constantly making me laugh!

Jack and Danny shouldn't get on, but they do and that's really lovely. Danny becomes a great ally to the LGBTQ community and I suppose, opposites attract. They also have a very similar sense of humour.

Then there's Camille Coduri who plays your mum, Peggy. What was it like working with her? And have you met Jack's real mum?

I didn't have to work too hard with Camille because she's brilliant. Working with her just feels really natural. We had that bond from day one. She's so sweet. It was beautiful really.

I did get to meet Jack's mum. She's a legend! She actually dressed the same as Camille. It was like a mirror!

What are some of your favourite scenes from the series?

I loved shooting at Gordy's, the gay club. It felt like a dreamland. It was so cool to express yourself and dance because those places are such safe spaces for everyone. It was a real joy to dance with everyone and have fun.

Was there a lot of corpsing?

Oh yeah. It's mainly when we're watching other people. Especially Katy Wix as Jules. In the lecture hall scene, for example, we were all sitting there watching it all unravel and we couldn't stop laughing. I was in tears.

Of course, you're best known now for Derry Girls, but I first became aware of you as Jono in Hollyoaks. What were you up to between those two roles?

I did a bit of theatre during that time, Warhorse, which was an amazing experience and then I was very very lucky to land Derry Girls.

Could you ever imagine how big Derry Girls would get?

I knew it was something special working on it because of the cast and the writing. But I guess I didn't expect the show to be as well received as it was. It's been amazing.

There were a couple of big moments in this series with your character, James - the kiss with Erin and the Spice Girls performance. Do you ever log on to Twitter to see what people are saying?

Yeah, a little bit. The majority of the time, I do. The majority of the comments are so sweet and so lovely. So yeah, I do take a little look.

Were you always going to be Posh Spice? Did you get to choose?

I didn't get a say, but Lisa (McGee, writer) decided perfectly. I'm a Posh. I'm a Posh Spice. The only thing I did think was that may I could have worn the Union Jack dress and be Geri because I'm the English fella. But I think Posh suits me perfectly and I hope Victoria is happy with my performance!

How are you hoping audiences will react to Big Boys?

I think they're going to love it. I really do think it's something special and I hope people love it as much as we loved shooting it.

Hopeful for a second series?

Fingers crossed! Touch wood. I'd love that so much. I'd love to keep playing Jack and see where my character goes and where the other characters go as well. I'm hopeful.

Every character is a necessity and they're all so important to the story. I don't think there's any small character really. I think they all shine and we're a great bunch really. They're all lovely.

Was it always comedy acting that you wanted to do?

I grew up watching The Inbetweeners in my school days and I absolutely loved it and thought I'd love to do something like that one day. Then Derry Girls came along and now Big Boys, I've been very lucky.

You're also in the new Disney+ series Pistol. Who do you play in that?

I play a character called Wally Nightingale who was part of the band before they became the Sex Pistols. He gets kicked out of the band because he wears glasses and didn't have the punk look.

I learnt guitar for it, which is pretty cool! It was such a joy to work on that. Working with Danny Boyle was amazing. I'm really looking forward to seeing that project come out.

Big Boys starts Thursday 26th May at 10pm on Channel 4

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