BENCHMARK FOR SUCCESS
The lads on The Inbetweeners still have a bit of growing up to do, which is just the way we like it. Guy Davis spoke with Blake Harrison, who plays the dim ( and getting dimmer!) Neil.
we’re all turning 18 and we’re all trying to get girls and failing miserably. We’re not cool in any way, shape or form.”
And that might be the joy of The Inbetweeners. While many of us ( particularly blokes) might look back at our teenage years through rose-coloured glasses, imagining we were a bit slicker than we really were, this show understands most of the time you were bumbling around, trying to impress the opposite sex or your friends … and sometimes making a right mess of it.
“ When we did the first series, I think we all thought it would go down well with teenage boys,” Harrison said. “ Other than that, we weren’t too sure who would watch it!
“ But the following got bigger and bigger as the show went on, and by the start of the third series it seemed that we had boys and girls as young as 13 – not that I condone people that young watching it! – through to people in their 50s and 60s. My dad’s mates watch it and say, ‘ We were doing stuff like that in the ’ 70s!’
“ That whole thing of being unable to put a foot wrong because you just knew you’d cop a ribbing from your friends, that whole thing about girls being at the forefront of everything, I think that’s something a lot of guys can relate to. It’s probably a more heightened version of what I got up to.”
Just as important to the success of The Inbetweeners as its anything-goes sense of humour, though, is the camaraderie between its four main characters. They interact so well together it’s hard to imagine these guys haven’t been ripping into each other since they were kids.
But while actors Simon Bird and Joe Thomas, who play Will and Simon respectively, already knew one another from their university days and were “ pretty much best mates” before the show began filming, Harrison and co-star James Buckley ( who plays the sex-mad Jay) didn’t know one another or their castmates.
“ So it was really just dumb luck that we all ended working so well together, I suppose,” Harrison said.
“ Actually, Iain Morris, one of the writers and producers, said he knew the show could be funny when he’d cast all four of us and had us stand together for a photo – he thought we just looked funny together.”
Harrison landed his part on the show by attending an open audition with a bunch of drama-school friends.
“ We all just went down to try our luck, and as I was looking through the parts the only one I thought I definitely couldn’t do was Neil,” he said. “ I thought I was more like the character of Simon, more of a straight man who’s constantly sad that he can’t get a girlfriend – that was definitely me at 17!
“ But as soon as I got into the room the lovely casting lady took one look at me and said ‘ OK, Blake, you play Neil’. And I instantly thought ‘ Oh, I’ve botched this!’ Because I hadn’t even looked at Neil; I’d paid attention to the other three parts. But I guess I did well enough for a callback, and after that I looked at Neil quite heavily. So it all worked out.”
He admits, however, that it took a little while to come around to Neil’s way of thinking, so to speak.
“ The thing about Neil is that everything he says, he believes,” he said. “ And it makes sense to him.
“ If Neil just says something in a dumb way because it’s his dumb line, it’s not going to work. If it makes sense to you – in some weird, warped way – then it probably will.”
Uniform behaviour: The cast of from left, Blake Harrison, Emily Head, James Buckley, Simon Bird and Joe Thomas.