Joe Thomas and Simon Bird

I live a pretty busy life and so I don’t spend that much time watching television.  I could probably count on one hand the number of television shows that I’d watch on a regular basis.


One of them, however, is The Inbetweeners.  A friend introduced me to the show and I picked up the DVDs of the first two seasons whilst in London last year.  The third and final season recently came out in Australia.


When I heard that stars Simon Bird and Joe Thomas would be on the Gold Coast to promote The Inbetweeners Movie, the “fan boy” in me jumped at the chance to speak with them.  The film is fantastic (you can read my review here) and here's how the interview went down...


Oh, and you can download a 5 minute extract of the audio from the interview by clicking here.


Matt:  I’m here today with Simon Bird and Joe Thomas.  Guys, welcome to the Gold Coast!


Simon:  Thanks for having us.


Matt:  Schoolies week is on at the moment and it’s very appropriate that you guys are here given the theme of the movie.  Do you guys have the equivalent of schoolies week in the UK?


Simon:  We do but we don’t really holiday in the UK.  We have two sets of exams – one when you’re 15-16 and one when you leave school at 17-18.  After both of those, people usually go on a holiday with their friends.


Because we don’t have anywhere nice and hot like the Gold Coast in our own country, we kind of go over to other people’s countries and ruin them.  In this film the boys go off to Malia which is a resort in Crete.  There are a few other places in Europe that the English school kids tend to go like Thalarki and Magaluf.


From what I’ve heard, it’s very similar to schoolies week.  People are letting off steam after their exams and it’s their first holiday away without their parents.  That’s the idea behind the film – these four characters have just finished school and they go off on their first holiday abroad.


Matt:  One of the things I love about the TV series is that there are so many laugh out loud, cringe worthy moments.  What do you guys think when you see these scripts for the first time?


Joe:  Sometimes I think they’re mugging me off.  They’ve just come up with a list of crazy things we can make Joe do.


Simon:  That is true!  The writers have told us that.  Joe has really been through the wringer.


Joe:  Most of my body has now been on public display.  There’s not much left to sell.  There’s what – one testicle left and part of my penis?


Matt:  What’s with all the public nudity in the series?  It’s again a theme in the film.


Joe:  Boys just do end up naked and I don’t know why it is.  There was a documentary about these types of holidays and a lot of these lads seem to be naked for no reason in the early evening in the street.  I don’t know what it is.


Simon:  Walking around the Gold Coast actually over the last couple of days, I’ve noticed there are a lot of Australian lads who seem to enjoy showing off their bodies.


Joe:  To be fair to the Aussies, they have much better bodies than the English.  In general, English men should keep their clothes on. (laughs)


Matt:  Well you’re doing ok with your own tans.  Most people I see come over from the UK are usually here to get some sun.


Joe:  Well thank you.  Simon actually has quite an oily complexion.  Simon has at various times been described as the Jewish one from the show and the Arab one from the show.


Simon:  Yeah, I have naturally dark skin so I pick up a tan quite easily.  Joe is more of a “burner”.


Joe:  I’m more of a classic English skin type.  I had to plaster my self with sun cream yesterday…


Matt:  So you had a chance to get around the Gold Coast yesterday?


Simon:  We did but not as much as we’d like actually.  This is a flying visit and we’re off to Sydney later today.  We’ve been doing interviews most of the time but we got a chance to do some jet skiing which was brilliant.


Matt:  I guess I should get back to the show and particularly the movie.  A lot of people in Australia won’t be familiar with The Inbetweeners.  It’s had a much smaller release here than it has in the UK.  All four characters are so distinctive.  Did you guys have much of a say in how they were created and developed?


Joe:  It was more left to the writers.  They looked at what they had to work with and literally wrote the show around what we like and what we were capable of.


The writers were friends growing up and these characters are based on themselves.  I think you do find that if you look at a group of boys, there will be these “stock types” within them.


Simon:  You’ve got the dumb one, you’ve gone the dirty one…  Like Joe said, the reason the show works is because it’s based on real life and real experiences.  These characters are based on real people.


Joe:  Yeah, we’ve increasingly met them in our travels. (laughs)  What the writers have done with the movie is instead of going with the dramatic extremes of storylines, they attempt to capture what would actually happen to four average lads who go on a holiday like this.  They’re not exceptional in any way.  This is the experience that most people would have.


Simon:  A lot of the comedy comes from their expectations not being met.  They view this holiday a bit like a film – like it’s going to be epic and legendary but in reality it’s more of a disappointment… just like this film. (laughs)


Matt:  Hahaha.  No, we can’t say that.  Your own profile in the UK as the series has built up over the last three years – have you found yourself getting recognised more and more?


Joe:  Yeah but it’s quite confusing because I play a character called Simon and Simon plays a character called Will.  If we’re together and someone calls out “Simon” then we genuinely have no idea who they’re talking to.


Simon:  It started as such a tiny show and the first series didn’t get many viewers at all.  Then something happened in between the first and second series and no one can put their finger on what it was.  The DVD sales started taking off and for the first episode of the second series, we had millions more viewers and it was the same for the third series.  We’re just very grateful.

Matt:  So where did the movie come from?  There have been so many great TV series but why make a movie of The Inbetweeners?


Joe:  I think Iain and Damon had an idea of making a show about a lad’s holiday.  First of all, they wanted to bring this genre of “teenage comedy” to the UK.  You see a lot more of this style of film coming from the United States.


Alongside that, they though the holiday would work because it’s a good “bite sized chunk” for a film.  The series itself has reached a point where they can’t take it much further because they’ve done their final exams and graduated.  It’s the last hurrah for these four boys together and they may not see each other this.


Simon:  It was a risky decision for Iain and Damon to make the film because there have been a lot of films made, especially in England, of sitcoms.  A lot have done very badly both at the box-office and critically.  We knew it was a risk but luckily, it seems to have paid off.


Matt:  The box-office in the UK has been ridiculous.  Four weeks atop of the chart and it’s now in the top 25 of all time in the UK.


Joe:  Yeah.  We expected the film to find an audience but everyone was surprised by how successful it has been.  We are chuffed with how well it’s done in the UK.


Matt:  Is this the part now where the studio will want to sign you up for fifteen sequels?


Simon:  Fortunately, it wasn’t made with a studio.  Iain and Damon, the producers, made it with their own production company so they’re beholden to no one which is great.  It means they won’t do anything unless they think it’s going to be as good.


There have been discussions about the possibility of a sequel but no decisions have been made as yet.


Matt:  And the TV series?  Is it done?


Simon:  I think the TV series is probably done to be honest.  It felt like such a step up in doing the film and it would feel like we’re going backwards to return to the TV series.


Joe:  Also, we don’t know where the TV series would now take place unless they all got kept back a year for an undisclosed reason. (laughs)


Matt:  I should finish up by asking that if the show has wrapped up, what lies in the future for you guys?


Simon:  Joe and I have got some other shows on England.  Joe’s in a very successful show called Fresh Meat which is about university students and is written by the guys that made Peep Show.  I’m in a show called Friday Night Dinner which is a sitcom about a family.


We’re actually both writing a show together with our friend Jonny Sweet that is set in World War I.  Joe and I knew each other before The Inbetweeners.


Joe:  If you are an aficionado of The Inbetweeners, there’s an episode in series 2 where they go to a nightclub in London.  Will’s would-be date fobs him off for another more suave gentleman who accuses Will of talking like he’s from a black and white film.  That’s our friend Jonny Sweet who is the third member of our “gang”.


Matt:  Thanks guys and I hope you have a great time travelling around the rest of Australia.  I look forward to talking the movie up for all it’s worth.