Interview: E4’s Drifters Writer and Star Jessica Knappett

Earlier this week, we caught up with writer and actress Jesssica Knappett to find out more about her hilarious sitcom Drifters, and talk revenge, Tina Fey and dressing up as a mobile phone with this rising star of British comedy.

On co-stars Lydia Rose Bewley and Lauren O’Rourke
“We’re all really  good friends in real life, which means that it’s so amazing to film because it’s just like hanging out with your best mates. I  already knew Lydia because we did The Inbetweeners Movie together, and I knew Lauren a bit because both Lauren and I used to do quite a lot of live comedy. Lauren was in a couple of scenes of The Inbetweeners Movie as well, so we sort of all met up on set and we had a really had a good time on the couple of days that we were filming together. I didn’t see Lauren again until I came to see one of her live shows and I thought, ‘she’s just got something about her, she’s just so eccentric and wild and brilliant’; she’s just got such an amazing energy about her and she’s so funny.”

On The Inbetweeners
“I didn’t think in a million years they would let me and Lydia be in a show together, just because of the closeness to The Inbetweeners, thinking ‘oh no that’s just going to look like it’s a spin off’, which of course it isn’t because we’re playing completely different characters. I saw loads and loads of people for the part [of Bunny], but when Lydia came in she was just hands down the funniest person, there was no arguing with it. But after a while you forget [the connection], [Drifters] is just so different.”

On The Writing Process
“I wrote it all in isolation, by myself, but when I was creating the stories that happened in a room with producers. The collaboration was really just with producers, but I think [Lydia and Lauren] have a massive input, knowing how [the characters] speak and the kind of things they do, and they were very inspiring just as people. But we didn’t actually sit down and write anything together,  although I would like to.”

On Autobiographical Inspiration
“Tragically, about 60% of Drifters is true, in so far as those things really happened to me but not in that order. So for example, I was dressed as a mobile phone giving out flyers on the streets of Leeds, but I didn’t get a date, that’s sitcom land. There comes a point when you have to take it into sitcom land or it’s just going to be like a documentary basically.”

On Transforming Reality Into Fiction
“The whole time I was living [the events that inspired Drifters], I was kind of hoping that one day I would get my revenge. I was moved to write about it while it was happening –  I’ve got notebooks with different bits and pieces written down just in the hope that one day I could make something  of it, because there’s just something so desperate about standing there and it gives you a lot of time to think. The idea was always germinating and then when I left the sketch group [Lady Garden] I was looking for another project. Fortunately, Iain and Damon, the executive writers and producers of The Inbetweeners, asked me to start developing something for their production company. They just said maybe you should write a sketch show for us or whatever you want to do, and it was at that point where I thought what I’d really like to do is write a sitcom about three funny women because we haven’t seen for that for a while.”

On Female Comic Idols
“I was massively inspired by Tine Fey when I was writing the show, I think just watching 30 Rock and seeing a really strong, funny women at the helm, not just standing there on the side rolling your eyes at people but actually speaking and being a funny person – saying jokes, not just being the butt of the joke – that was inspiring. Bridesmaids as well came at the time I was creating the show and that had a massive impact. Again it’s an ensemble cast of women, amazing comics, physical comics as well who were not afraid to make themselves look like idiots, just letting go, like who gives a shit, you know? More recently there’s a stand-up comedian called Bridget Christie who really inspires me, every woman should see her because her show is so moving and so hilarious.”

On Acting and Writing
“What I find  difficult is writing for characters that I’m not going to play, I’ve never done that yet. Not saying that I wouldn’t, I’ve just always selfishly had myself in mind.  I was writing because I wanted to play those roles, I wanted to play the role of Meg and it didn’t exist. There’s something inextricable in that link [between acting and writing] for me. I can’t really divide the two unless a role comes in that I really want to play that I haven’t written, which hopefully will happen, and I’m just really happy to be playing roles that I’ve created, there’s something really satisfying about doing both. I’ve never really considered myself a stand up, it [Lady Garden] was more sketch comedy, more ensemble stuff. I think I’m happiest performing with other people.”

‘Drifters’ starts Thursday October 31st on E4. 

Drifters will also be available to own on DVD from 25th November 2013

Words: Lara Tutton

Illustration: Joe McLean