After five long years in the making, Jamie Demetriou is finally able to take Stath Lets Flats from pilot to series and it was certainly worth the wait.
The character of Stath was first tested out as a Comedy Blap for Channel 4 in 2013 and it's taken until now for him to be given a full six-part series. But the good news is that during that process it was commissioned for E4 and before it even aired, bosses made the decision to promote it to Channel 4 where it will inevitably reach a wider audience. A real stamp of confidence in the project.
And rightly so, 2018 has been an incredible year for British comedy with This Country, Derry Girls, Inside No.9, Mum and Friday Night Dinner all doing great numbers and adored by public and critics alike.
Stath Lets Flats is almost certainly going to become the next British comedy everyone is going to be talking about and here's what its creator and star Jamie Demetriou had to say about the origins of the series, working with his sister and why he might never be able to view a flat again!
Where did the idea come from for Stath Lets Flats?
Well the idea initially was to come up with three characters for Channel 4's Comedy Blaps and even early on in my career I tried to draw on characters that were as fully formed as possible.
I had a London Greek voice that I went to instinctively and had been doing for a long time. Whether just mucking around or occasionally in university sketches.
We felt like the world of lettings would be a good foundation for it. I feel like a lot of Lettings Agents might feel after watching it that I have no idea what being a Lettings Agent. My entire experience is as someone viewing.
In a nutshell. What is Stath Lets Flats?
It's a comedy about a family run lettings agency and an incompetent Lettings Agent who needs to listen more than he talks.
The show is based in one of those lettings agencies that are ten-a-penny that you can pass a million times without knowing what sort of a business it is. It’s got a stupid name and it’s a stupid business as a result.
The show is about London Greek-ness and the way that looks and feels. And it’s about family, nepotism and the results of love. It’s primarily about a character named Stath who is for want of a better word an idiot. He’s someone who wants to be clever without learning. Stath is someone who assumed he must be amazing because it would be incredibly inconvenient if he wasn’t.
Is the character of Stath based on anyone? Where did your inspiration come from for him?
There are loads little isms from people that go into him and to be honest, not that many from my family. He's the combination of every sweet idiot I've ever met.
I think it's important when making someone as potentially loathsome as Stath that you give him some human redeeming qualities.
I definitely took a little bit of influence from viewings I did during the five years of writing it.
Were those viewings all for research or were they genuine?
Sometimes I was looking for flats but I did do some viewings for research. I got a lot of follow up emails pointing out that I'd been seeing a lot of flats, a lot of which met my brief exactly and asking "Where the hell are you?"
I don't know how I'm ever going to find a flat again. I can't work out if it's going to be something that the world of lettings will embrace or reject.
After the press release had gone out to say that the series was being made, I remember a Lettings Agent commenting on it saying "Oh brilliant. A TV show about a bad Lettings Agent. Heaven forbid they should do a TV show about a diligent hard working Lettings Agent like most of us."
And I was like "What the hell would that show be?! Wake up. Smash it. Finish the day. Done. Credits."
Are you in any way similar to Stath?
I hope not. But I imagine there's a little bit of me in him. We're both very unbalanced physically. We're both very wobbly boys.
I think we both talk without thinking sometimes, but hopefully the things that come out of me are less damaging!
He's probably insecure without realising it. I don't think he's aware of any of his defining characteristics.
The use of language is superb in the series. How did the writing process work between yourself and Robert Popper (Friday Night Dinner)?
Robert's main contribution was teaching me what it is to write story and to nail that side of things and how to make an episode flow. He pitched a couple of great ideas, in episode two for example he'd always wanted to do a joke about a team called "Midlow & Son" but the son is really old! So Midlow must be really really old.
But I think to be honest, it was just really useful to have someone there to bounce off of who was receptive but also good at critique. I had to go off and write the last few episodes on my own but by that point I'd learnt a huge amount from him.
Did you draw on any influences from other comedies for Stath Lets Flats?
I try not to consciously. I think there are little bits that inevitably slip in. Growing up I loved Father Ted and I think there's a certain quality about the characters where they are larger than life in many ways but I hope that they feel committed enough that you sort of believe them.
A big similarity between the two is this idea of getting really stressed out or excited about things that are really insignificant are things that I've drawn on from Father Ted.
It's a character comedy and I didn't really realise until recently that it's not that frequent an occurrence on British TV anymore. A lot of stuff tends to err on the side of the slightly more serious which if I'm being completely honest I probably enjoy more than big broad comedies that are out at the moment.
It just so happens that I've stumbled into making this.
Talk to me about that scene with the pigeon from the first episode. I would have been terrified!
I had the time of my life. That pigeon just stole the show. There were crew members that requested that they stood outside because they were so freaked out but it was a lot of fun.
I'm into improv and it's often quite difficult to squeeze it in to a scripted comedy because you have to make sure the story's working but when you have a pigeon in the room, I think the pigeon was one of the greatest improvisers of his time!
When you have something that mad hanging around you don't really have a choice but to go off script and do what feels natural.
How much input did you have into the opening titles? I think they sum up the show perfectly.
Ah thanks so much! That was Tom Kingsley, our director, who wanted it all to feel like that crappy font for the lettings agency. That blue and yellow that clashes so horribly was a guideline.