'You'd expect to find Sean Bean in a forest' | The writers of E4's Wasted on their new comedy © Dave King/C4

'You'd expect to find Sean Bean in a forest'

The writers of E4's Wasted on their new comedy

Wasted is E4's new comedy series about four twentysomethings in a West Country village. Here writers James Lamont and Jon Foster, whose credits include Cuckoo, Paddington, and the Harry Hill movie, talk about the show:

Jon: Basically, it's about four young people who have been friends since school who live in a village in the West Country. It's all about what happens when you don't leave your hometown. One of the characters has been away. He went to Bristol for a bit, didn't like it, and came back.

James: And one keeps promising she's going to go away and never does.

Jon: We wanted to treat it in an affectionate way, so it's about the fun you can have in a small place, rather than being all about how shit the place is.

Did either of you grow up in a small West Country backwater?

Jon: I'm from Gloucestershire, from a town surrounded by villages just like the one we wrote about. All my friends lived in the villages, and I was always quite fascinated about the nights out you would have around there. Because stuff would just happen that would never happen in cities.

James: I grew up in East London, but I went to school with a load of people who lived in Hertford, and they lived in these tiny, 500-people villages, and that's where I would have the best nights. So I had an outsider's view on it, but I would go to all these villages and spend weekends with my mates getting up to mischief. So between the two of us, we aggregated those stories. It's a bit of a love song to that time in your life, where the most important thing is what you get up to with your friends, a beautiful time from 19 to 24.

How much of you is in the script?

Jon: Some of it is very much based on our experiences. The story where they set out to dig up a long-forgotten batch of ecstasy in a field actually happened to me on the Isle of Wight. I went there camping, and we drunkenly asked a taxi driver: 'Do you know where we can get any drugs?' And he said 'No, but the dealers bury their pills in a field before the Isle of Wight festival. I know where they buried them.' So we went with this taxi driver at 2am to where the Isle of Wight festival was, got a load of spades and started digging. We'd been doing it for about half an hour before we started wondering if he was just doing it to run up the clock. But there were other people in the field doing the same thing, so it is true that people do that.

James: That's what we'll do – we'll take a story that happened to us or our friends and we'll go from there. So if Jon had found those pills, what would have happened? So I've also got a friend, who shall remain nameless, who has frequently taken 'street dumps', which makes an appearance in the series. So it's not autobiographical, these things didn't all happen to us, but it's built out of communal experiences. Everyone's got a story about the time they had to get their really drunk mate home, which is very much what we do in one of the episodes.

Jon: We did some research trips to the West Country, and we went to a village called Box, in Wiltshire, and had a pint with some local lads. They told us they'd go to Bath for a big night out, and they all had tales of having to walk the ten or 15 miles back to their village. And we decided that was an episode idea right there.

There's another aspect to the script, with Morpheus frequently turning to his spirit guide – Sean Bean – for advice. Why him?

James: We chose him right from the first ideas for the script. We never wrote it with anyone else in mind. It always had to be him.

Jon: We just thought: 'Who's the most authoritative voice that Morpheus would listen to?' He would only listen to Sean Bean, in his Game of Thrones guise. Also it ties in with the whole rural, bucolic thing. You'd expect to find Sean Bean in a forest. It feels like the right place for him.

Wasted Sean BeanWere you confident of getting him?

James: We hoped. We never knew how it would go.

Jon: When he read the scripts, he really loved them. He then came along and filmed it, and really enjoyed it. He had a great time!

James: We knew we would be getting Sean Bean, but we didn't realise how funny he'd be. Not just sending himself up, but ad-libbing and being a really strong comedy performer.

Jon: We were out filming, and a taxi drew up on set, and the door of the taxi opened, and out stepped Sean Bean for his first day of filming, complete with outfit and hair, smiling and holding a sword.

You've won three Baftas for the Amazing World of Gumball, which many people won't be familiar with. What's it about?

Jon: When we first starting working together, we wrote sketches, and got them on the Armstrong and Miller Show. This was nearly ten years ago. Then there was this open call for this big Cartoon Network show, we got sent a taster for it, and we thought it was amazing.

James: It was one minute long, but we just knew we needed to be on it, it looked great.

Jon: So we went in and got on really well with the creator, and started writing on it. He was really keen for it to be not so much a kids' show as a sitcom. So we effectively spent the next few years writing 11-minute episodes of sitcoms with cinematic elements. The scope was huge.

James: We ended up writing more than 80 episodes in two years. It was constant. It was a lot of fun, and we really sharpened our tools on it as well. It was sitcom episodes with cinematic chases every week, and a really high gag content. We learned and came up with so many things, and really got to grips with how to plan a story out.

Is it difficult to move from something where you can do anything you want, because it's animation, to something where you're constrained by the fact that you're filming real people in real settings?

Jon: Oddly, in animation, you're quite restricted. There's only a certain amount of things they're able to build with the time and money they have. If they'd got a cinematic looking set, which they did for a couple of those episodes, they could reuse them. But if you were then to say to them: 'We'd like to do it on a mountaintop with dragons,' they'd tell us we couldn't do that. We were once told to write an episode of Gumball, where they'd run out of money at the end of a series, where basically none of the characters were allowed to move. So we wrote a sketch show about all the inanimate objects in the show, like the toaster, the kettle, the tables and stuff. So we wrote an entire episode for them, where only their mouths moved.

James: It was quite a well-received episode, actually, because it was quite form-breaking, but it came from limitations. There's that thing of limitations breeding creativity.

You've both done live performing in your time – does that help you become a better comedy writer?

James: I used to do a bit of stand-up, and quite a lot of sketch and character stuff.

Jon: And I was in a sketch group for a few years at university and up at Edinburgh. One thing we tend to do when we're writing, often, is do the voices. So we'll go through the dialogue and we'll act out the lines. And in that sense, I feel it really helps, having that background.

James: And in terms of knowing how to craft jokes, and the idea of ad-libbing, of building on stuff and coming up with new stuff in front of a live audience, that's transferred to how we film stuff. We're quite happy to add new stuff in at the last minute rather than just stick to all the carefully crafted stuff that's on the page.

What sort of comedies do you enjoy on TV?

James: At the moment, I'm really enjoying stuff that's doing something different or interesting. Broad City is a big one that I like, because they do things that are really different with their episodes.

Jon: Another really inspiring show recently was Limmy's Show. He makes the weirdest, darkest stuff. The funniest show that I think has been around recently is Parks and Recreation. That made me laugh more than most shows in the last ten years.

James: And there's a warm-heartedness to that show which we've tried to put into Wasted.

Published: 5 Jul 2016

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