Thursday sees the start of a brand new six-part sitcom on BBC2. Hebburn is written by stand up comedian Jason Cook and stars fellow stand up Chris Ramsey in his first TV acting role. I recently spoke to Chris about what can we expect from the new family based sitcom.
This is your first TV role. How did you become involved with the series?
It was written and devised by Jason Cook, who is one of my best mates. When I first started in comedy he helped me out and looked after me. He’s like my comedy big brother really. He sent me a draft of the first episode years ago when he first came up with the idea. I remember reading it and thinking, “Wow! This is great!” But you never know if anything will come of it. Then it just sort of escalated and escalated and the next thing you know Baby Cow are involved. When they were casting he said he’d written a part for me specifically, a character called Ramsey. I read for it and I got it but then the BBC said would I like to read for Jack, which is a obviously based on Jason so I went down and read for that and they said OK you’ve got that. So Jason got the Ramsey role so we essentially play each other, which is quite cool. When we were on set we were so mixed up with names, Jack, Jason, Ramsey it was confusing. I never thought when I first saw the script all that time ago that I’d be playing the main guy in it which is best on my best mate, so it’s just been incredible and I honestly can’t wait for people to see it.
How would you describe Jack?
He’s basically a very large portion of mine and Jason’s personalities really. Me and Jason are very similar people. That’s why we get on so well. Jack’s coming back to Hebburn. He’s a journalist who lives in Manchester. He’s moved away from Hebburn. He loves his family but he doesn’t like the place. He’s got a new wife and he feels perhaps that she’s a bit more well to do than people from Hebburn so he’s a bit nervous about taking her back.
Jack describes Hebburn as “a place where dreams to come die”. Are you worried about how people from the area will take the series?
If they just see that scene then yeah they might get angry, but if they keep watching the show I think they’ll see that the point of the show really is going on a journey with Jack and falling in love with Hebburn all over again.
How would you describe the style and the tone of the comedy?
It’s a carbon copy or mirror image of Jason Cook’s stand up. His stand up has a lot of heart. It’s very personal. It’s very warm. You watch it for about fifteen minutes and you just care about the characters. I was sitting watching it the other day like some sort of egotistical maniac, and I just felt I really wanted to be there with them. It’s got the same kind of warmth as Only Fools and Horses and Gavin & Stacey where you want to be with the characters and have a chat with them and I think that’s a really hard thing to achieve.
How would you describe the different family members?
Joe, the dad (Vic Reeves) he’s a good northeast dad. He’s like my dad, like Jason’s dad. He’s one of the lads but he loves his family. Pauline (Gina McKee) again she’s a classic northeast mum. Her house is her castle and she’s keen that people like her. His sister is an outgoing Geordie lass and the Gran has moments where she doesn’t switch her brain on before she opens her mouth which is great.
It’s really nice to see Gina McKee smiling as well..
Yes! She absolutely relished the comedy role. She’s a fantastic actress.
Why do Jack and Sarah decide to keep their marriage a secret?
They keep it a secret because they know it’s going to break Pauline’s heart. They know that the fact that she’s missed out on seeing her first child getting married will probably destroy her.
What can you tell us about Jack’s old flame Denise?
HA! Put it this way, I don’t think they’re going to get back together!
What do you love on TV?
I love boxsets. Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, The Wire. I’m very much a boxset person because I’m never in the house to watch the telly. The only bad thing about being a stand up comedian is I don’t get to watch Homeland on a Sunday and then go into work on a Monday and talk about because I don’t have a work to go into! I’m partial to Family Guy and I enjoyed Gavin & Stacey too. I look forward to seeing Derek and anything Ricky Gervais does.
What do you loathe?
Geordie Shore, Jersey Shore, The Valleys, Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex just put them all in a rocket and fire them into the centre of the sun! Just get rid of them, get then off the telly!
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just started my tour. Sadly I’m on tour every single night that Hebburn is on.
Hebburn starts Thursday 18th October at 10.00pm on BBC2