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I TALK TO Samson Kayo & Theo Barklem-Biggs

"I got my confidence from watching Michaela Coel's Chewing Gum and seeing how a black girl from London has created a phenomenon of a show."

There's been no shortage of fantastic British comedy on our screens this year and this week man of the moment Samson Kayo launches his razor-sharp, laugh-out-loud sitcom Sliced on Dave.

Co-written with Phil Bowker, the man responsible for PhoneShop, Sliced is a three-part comedy which offers a window into the life and world of two pizza delivery drivers and best friends Joshua and Ricky, played by Samson and Theo Barklem-Biggs.

Along the way they encounter counterfeit money, vindictive call centre staff, hopeless security guards, hedonistic pensioners, aggressive teens and a rather adult party!

I caught up with friends off and on-screen Samson and Theo to find out more about the series. Here's what they had to say...

How long have you both known each other?

Samson: About 8 years. I've known Theo since 2011. We met at a play that a mutual friend of ours was in at Soho Theatre, we were just chilling having a drink, then we did a pilot with Javone Prince. That was funny!

Theo: We bust a lot of jokes that day. I can't remember what it was called, but we were prisoners. And actually, bruv you were my sidekick! (Laughs) Now the roles have reversed. We had quite a few mutual friends actually and also bonded because we both were saved by acting.

What is Sliced?

Theo: It's a comedy about two very close friends who deliver pizzas, have been friends their entire lives and it's about their relationship and all the ridiculous characters they come across.

Where did the idea come from?

Samson: I used to be a pizza delivery boy when I was 16 for about six/seven months and I just remember all the weird scenarios that I'd go in to. I'd knock on the door and every person was different.

So I thought 'What would happen if we knocked on the door and the story was in the room?' With Cheers, the story comes in to the pub so I drew some inspiration from that. I also wanted to keep it very authentically London.

How accommodating were the channel with all the slang used in the script?

Samson: They were mad chill! I remember Pete Thornton, our Exec, the day before the reading had some notes. He had a bag of notes! And we were like "Let's just do the read-through" but then after the read through, he was like 'Nope.' As soon as he saw it brought to life he was cool.

From that moment on he never had a problem with anything. He just let us do what we wanted to do because he's not from that world so he has to just trust that we'll make it right.

Phil (Bowker) has been around the block and he knows comedy like the back of his hands.

Speaking of Phil, how did you two meet?

Samson: I first met him in 2014/15 on The Javone Prince Show where I'd come on as an actor, auditioned and that, and when we did the pilot most of my stuff was improvised.

When we finally got the series, Phil said that he really wanted me to come on as a writer but I was like "Phil, I don't write.' And he went "Don't worry Sam, you will.' So I went."

In all seriousness, he taught me structure because that's something I'd always struggled with. And from then on we grew this relationship and that's when we started creating Sliced.

How would you describe Joshua and Ricky's friendship?

Samson: Joshua's more diplomatic. He's a worrier and he's very anxious all the time because he knows that Ricky can either get him into a small problem or a big problem. But he still trusts in him that someway or somehow, they will be able to solve the situation.

They've gotten this far as friends so there's a lot of loyalty and love in that relationship. Ricky is just a free spirit. He's very zen in his mind but non-zen out loud. He acts before he thinks and then after he's acted he thinks it's right.

He feels like he has the answers, sounds like he has the answers and genuinely believes he does. But he definitely doesn't have the answers!

Theo: He just doesn't think. But he's intuitive!

Samson: In the edit, Phil and Al (Campbell) really wanted to focus on seeing the boys' relationship. Let the audience see that they are genuine friends. That's what really matters in this world. You've got two boys that really know each other.

Theo: They've got a proper bromance, they're loyal and help each other out. But they argue as well which is what best friends do.

Samson: There's a sweetness to them and a loyalty between them that I feel we have in real life so I really hope that comes across on screen.

Theo, what did you make of Ricky when you read the script?

Theo: When I first read the script I was working on a market stall. It was a bad year that year. But I knew Samson was working with Phil, we filmed the pilot, but the character has definitely changed over time.

There's the character on the page but you have to also tap in to the vision, so Samson was there all along to help me get it right. It helps that Samson's an actor because we could talk about the physicality.

Samson: We had a lot of conversations before we'd even got commissioned about where the character should go. When I wrote Ricky, I wrote it with Theo in mind. From day one there was no one else.

I remember when we were auditioning people and Dave had some ideas of who they wanted to play Ricky and I was like "What?! Nah bruv. Bye." And they were like "OK, cool."

Who does David Mumeni play?

Samson: David plays Mario, this fake Italian who's also our boss who runs the shop. He's like a smooth-talking dictator.

Theo: He thinks he's Italian! (Laughs)

Samson: Yeah, but he's Arabic! It's so funny. He's got this weird, almost pervy, energy about him that he doesn't see as bad. In his country, it's fine! There's a certain energy to him that we just can't stand.

David Mumeni is very funny man. He's amazing. I remember when we were auditioning for Mario, and everyone who came in was good but when David came in he literally took who Mario was on the page and turned him into someone I didn't even know existed!

Me and Phil were like "Jeezus!" He killed it man. Killed it.

Let's talk about episode three. The sex party. Is that based on a true story?

Samson: Episode three is a true story bruv.

Theo: I wasn't there.

Samson: He wasn't there. (Laughs) It was a Star Wars themed masquerade party when I was about 17. It was nuts! I dressed up as Vader and my boy dressed up as Yoda, but obviously Dave didn't want to get sued so we had to switch up the costume into dogs.

Some bits didn't happen, but the block stuff was true, the man baby, the mum - all of that was true. But the man baby was actually dressed in Pampers!

Do you have any favourite scenes from the three episodes?

Samson: Probably the car scene where we're driving in the car to the party. That was a laugh even though it was a nightmare for everyone else to shoot because it was so late, but it was a fun scene. It made me as a writer, realise that this thing had been brought to life.

Theo: I like the dildo. (Laughs) The dancing was fun!

How was the corpsing on set?

Theo: This guy (Samson) is so bad!

Samson: I know! Every job that I've been on, everyone says I'm the worst. I don't know what it is. I just find things funny! But I think it helps. Just don't tell us not to laugh because that makes it even worse. Especially when we're hot and under time pressures.

So Samson, how do you feel now that Sliced is about to air?

I'm fucking anxious. I might go to Bolivia for a week! (Laughs) It's nerve-wracking because it's your view on comedy. It's selfish. I think people are going to find this funny, I'm going to write it and I'm going to have to be confident in it otherwise I wouldn't write it.

But I'm also excited because as a person of colour, being able to put my ideas out on screen and Dave allowing me to have such a diverse cast, it shows growth in the industry and in the community. There are more stories to tell and we should be allowed to tell them.

It's a great time for British comedy. What are you enjoying?

Theo: White Gold's alright innit? (Laughs) I'm joking. I like Timewasters, Famalam...

Samson: All the shows I'm in?! You're such a weirdo! Such a wind up. To be fair, I got my confidence from watching Michaela Coel's Chewing Gum and seeing how a black girl from London has created a phenomenon of a show.

And also, being in Timewasters I was able to watch Daniel Lawrence Taylor create it, I was able to be on set with him and watch his highs and his lows. That was very inspiring. It makes you feel like you want to do something like that.

I watched Sex Education, that's really good. I watch a bunch of UK comedy, there's so much coming through now.

There are only three episodes of Sliced for now, but do you have ambitions for a second series?

Samson: I like that Dave do three-episode pilots though because it gives you a real feel of whether or not you're enjoying this programme. You can never really gauge with just one episode. But with three, you've potentially got half a series. It's enough time for an audience to make up their mind.

But yeah! I've got some wild wild thoughts for series two! (Laughs) We've got a bunch of ideas that we're looking to push out. One thing that I really want to do is cater to the females in the cast and for the next series I'd love to have an entire episode solely focussed on them.

What's next for you both?

Samson: Cracking on. More writing. I've already started on ideas for another series so fingers crossed we get another go at it. I'm just open to more opportunities man because there's a big change in comedy, a big wave of comedies coming out.

I really want to do a UK comedy film, because I haven't seen one for a while. One that really holds in the way the old school Hugh Grant films do.

Theo: I've got a film called Farming coming out later this year. Shout out to Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje whose life it's about. Damson Idris is amazing in that. My character's far removed from Ricky, I play a crazy skinhead. It's pretty heavy.

Samson, would you want to do some drama?

I'm open to doing drama. I'm doing a lot of comedy now but I never started doing comedy. I was doing drama and we did a comedy workshop and the teacher said to me "You should get into comedy" and I was like "Alright!"

I feel like comedy is harder to do than drama anyway. There's always a lane, there's always a time, so when the time's right. If the opportunity comes tomorrow and it's a good part, I'm always open to doing it.

We've seen a wave of comedic actors go off and do drama like Jamie Foxx, Steve Carrell and Jason Bateman, so the avenue's open now. There's no cap on where and what avenue you can go down.

Sliced airs Wednesday 15th - Friday 17th May at 10pm on Dave

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