INTERVIEW: Jay Brown: Actor; Big Bad World

Clockwise from left: David Fynn, Seann Walsh, Rebecca Humphries, James Fleet, Blake Harrison, Caroline Quentin

I arrived for my interview  with Jay Brown,  a 30 year old actor currently starring in Comedy Central’s Big Bad World alongside James Fleet, Caroline Quentin, Seann Walsh and Blake Harrison,  to find the room also inhabited by two cosy looking leather armchairs, an ungodly sized bowl of popcorn and several beer  bottles. 

This set the tone for what transpired to be a relaxed, rewardingly informal chat with a very down to earth, generally chilled out guy. He also didn’t mind at all that due to some audio recording issues, I had to ask him to hold my girly pink leather-covered iphone to his face for a good fifteen minutes. 

Lovely to meet you Jay. To kick things off, would you mind telling us a little more first about the show, and secondly about your character, Dean? Big Bad World is about Ben, played by Blake Harrison, who has just finished uni, gone back to his home town of Great Yarmouth and it’s very much the same. He has to move back in with his Mum and Dad, and finds they’ve knocked down the wall between his bedroom and theirs, to make it into one giant room. 

Sort of open plan? Exactly yeah, and they’re really happy about it, and he’s not so much.

Understandable really! Especially when his Mum starts talking about love letters and the like. It’s really not the sort of conversation he wants to be having when he’s just come out of uni.

So your, character Dean. Tell us more about him. Dean is the pub chef of The Old Cock Inn. He’s the sort of chef you really don’t want to walk into a kitchen and find cooking your food- you don’t know what he’s going to put in it! He throws stuff in the microwave and just mixes it all up. He’s a pub chef…but he’s not a great pub chef!

        From left: Jay Brown and Blake Harrison

How does your character feed into the overall plot of the series? Well Ben and Dean work together at the pub, Ben gets an internship and does a work scheme with Dean, who just harasses him the whole time and makes his life difficult. Dean is the guy in the show who generally pops up and causes mischief. You know he’s not really going to amount to much in life. He’s the sort of guy who wears a hoodie in the middle of Summer.

What was it like working with veteran comic actors like James Fleet, Caroline Quentin and Blake Harrison, as well as comedian Sean Walsh? There are a lot of big names in this show! What sort of influence did they have on set? It was amazing. With comedy, you very much have to play it straight, if you play it for laughs it’s not going to happen. James, and Caroline as well, are absolute masters of that. James is just hilarious. Even when we were doing the reading, we were all sitting there just wetting ourselves. He very much embodies the character. Every single take is interesting, he’s just playing. Unfortunately we didn’t actually have any scenes together, but it was so interesting just to watch him work.

How about Seann Walsh, what it was it like working with a stand-up? Seann was hilarious. He hadn’t done any kind of acting at all so he was very nervous. He’d never been on a set before, but he took to it really easily. He was great, especially for a first time. But again, you’re just playing it straight, you’re not playing it for laughs. You deliver the line, and you just have to take whatever it is. You’re responding to what the other actors are giving you, and you just have to give it back. But Seann just created magic, he was really good. Actually on the first day, we all went to have breakfast, and I told Seann that we had to pay, and to make sure to leave a really good tip or for the rest of the shoot he’s just going to get at you. So then he went over and tried to give him some money, and the chef just looked at him and said ‘what are you talking about? The food’s for free mate’. I was just wetting myself. He was really embarrassed!

Sounds like you had a good time on set. We really did! We had a great time. It’s such a great, fresh cast, with some really good names in there, as well as some unknown and up and coming names.

It’s a lovely mix of talents. Yeah, and you can really see that it’s not all about the names, it’s about the script, which in itself is very funny and well executed. With the actors on top, it was just a dream.

                 From left: David Fynn, Blake Harrison and Seann Walsh

Without giving too much away for anybody who hasn’t watched the show yet, do you have a favourite moment or scene? Perhaps that you particularly enjoyed filming? If you can narrow it down! I like Episode 4. Blake and I had a great time with that one. Episode 7’s great, too. Ben wants to do something new to The Old Cock Inn and mistakenly puts Dean in a responsible position, which isn’t a good move. All I can say is crabs.

I’ll make a note of that! As we’ve discussed, the show is primarily about Ben, a guy who returns from university struggling to get a job, and finding life much the same. What was your post-university life like? Can you relate to Ben’s story? Well personally I didn’t actually go to uni. I did Performing Arts at college, then I went straight off really. I was doing a lot of dancing, and a lot of music videos, that’s how I got into the industry really. My Dad actually owned a beauty salon on Oxford Street, and I used to help out, doing the odd manicure here and there! But that’s actually how I met my first agent. Letitia Dean who played Sharon in Eastenders used to come in to get her nails done, and she brought in my first ever agent. We had a chat, I showed him my CV and he pointed out that I’d actually done quite a lot of work. They took me on, and I haven’t really looked back since.

What a great story! So looking back on your career before Big Bad World, which of your roles or projects are you proudest of? I’m going to that really corny thing and say all of them! All of my projects I’ve loved in their own special way. This show, I actually came in just for the Pilot, and Dean wasn’t meant to be such a big character, and what they brought to the table with the small amount I actually had, the writers saw something and decided to make him a bigger part of the show. I also did a film called Fit, which tackles homophobic bullying in schools. It used to be a play, and we toured it. But the Director, Rikki Beadle-Blair, who I’ve collaborated a lot with, really wanted to make into a film. We got the green light and then shot it. It did superbly well, we took it to the Director’s Guild of America on Sunset Boulevard which was just mind blowing. We had a standing ovation at the end. It’s a great film which really does tackle the issue of homophobic bullying. It was brilliant
And finally, what are the people who haven’t tuned into the show yet missing out on? You’re missing belly laughs on a Wednesday night. Who needs Orange Wednesday?

Big Bad World is on Comedy Central, Wednesday nights at 9pm.


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