Jason Cook on... Hebburn
It was insane watching people "do" my family. And a bit heart-wrenching as I kind of got to bring my Gran and Dad back to life. Certainly one of the more unusual experiences I've had. But I was well chuffed with the result.
Chris Ramsey said you originally wrote the Ramsey character for him but swapped so that he could play a younger version of you. Did you ever want to shake him and say, ‘Oi, I don’t do that! Or do I?’
The good thing about Chris playing me is that we're really close friends anyway so he just had to basically do an impression of me and he was brilliant. It's a bit unnerving because sometimes you have to ask yourself, 'Do I really do that?' And unfortunately, the answer is yes...
The pilot begins with Jason bringing his Jewish wife Clare home to meet his family. Did you actually elope in real life or did you build that into the pilot in order to amp up the conflict?
Yes, we put in the "accidentally got drunk in Vegas and got married" thread to give the Jason and Clare characters more tension, and a big secret they had to keep from everyone else. I don't think my wife would have let us elope, and certainly not to Vegas, as she knows what I'm like at the roulette table!
Steffen Peddie told us he consumed 14 pickled onions and about ½ a pint of vinegar in rehearsals… and promptly threw up the night before the Showcase! Are you at all tempted to make this a regular occurrence so that he consumes a different pickled delicacy in each episode?
Because of Steffen's reaction to the onions I think I'll try and make him eat as many as possible if we get a series. Of course, what would be funny is if a pickled onion company were to sponsor him. We'll see how much he hates them then...
They say the secret to writing is in the rewriting and you went through about 16 drafts of the script, boosting the gags as you went along. How long was the development process – from the initial idea to seeing it performed at the Salford Sitcom Showcase?
All in all, it's been about 2 years since Matt Tiller at Channel K approached me about writing 'something'. I'd had good experiences in Edinburgh with my stand up which is largely based on my family experiences, so when it came to writing Hebburn, it just kind of fell out of me. But the last 2 months before the Showcase were the most intense of my career. Lots of trains from Manchester to Newcastle and lots and lots of hours at the laptop.
How did you find writing a sitcom and collaborating with producers / fellow cast members compared to writing stand up?
It was an amazing experience doing the rewrites because I got to work with Henry Normal and Ted Dowd who between them have made some of my favourite comedy. At first it was quite daunting, sitting at the table with these giants of broadcasting, but I actually looked forward to the rewrites, as we'd find new jokes in the script as we went along. For a comedian it was like jamming with the Rolling Stones!
Seinfeld famously created a 365 day wall calendar, forcing himself to write something every single day. Do you have a writing routine?
I write the sitcom stuff in whatever office space I can beg borrow or steal, but my Stand Up is usually written on stage. I'll go on with a few ideas and play with them to see how the material works. Although, since writing this pilot, my writing method has changed dramatically. I'm much more disciplined.
And last but not least… after the long hours, tight deadlines and impromptu cast vomiting… would you do it all again?
In a heartbeat! I haven't had that much fun for years. From the writing, through the castings, the rewrites, the rehearsals... It's been amazing.
Photos by Michelle Brooks