Bad Education. Alfie (Jack Whitehall). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

Bad Education

BBC Three sitcom about a bad teacher. 19 episodes (3 series), 2012 - 2014. Stars Jack Whitehall, Mathew Horne, Sarah Solemani, Layton Williams and others.

Jack Whitehall and Freddy Syborn interview

Bad Education. Image shows from L to R: Rem Dogg (Jack Binstead), Chantelle (Nikki Runeckles), Stephen (Layton Williams), Alfie (Jack Whitehall), Grayson (Jack Bence), Joe (Ethan Lawrence), Jing (Kae Alexander). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.Jack Whitehall and Freddy Syborn, on the set of Bad Education Series 3, consider whether that's it for the hit sitcom they co-created...

This is the last year for the current pupils, but is this the last ever series of Bad Education?

Jack: Well I dunno really. They're kind of ... you know, closing down the whole channel. But no, I dunno. It probably will be the last one, I think. But never say never. It ends in a way that feels like it'll be the last one, and when we set out to write it, it was going to be the last one, so...

But it's so enjoyable to do, so maybe we'll think "oh gosh, maybe it'd be nice to come back and do more". But I think this probably will be the last series.

Series 2 launched on iPlayer and totalled something like 3 million views. Do you think that's a sign that shows like this could work just on iPlayer?

Jack: Yeah, I think we're very lucky that it worked in that format. They trialled it with us so obviously we were a bit nervous, but it seems that was a really good way of attracting an audience. We were amazed that so many people did watch it, so I think it would probably work online.

Do you think the show would have been made if BBC Three hadn't existed?

Jack: I don't think so, no. I think it certainly wouldn't have. They were the ones who were so supportive at the beginning. I'd never written anything or done any acting and it got commissioned to script stage, so they took a bit of a punt on it. And they've been supportive throughout. An amazing channel to work for. As have all the commissioners. We've been lucky and had really good people assigned to the show throughout, so I definitely think we owe so much to BBC Three. Well, everything really.

You've had two series worth of 'will they won't they' with Miss Gulliver, and it seems in Series 3 they actually are, so how's it going to show that side of it?

Jack: Yeah they start off in quite a good place, then it goes sort of AWOL. That was quite nice to ring the changes. Start in a good place and mess it up. Go kind of backwards.

If you're doing the final episode and stuff, it is quite weird making all the big decisions about how you leave certain characters and where you leave their relationships. There's a lot of toing and froing to decide what the best thing is, and you film quite a lot of stuff. I guess it makes the editing process even more important because you need to decide what you commit to and where to leave each character. So I guess we still don't quite know where to leave each character but there are many, many options!

Bad Education. Image shows from L to R: Fraser (Mathew Horne), Alfie (Jack Whitehall). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

What sort of embarrassing scenarios does Alfie get himself into this year?

Jack: What've we got?... So Episode 1 is a strike, which doesn't go particularly well. Episode 2 is a book group and some LARPers - live action roleplay - with some arseless leggings! Cardinal Burns came in for that, they've got a cameo and they're brilliant. There's also a sports day, for which we've brought back Preet, the South African gym teacher. That was a really fun episode.

I'm trying to think of what else is particularly embarrassing ... there's not a lot of nudity this year! Normally that's what we resort to when we can't think of a smart way to end the episode. "Jack gets his dick out." But, yeah, wow, we've matured. No, actually that's a lie because my arse is out in one...

What's the cause of the strike in Episode 1? Is Alfie leading that?

Jack: Well it's actually driven by Miss Gulliver and he follows suit. She goes on strike because they're threatening to get rid of a member of staff. Alfie gets his class out there and just thinks it's going to be a bit of a jolly but soon realises that it's exam term and they're putting the kids' futures at risk, and him doing it for the sake of trying to please his girlfriend.

Freddy: She's got very noble intentions, whilst he just wants to spite his dad, who's become deputy headmaster.

Jack: What's really fucking annoying is me and Freddy wrote a load of stuff for this series, especially after what's been happening over the past year with education reforms, we were going to put in some nice stuff that has a pop at Michael Gove and then they fucking move him! They should've kept him there for six months more. By all means get rid of him after that, maybe it'll look like we've done the damage! So fucking selfish...

You joked about having matured, but do you think Alfie has matured a bit this series?

Jack: Yeah, I think so. By the end he's a far more mature presence than he was at the start of the series, but he's still a bit of a manchild. Every step forward is only really a tentative one. He's still a bit of a feckless idiot. He certainly thinks he's grown up a bit at the start of the series because he's now living with Miss Gulliver in a flat; you know, he thinks he's grown up, but he's not really.

Bad Education. Image shows from L to R: Alfie (Jack Whitehall), Martin Wickers (Harry Enfield). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

You mentioned that Alfie's dad is the new deputy head; having worked with your dad on Backchat, Jack, is there any similarity between the two working relationships?

Jack: Yeah it's weird when there are little bits of crossover. Harry Enfield knows my dad, does a very good impression of him, and says when he first met my dad he was struck by how much of a shit he was. So whenever he's talking about my dad he just refers to him as Shit Whitehall. Asks how Shit is. In a sort of affectionate way. I think. So certainly Harry tries to get a flavour of Shit into his performance every now and again! There's certainly a similar lack of being able to self-censor.

If this is the final series of Bad Education, would you write something together again?

Jack & Freddy: . . .

Jack: AWKWARD! No, I think we would. It's sad to be finishing a project we've been doing so long, but it's exciting to think about doing new work. Writing the final scene of this was quite a sad moment though, wasn't it?

Freddy: Oh God, it was...

Jack: It was!

Freddy: It was, yeah, it was quite emotional.

With regard to Alfie's ritual humiliation, who writes that? Is it both of you; is it Freddy inflicting that; or do you write it Jack, and then get on set and think 'oh shit, I've actually got to get my arse out now'?

Jack: There's a lot of things Freddy tries to sneak into stage directions on the final final draft so I don't get to see it, he'll add in an extra strand of humiliation. An extra costume note of something ridiculous that I have to wear. That's definitely a vindictive thing.

Freddy: That's just that you don't pay enough attention! Before you know it you're wearing a codpiece.

Jack: I re-read all the dialogue but sometimes I do miss a stage direction. So he did do that, I had to wear a codpiece. "Fuck, why have I been given a codpiece by costumes?" "Well it's in the script." "Freddy!"

Bad Education. Image shows from L to R: Fraser (Mathew Horne), Alfie (Jack Whitehall). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

Freddy: What is interesting is you write things that you think are kind of funny and then you don't pay much attention, and you forget that someone has to go out and buy a codpiece and measure the codpiece, and fit the codpiece...

Jack: You then look in the script and it just says 'WEARS A CODPIECE'.

Freddy: The thing is with that, you won't look stupid. Mat [Horne as Fraser] will ALWAYS look sillier than you. So it'll be fine.

Will you be cameoing again, Freddy? [Freddy appeared as the 'Porn Baron' job applicant in Episode 3 of Series 2]

Freddy: Me? No, no I don’t think so!

Jack: Are you in Cockroaches? [the new ITV2 sitcom Freddy has written]

Freddy: Yeah, I am. I'm a reporter in one. Ben [Taylor, the director] wanted me to, so I got a little line with Robert Bathurst, so I was very pleased. I think my acting days are probably behind me! That was the role I was born to play...

Jack: You can play the codpiece.

Freddy laughs

Jack: Yeah, no more cameos for Freddy!

Who's been the most surprising fan of the show that you've met?

Jack: It is weird. It's often peoples' kids who've watched it, who you wouldn't expect to be trawling through BBC Three, have made them watch it and they're loving it as well. I've had a few of them.

Freddy: Chris Hoy likes it because there's a character called Atticus Hoy, he told me that!

Bad Education. Image shows from L to R: Mitchell (Charlie Wernham), Stephen (Layton Williams), Alfie (Jack Whitehall), Chantelle (Nikki Runeckles), Miss Gulliver (Sarah Solemani), Fraser (Mathew Horne), Joe (Ethan Lawrence), Rem Dogg (Jack Binstead), Jing (Kae Alexander). Copyright: Tiger Aspect Productions.

Jack: Mo Farah says he watches it all the time. Odd people do come up to you all the time though. The feedback I most often get actually, is when I play football. Whenever I go - I just play on astroturf, a 5-a-side in the evening - I often get kids in hoodies loitering around, and they start shouting "Hey! Bad Education! Bad Education!" as I'm trying to play; and I'm not a gifted footballer! It's really offputting and I end up playing really badly, and I want to go and apologise and say that I'm actually a good footballer but they've just scared me. And then they always ask me whether Chantelle is single. Well no, she's a fictional character. (I don't really say that, I just say 'yes' and run away.)

How does Alfie compare to your own teachers? Was there a direct inspiration?

Jack: Well there were a few tragic ones, weren't there?

Freddy: I think he's got that thing that, yeah, he wants to be the kids' friend. Which is sort of the most unfashionable thing a teacher can do, I think. But also if you have one of those teachers it's quite good fun.

Jack: When you go back and you see them - I've been back to my old school quite a few times - and you see those teachers that you thought were quite cool when you were there, and now they're fucking tragic, and now because you're slightly older you can see that. There's certainly elements of that with Alfie. He can't form lasting relationships with people his own age, that is very much Alfie. But no, there's no one specifically he's been based on.

More Bad Education interviews

Published: Monday 15th September 2014