Interview with Dylan Llewellyn who plays Jack

Category: Press Pack Article

How did you come to be cast in Big Boys?


I sort of knew Jack [Rooke] before the audition but we’d only met briefly. My friend Nicola, Nicola Coughlan from Derry Girls, had met Jack [Rooke, creator] at the Edinburgh Fringe and I met him about a month later. Nicola was saying, ‘He’s auditioning for a pilot at the moment,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds awesome.’ But inside I was thinking, ‘I wish I could get on that.’ And then boom! My agent said there's this audition for you for this thing called Big Boys. I think I had two auditions for it, it went really well and I did the chemistry read with Camille [Coduri], who plays my mum. I got the job and literally a week or two later I went on to shoot it. And then Channel 4 swooped in and commissioned it — and of course I like Channel 4 comedies!


How do you describe Big Boys?


I think it's unique, especially as it's an LGBTQ-led show. It deals with real subjects and real things that happen that need to be addressed like mental health in young people. It’s about young males, in particular, being comfortable in their masculinity and opening up, dealing with loss, not bottling it up. It's something special and I can't wait for everyone to see it.


What did you make of the script and of your character Jack?


I thought the script was so funny. I really, really liked just how true all of it is to Jack [Rooke]. His home comforts and his special bond with his mum and the banter that they have and the banter he has with his friend Danny [Jon Pointing]. It's all such a sweet story and it made me laugh just reading it.


Who is Jack and what’s his story?


The story is based on Jack Rooke’s real life experiences and it starts with the loss of his father, sadly, and it shows the bond he has with his mum going through that. He had been planning to go to uni but deferred for a year, so when he finally does go he makes friends with this real jack-the-lad kind of guy called Danny, who’s the complete opposite of Jack. But in the end they get on brilliantly and it makes his whole university experience amazing. The story our show tells is what happens to them both, their struggles through uni and Jack’s ongoing struggles with mourning.


How much is your Jack the writer Jack Rooke?


The thing is that Jack in Big Boys is basically a ‘baby gay’. He’s trying to learn it all while he’s still trying to discover himself. It’s a coming-of-age story about a time when he’s still trying to come out of his shell. He starts out quite shy and awkward but the more comfortable he gets and the more he makes good friends with Corinne and Danny, the more he expresses himself. He ends up a sassy, fun and lovely person.


The Jack/Danny relationship is unusual in that they’re unlikely friends. What do they have in common? Why do they get on?


I don't know how the hell they get on! But they do and it's lovely. Jack even says that they're so opposite that he never thought they’d become best mates. But they are and they have such a special bond. I suppose opposites attract but I think it's probably mainly their humour — they have the same sense of what’s funny. Also they learn to like each other's likes as well with Danny becoming a great ally to the LGBTQ community and Jack maybe tries and do some laddy things too… he can but try!


What's Jack’s relationship with his family?


He has his mum Peggy, his cousin Shannon and his Nanny Bingo and they’re like a little team, a squad, and they just look after each other after losing his dad Laurie. They really stick together and their scenes together are so sweet. They're really close and even though they banter with each other it's such a strong bond — especially between Jack and his mum Peggy. They're really, really there for each other and it’s so lovely to see that in a mum and a son. They get on so well, I swear they have like matching outfits at one point. They have their takeaways together, they watch This Morning together, they watch their game shows and Loose Women. But it feels like Jack would want to flee the nest and find himself so that's when he goes to uni and has this adventure.


How much of this brought back memories of leaving home and stepping out into the world for you?


Well, I sadly didn't go to uni but I went to drama school. I didn’t get to live in halls because I commuted from home but I do remember the whole thing about meeting your fellow students and becoming great friends with them. I'm still mates with two or three of the guys from my drama school and we play Warzone together — shout out to Ollie and Johnny, my squad! But that’s a time in your life when there's a different version of yourself and you’re trying to find out who you are away from your parents and your family. Everyone is different away from their family — it's just finding yourself in that regard. It's an amazing experience and you make the most amazing friends.


How much interaction did you have with ‘the real’ Jack [Rooke] in creating this character?


Because I've got dyslexia I struggle with reading so I was planning to read Jack’s book [Cheer The F**k Up] but he ended up giving me the audio book which I listened to it, and learned so much about him. It helped to delve deep into his mind and I did ask him a lot of questions. He was on set with us every day which was brilliant and I would ask him for notes like, ‘Do you think you would react this way?’ So it did help hugely having him there. I also think I just learnt from him, hanging out with him. He's such a character in himself so it was quite easy.


Big Boys is a very funny show but it often deals with weightier issues. How did you get the balance right?


I completely agree. There's some heavy stuff in there. But I think that's what makes the show so special — there's not many shows that deal with those issues and yet it's a comedy. I feel that because it's so funny it earns those moments.


What was your highlight from the shoot?


There’s a few you know! I can think of so many. There was a scene in Gordy's, this gay bar, with the most colourful, extravagant amazing people there as extras who did an amazing job. I just remember that day and it being like a dreamland. And then we're all dancing together and there's a funny moment where there's this older gentleman in leather harnesses grinding on me… that definitely stays with you!


You’ve also been filming another series of Derry Girls – what’s the last six months been like for you?


Last year (2021) was pretty busy for me actually, which is great. I shot Pistol, this Disney+ series about the Sex Pistols directed by Danny Boyle (which was insane) in the summer. Then I went onto Big Boys and then straight after that I flew to Belfast to shoot the final series of Derry Girls in October. So it was literally set to set – which was a bit frustrating, because I missed the Big Boys wrap party. It looked like the most fun I've ever seen. But I’m so glad to be working this much!


What was it like working with Jon Pointing and Camille Coduri?


They're lovely. I'm just looking at the stills from the show for approval and there’s so many of us hugging. Jon is such a sweetie and Camille was lovely — I was a bit starstruck by her. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, it's Shelly from Him and Her!’ We shot the pilot about three years ago but they haven't changed. I love them. I'm just praying we get to do it again.