entertainment

Derry Girls' Dylan Llewellyn 'proud' to star in new LGBTQ comedy Big Boys

The actor plays a closeted university fresher in comedian Jack Rooke's semi-autobiographical Channel 4 series.

2022-05-17

Words: Simon Button; Images: Channel 4

Going from playing an honorary Derry girl, who everyone thinks is gay but actually isn’t, to a Watford lad negotiating being gay at Brent university in new Channel 4 comedy Big Boys was a dream job for Dylan Llewellyn.

Speaking at a press launch for the Jack Rooke-scripted show at London’s Charlotte Street Hotel, the actor told Attitude: “Everything about it was beautiful to me. I really wanted the part and to tell Jack’s story as best I could. I’m really proud to be in it.”

29-year-old actor Llewellyn was introduced to the 28-year-old comedian and writer Rooke through their mutual friend in Nicola Coughlan, Dylan’s Derry Girls co-star who was also at last week's screening along with fellow castmates Siobhán McSweeney and Kathy Kiera Clarke.

Once he learned he’d got the part, he listened to the audio book of Jack’s memoir Cheer the F**k Up “because I’m dyslexic and I struggle with reading”. He loved it.

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn)

“I relate to Jack so much,” the actor best known as James on Derry Girls told the audience after the first three (and in Attitude’s opinion hilarious and touching) episodes were screened. “We grew up around the same time and I’ve dealt with loss myself, losing a family member, so this story is really close to home.”

Of his on-screen counterpart, Rooke was gushing in his praise. “He’s so sweet to watch. You really root for that character way more. He brings that likeability and relatability to the role.” Jack laughed. “And he’s also fitter than me.”

In the six-part series, Dylan’s Jack is grieving the loss of his father and exploring his sexuality as he enrols at Brent University. His roommate is Danny (played by Jon Pointing) - an older, wiser, louder, totally straight lad’s lad who nonetheless becomes a great friend and mentor for Jack.

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn, left) and Danny (Jon Pointing)

Rooke wrote the part of Danny with Plebs star Pointing in mind, saying: “I will sometimes look on Instagram and there’ll be a big gay club night in London which I’m not at but Jon is. He’s the honorary straight ally.”

“And that’s what I liked about doing this role,” Pointing added. “It’s an interesting dynamic and to be able to play that relationship, like relationships I have in my real life, is really important to me.

“With a lot of my gay friends I feel like there’s this initial thing of me looking like the guy who bullied them at school. Then there’s a moment of relief when they realise I’m not a complete prick.”

Also in the cast is Olisa Odele (who previously appeared in Chewing Gum, Scarborough and It’s a Sin) as Yemi, who is as unapologetically himself as Jack is still discovering his truth.

Jack (Dylan Llewellyn, left) and Yemi (Olisa Odele)

“I wasn’t a Yemi when I was at university,” Olisa noted. “So I did channel friends of mine to play him and there’s a truth to the dynamic between him and Jack. They banter with each other, challenge each other, support each other.”

Growing up as a gay black man in Tottenham, Odele admitted he worried about taking on queer roles. “Before I did, a few years back, it felt like ‘This is like a big coming out and can I actually go to the barbershop? When I walk around Tottenham, what is it going to be like?’ So I’ve been on a bit of a journey with that.

“Now I just try my best to be authentic to the character - sometimes giving you top energy, sometimes giving you some femme, sometimes a bit of everything. And playing Yemi allowed me to accept parts of myself that I hadn’t before. I’d never done make-up or nails. I had an ingrained thing of not being too much but with Yemi it was like ‘This is time, let’s go!’”

Big Boys premieres on Thursday 26 May at 10pm on Channel 4in the UK.