Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

'I was delighted to work with all my clothes on for a change'

You might expect a particular sort of comedy from Jack Whitehall, but his latest TV role is rather more dramatic

By Georgia Humphreys

Jack Whitehall quips: "There was not even like a nipple, or anything." The 29-year-old is discussing new Sky 1 show, Bounty Hunters - an otherwise welcome departure from roles such as JP in Channel 4 sitcom Fresh Meat.

The action-adventure comedy follows shy PhD student Barnaby Walker, played by Whitehall, who tries to save the family's cash-strapped business after a mysterious accident lands his antiques dealer dad (Robert Lindsay) in hospital.

But, you've guessed it, things don't quite go to plan. After a dodgy deal masterminded by his father leaves Barnaby £50,000 down, and lumbered with a looted treasure, he teams up with a gun-toting, Brooklyn bounty hunter (played by Rosie Perez) to get his money back.

"I really wanted to make it work as a piece of storytelling and drama," discloses Whitehall, who co-wrote the show with Freddy Syborn, after working together on BBC Three's Bad Education.

"Everything had to come from character. I thought that was really important when approaching this, and different to, say, doing a straight sitcom."

Co-star Charity Wakefield says one appeal was the show's topicality.

"I read it and I thought, 'Wow this is really different!'," the 37-year-old elaborates. "It's got lots of comedy, but it is also really edgy and thrilling. And the topics are quite on point with the looted Syrian antiquities and stuff like that."

Of her "wild, free and reckless" character Leah, she says: "There is a certain point that she, sort of, grabs the story by the balls as it were and moves it into a completely different direction."

What can we expect from "highly strung" Barnaby?

"He's this forgotten figure within their family," explains Whitehall. "No one trusts him and no one thinks he's capable of doing anything.

"He's got all of this stuff that's just pent up and, over the course of the six episodes, you see that becoming unleashed."

Working together to reclaim the family's cash, Leah and Barnaby's lives spiral out of control - crossing paths with police, terrorists and a dangerous Mexican drug cartel.

How did they achieve a believable brother/sister dynamic amid all this drama?

"I think your siblings kind of always slightly annoy you ... it's something you could easily tap into," says Whitehall.

"That thing where you become very much childlike very quickly, even though they're kind of grown adults - I like the kind of bickering back and forth, it's very real to how siblings are."

"I had a lot of fun being in scenes with Jack," Wakefield chimes in with a chuckle. "We probably pushed it a bit too far in certain places with these kind of massive arguments, both of us wanting to have the last word.

"But luckily we had a really good director to be like, 'Can you just calm it down guys?'"

While there were plenty of laughs in the script and on set, the show has some darker moments.

"It's genuinely scary in moments, and moving," agrees Wakefield, who also recently produced a horror comedy film called A Serial Killer's Guide to Life.

"But it's often in those really dark, scary, moving places that we find a lot of laughs as well. But, I just think that's so true to life.

"And that's why I like this as a tale, because I've been through some pretty rough times in my life and actually, you know, you can't help but laugh sometimes. You have to, otherwise what's the point?"

Has the show made Whitehall feel more comfortable talking about himself as a dramatic actor, too?

"No, because I'm hugely self conscious and very worried," he admits.

"I always feel nervous about talking about myself in those terms. But I really want to," he adds with a laugh.

It's a case of expect the unexpected, claim the duo, as Bounty Hunters' cast includes the Oscar-nominated US actress Rosie Perez (star of huge comedies such as White Men Can't Jump).

But Whitehall was determined to write a show for Perez after doing a pilot in the US together - hence the character of fiery Puerto Rican bounty hunter Nina.

"We had a lot of fun writing the scenes with Barnaby and Nina together," he elaborates. "It's a very unique dynamic because they are so different. Nina is from a tough background and she's street-smart, kick-ass and hard as nails.

"What she (Rosie) is so good at is she can be really funny and really fiery, but then she can bring an incredible vulnerability to her characters, so you really feel for her. I was so delighted to work with all my clothes on for a change."

Rosie's amazing to work with, she's so real and she underplays everything," affirms Wakefield.

"It was just quite funny, sitting in a G-Wiz with Jack Whitehall and Rosie Perez in the middle of London, thinking 'this just shouldn't work, why do they find each other so funny?'"

Bounty Hunters, Sky 1, Wednesday, 10pm

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph