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Cradle to Grave: 'It's like diving inside Danny Baker’s head'

Frankie Wilson, Alice Sykes & Laurie Kynaston

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It’s just plain weird to watch actors playing out your own life, says Danny Baker of new comedy Cradle To Grave, BBC Two’s adaptation of his autobiography. And at the same time “frankly, quite tremendous”.

Danny’s teenage years in Bermondsey, south London – picture council flats and corner shops, factories and bomb sites – were full of what he describes as thunderingly entertaining incidents. Plus he’s got Peter Kay playing his dad. So expectations are high for Laurie Kynaston, who plays the man (or teenager) himself, and his co-stars Frankie Wilson and Alice Sykes who play his siblings Michael and Sharon. How do you go about living up to the vibrant and comic characters of the real-life Baker family?

Peter Kay and Lucy Speed play your on-screen parents. Were they also mother and father figures to you off screen?

Frankie: Yeah, Lucy was definitely always a motherly figure. She’s a mother anyway and just naturally gives off that aura. And Peter’s just a laugh to be around. I mean my dad, personally, is a wind-up merchant through and through, so I like being around that sort of person.

Alice: Pete’s the loveliest man, he really made me smile. Whenever you walked onto set, he’d hug you to say hello – and he really hugged you. It was a real fatherly hug. And Lucy took care of us so much – anything you ever needed she was always there.

Frankie: And she’d give advice too, because obviously she’s been in the industry longer than we have. I mean the pair of them have, and they’re both awesome people.

Laurie: I think we all just had so much fun: a comedy brings everyone close. And with Peter playing our dad, there were so many scenes of laughter. We were crying with laughter! It’s just what families do, you know? If you’re sat around watching telly you do have a little joke and you have a little laugh. 

You play siblings in the show – does that brotherly/sisterly dynamic carry on off-screen?

Frankie: I think we still maintain that sort of relationship whenever we come together, we can always have a laugh and a joke. But at the end of the day, everyone’s off doing their own things and so it’s not like we all go sit round each other’s houses and sit on the sofa watching University Challenge [laughs]. But when we come together that spark returns, and we all just slot back in like a jigsaw.

Laurie: It’s very easy. Also it’s our real first break, so it was really nice to all go through that together.

Frankie: It was nice as well because although there were a lot of older cast members, because it’s based on Danny’s younger life, there were a lot of young actors too. Sometimes when you go on a job you’re surrounded by older heads who’ve got more experience, and they’re telling you what it’s like or what you need to watch out for. But the industry’s always evolving and changing and we’re evolving and changing with it. We’re experiencing everything together the same as that older generation did. So it’s lovely to just be on a set with people your age.

You all stayed in Manchester around the shoot. How much fun did you have when you weren’t filming?

Alice: It was fun, but it was a little bit manic! When I’ve worked on previous things in London, you come home in the evening. Like that’s it, you’re home, work’s finished. But it never ever felt like because we’d left the set, but we were still living with the cast and crew.

Frankie: But it was never like work: it was getting up every day to go on set with your bestest mates. Having a right good laugh, really enjoying yourself, the party never stopped you know? 

What did you learn working with Danny Baker?

Frankie: The way these episodes play out, I mean obviously it’s Danny’s life but it’s also exactly how his head works. You’ll go out for dinner with him, and he’ll start telling a story and then BOSH he’s telling another story, then he goes: ‘Anyway as I was saying…’ and you’re back where you started. You are constantly jumping! So this show is like diving inside Danny Baker’s head.

Laurie: His whole career is based on this just joyous storytelling. And I can’t reiterate enough just how welcoming he was to us. He was unbelievable. The first night, the day of the read-through was my 21st birthday, we all went out for this meal, and it was just…

Alice: IT WAS THE MOST EPIC MEAL EVER.

Laurie: …just incredible! It was like we’d known each other forever and he was chatting like it was the most normal thing in the world. And we’re like, ‘That’s him and we’re playing him and his brother and sister now, and we’ve gotta pretend like we’re cool’.

Frankie: I know, there was a time at that meal, Laurie and I were in the toilets going: "It’s bloody mad this! Can you believe it?"

Was it fun working with the Baker family?

Laurie: Yeah! The whole family is just so welcoming. Danny’s children, Mancie, Bonnie and Sonny are great people. Obviously with Danny as your dad, you’d just be the coolest cat in town

Frankie: And as much as Danny said Cradle to Grave is a reality, not the reality, the family still had massive involvement, it was such an asset to us to have. It was great for character development, but also to get the feel for that family environment.

Alice: So we now feel part of the Baker family.

Laurie and Frankie: Yeah!

Alice: And we only met each other in February…

Frankie: Exactly!

Laurie: That is madness.

Alice: Literally weird. It’s weird.

Frankie Wilson, Alice Sykes and Laurie Kynaston play Michael, Sharon and Danny Baker in Cradle to Grave.

Cradle to Grave starts on Thursday, 3 September at 9pm on BBC Two. Each episode will be available in BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast on TV.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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