TV

Big Boys' Dylan Llewellyn and Jon Pointing on big scenes, big themes and their big responsibility

Big Boys stars Dylan Llewellyn and Jon Pointing discuss the big themes and big moments that make Channel 4's queer coming-of-age comedy a classic

Jon Pointing as Danny and Dylan Llewellyn as Jack. Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

Jack Rooke’s Channel 4 comedy series Big Boys is many things to many people. A beautiful, soulful and genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy. A queer, working-class, coming-of-age story for the ages. One of the great odd-couple friendship comedies, as two damaged souls who have both suffered loss in their young lives find a safe space in a rundown blue shed on a university campus. A whole new way to look at grief.

Big Boys can, from moment to moment, be moving, mucky or magnificent. Sometimes it is all three at once. The cultural references are spot on – from Cher Lloyd to Alison Hammond, there is something from 2014 for everyone in season two – while the supporting cast are increasingly fleshed out as the world that Jack Rooke built builds.

Above all, while knob gags come quickly and slapstick set pieces are interspersed with heart-wrenching scenes of sadness and sorrow, Big Boys is shot through with huge amounts of kindness. It’s so rare in comedy. And so important. We asked lead actors Dylan Llewellyn and Jon Pointing to talk about the big issues and big moments in the show.

Big scenes

Jon Pointing: This series, my big scene was with Marc Warren playing my dad. That was the one I was thinking about the most, in terms of ‘I gotta get that right.’ Jack had him in mind to play my dad for ages, and I wanted to be a little bit scared of him in a way. But Marc was lovely. He really loved the show and was really into the work.

Dylan Llewellyn: That was a big one. I wish I was there that day – everyone was saying how epic it was. Because you’re both brilliant in those scenes, the chemistry was fantastic. That was a sick scene. But there are so many bangers.

Season Two: Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) and Danny (Jon Pointing). Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

JP: The stuff in the hospital must have been quite big for you?

DL: The hospital stuff was right up there. All the really sensitive moments with my character Jack’s dad and the hospice. But also the lighter side at the hospital. Louisa Harland being part of the show was amazing for me. There was such good vibes.

JP: We filmed the hospital scenes in a closed down hospital that was quite depressing near Hemel Hempstead. As far as shooting locations it was very bleak. But we somehow managed to make that fun. If we can have a good time there, we can do it anywhere.

DL: Do you remember that sword fight with crutches?

JP: And [writer] Jack Rooke’s brother’s has got a bar quite nearby on the canal. A lot of us stayed up there because we live at the other end of London so we got to hang out and go there.

DL: Being there as the sun set was really nice.

JP: It’s funny, before you start filming the show, there are scenes that stick out. The heavier stuff. Big Boys is primarily a comedy, so that is the bulk of the work. But there are a few bits you obsess over. The coming out scene last year was a big one.

DL: That was huge.

JP: But it’s difficult because you have to try not to overload it with pressure or take yourself out of the moment by worrying about it as opposed to being like, how do I just feel it for real?

DL: It’s tough to get that balance but I think everyone smashes it. We got some good dads for series two!

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The big response to Big Boys

DL: It’s been very overwhelming. But in a good way. The response from my friends and family, which are the ones that mean the most to me, they just love it so much. I had a voice note from my friend who was just sobbing, which was really sweet. But it’s awesome to hear that the critics appreciate it and, of course, it’s amazing how the fans just completely worship the show. They are always wanting more – that’s the main complaint we get.

Jon Pointing. Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

JP: Haha, it’s difficult to stomach sometimes. Because we know how much work went into Big Boys and they’ll watch it all in an afternoon and go, when’s the next one? But I always think sitcoms are good because if you find one you really love, it’s with you for life. You revisit it and these shows become like a friend. So I hope it is a good friend to some people. It’s so nice that people found their new favourite show. That means the world.

DL: The beauty of shows like Big Boys is that you fall in love with the characters and want to see more and more of them. Jack’s writing is amazing in Season Two because you see more and more from Yemi and Corinne and really see their stories.

JP: A lot of people want to see the Shannon and Nanny Bingo, spin-off!

DL: Everyone wants to see that.

DL: So it’s lovely getting all the response but I think the best bit is actually making it and doing the show. That’s what we enjoy the most.

DL: Yeah, making the magic.

Big questions?

Dylan Llewellyn. Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

DL: I’ve always wanted to know what what was your favourite chocolate? Genuine question, what is it. For reals…

JP: I think I’ve eaten Snickers the most. But that doesn’t mean it’s my favourite, I just know I’m in the mood for that the most. I like a Double Decker. That’s not a popular choice

DL: That’s an interesting one. Snickers and Double Decker is a good combo. I like that. Fair play. I’m into Kinder Buenos at the moment.

JP: That’s top tier. They’re almost too good. Buying Kinder Buenos almost feels like I’m taking myself out for dinner. There’s luxury to the Kinder Bueno. I think I eat Snickers the most because there’s something austere about it and I feel slightly less decadent. I’m just grabbing a Snickers, don’t mind me. Whereas if I go in and buy Kinder Buenos, it’s like, hello!?

DL: I love it, man. I’m sorry if that’s not a deep enough question!

JP: It’s difficult – what do we want to know about each other? Okay, Dylan loves his film. So I want to know what are you looking forward to this year? Because I don’t go to the cinema enough.

DL: Everything’s just coming out, so I watched The Boy and The Heron recently, the Studio Ghibli movie, and that was brilliant. You get properly transported into a whole colourful other world. It is just a beautiful film. Beyond that, I don’t know when it will come but I’m buzzing for the next Tarantino movie.

JP: Have you seen the new Godzilla movie everyone is going mad about?

DL: That is brilliant.

JP: I’m intrigued because I tell myself that’s not really my bag but I went to see a musical recently and I’ve realised that for years I’ve told myself that I’m somehow I’m not into musicals. But I went to see Rebecca [Taylor, aka Self Esteem] in Cabaret and it was really incredible.

DL: That’s an epic one.

JP: And it makes sense that it’s a musical. The context of the show is in a place where it should be musical. But I don’t think I can handle people just bursting into song in a bakery. Can you sing?

DL: I can hold a note. I’m better at lip synching!

JP: Actually, that’s another question: have you done much theatre because I’ve never done it.

DL: I did War Horse at the New London Theatre which was so much fun. The puppetry was amazing.

JP: I have only done Fringe theatre. My own things. But I’ve not done a West End show but I’d like to give it a go. Because I used to do comedy, I do miss the buzz of a live audience. But I also know people who have done it and they immediately regretted it as well because they have gone from being pampered and driven to work to this gruelling 12-week run.

DL: A whole year would feel very long.

JP: I did get asked to audition for an Ibsen play. But I was like, hang on a minute, ease me in. I would love to do it but that felt a bit too much like jumping in at the deep end. I just don’t think I could do it.

DL: I reckon you would smash it. I can totally imagine you doing that.

JP: I mean I’m not sure I would have the time. Oh, I could do it, don’t you worry about that!

Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

Big Boys’ big themes

JP: It is all about kindness. That is something a lot of people bring up. They say how nice it is to watch something that is nice – not in a vanilla way, but something that is kind. For good reason, so much comedy is rooted in a kind of spitefulness and nastiness. That can be great if it’s handled well. Because funny is watching people fall, I suppose. But it’s amazing to have made a show where, by playing that hand of kindness and tenderness and warmth, it gives you more room to be really daft and silly. A lot of my favourite comedies are like that.

DL: Definitely immaculate vibes. Jack writes such lovely characters and you really feel the love off them and their chemistry. I get a few messages saying ‘I wish I had a Danny, or a Yemi or Corinne, in my life. They are such loving and deep characters. I agree, Jack executes the kindness really well in Big Boys.

JP: Jack is a huge fan of The Royle Family – it is a massive reference point – and that is one of the most disgusting and tender shows. Both alongside each other. Jack pulls that off as well. These horrifying details alongside the most sweet and loving stuff. I feel, without being too gooey, we feel like that with each other. Everyone always says we get on like a family. But it is the real deal on this one. We do really care about each other. And I think the script and the show itself is partly responsible for that. And, of course, we are all lovely people. I’m glad we don’t have to fake the friendship.

DL: That would be awful.

JP: We’ve all had to do jobs where you grin and bear it, but it is down to what Jack has written and he is involved in the casting as well, and he is a people person. So I don’t think he would have brought anyone in who wouldn’t have got the brief, you know?

DL: He keeps the good vibes and you can see that with the casting. It is important to have good chemistry off screen – so us hanging out, having a drink, chilling by the canal is important. It makes acting so easy in the scenes where we’re just being friends.

JP: Those are the best. Blue shed scenes. 

Image: © Channel 4 / Olly Courtney

Big Boys’ big responsibility

DL: It’s very important to have representation on screen and see that more and more. For kids growing up, to see someone where they think, oh, that’s like me and for them to feel represented. I think it is so important that Big Boys has those themes – it is important for everyone to be seen and heard.

JP: I suppose it is a responsibility, although it doesn’t feel like that when we are making it. It actually feels like more of a privilege to be involved in a story like this. Obviously it is a very personal story to Jack. We are so lucky with this job to get invited into people’s stories and help share it so people can connect to it. I feel very lucky and privileged to be accepted and part of it. I think it’s a bit of a masterstroke having Jack himself in Big Boys at the end.

Big issues

JP: What’s my big issue? That’s a big one. It is really difficult to say ‘this is my one big issue’ at the moment. The world does feel a little bit like it is falling apart. Well, a lot like it is.

DL: No doubt about it. For me personally, it is so important to spread the awareness of dyslexia so kids can realise, oh, that’s what I’ve got, or for them not to feel left out or behind in school.

JP: Yeah, I suppose my big issue covers everything at the moment. The state of this country the world, it does feel quite bleak and it is hard not to feel despondent and powerless at the moment.

Big Boys airs Sundays on Channel 4 at 10pm or is available to stream in full on All 4 now.

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