Juice. Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan)
Juice

Juice

  • TV sitcom
  • BBC Three
  • 2023
  • 6 episodes

Mawaan Rizwan comedy for BBC Three about a young gay man. Also features Russell Tovey, Nabhaan Rizwan, Shahnaz Rizwan, Jeff Mirza, Emily Lloyd-Saini and more.

Mawaan Rizwan and key cast interview

Juice. Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan)

The key cast of Juice introduce the comedy...

Mawaan Rizwan

What can you tell us about Juice?

Juice is a surreal comedy that follows my character Jamma as he stumbles his way through love. Literally. It's a very physical show with big set pieces and some unexpectedly moving moments.

How would you best describe your character Jamma?

Jamma is a whirlwind of joy, mischief, anxiety and dance moves. A lot of his actions are driven by his need for good ol' juicy validation. He loves a clap. But when Guy (Russell Tovey) comes along and presents him with the prospect of actual love, he finds it too confronting.

Tell us more about Jamma's relationship with Guy.

Guy is a bit older, he's a therapist with a mortgage and an Aga. He's from a completely different world but their differences complement each other. Guy gives Jamma emotional stability in an otherwise chaotic life and Jamma is the perfect disruption that will shake up Guy's routine and reinvigorate his sense of play.

Juice. Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan)

The show has some pretty surreal visual moments, how did you come up with the idea for those?

I didn't want to make a sitcom where the characters were stood in a room firing one-liners at each other. I wanted to take the audience on a visceral, sensory joyride.

I got really excited by the idea that when Jamma's emotions peak, the world around him should start changing, as a physical manifestation of his feelings. So when he's anxious the walls start moving in, when he's feeling playful his bowl haircut starts spinning.

The directors (Rosco 5) and I didn't want to rely on special effects, so all the magical realism was done practically on set. We made puppets, put wheels on furniture, we even built a set within a set so that Jamma could fall out of one scene into a completely different location, all in one take. The whole shoot was like a kid's wonderland! I can't believe they let me get away with it!

What was your inspiration behind those?

I'm most excited by filmmakers who break the form and tell stories in an unexpected and visually adventurous way; Bong Joon-ho, Boots Riley, Buster Keaton are all big influences. In my live shows I use a lot of clowning and physicality and when I imagined how we could televise that, I thought, well, there's more to play with than just my body; we have a whole set from the make-up department to lighting to set design, they can all be clowning with me.

The crew was amazing the way they took the brief and ran with it! Highly skilled adults but with the imagination and creativity of children; that's what's helped make the world of Juice so unique.

Do you have a favourite scene or episode from the series?

Episode 5. It's wild, it's trippy and there's a scene with my mum that makes me cry every time.

Any funny or memorable moments on set?

Between takes Emily Lloyd-Saini (Winnie) would always improvise the most random songs. One of them being a song about loving a Mezzanine. When I saw the crew laughing and singing it for the rest of the week, I thought 'this needs to go in the show, it's a total earworm'. We ended up doing it in one of the scenes and eventually recording a studio version of the song. It's now in the official soundtrack of the show.

Did you get to keep any of the props?

I wanted to keep the ball-pool from Episode 1 but couldn't justify the space it would take up in my tiny flat.

Juice. Image shows left to right: Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan), Isaac (Nabhaan Rizwan)

What was it like working with your mum and brother?

I started my career making sketches on YouTube with my mum and brother. We've always bonded over jokes and characters and the escapism that comedy brings. It actually helped our relationship a lot.

Did you always have them in mind for Farida and Isaac?

There's no one else I could imagine in these roles but them. As surreal as it was turning up to work and seeing my mum and brother's trailer next to mine, it also felt like a full-circle moment.

Was there a little bit of sibling rivalry between you and your brother Nabhaan?

Sibling rivalry?! Me? Never! It is actually very annoying how good Nabhaan is in the show. I mean, I wrote a show about how my family always steals my thunder and now they're in the show and they really steal my thunder. So you can only imagine how hard it's been for me.

How was writing on Juice different from other shows you've written for?

Oh, it was much harder because I couldn't step away. The vision for this show was so ambitious and so many people took a risk on me, there was a lot riding on it. It's way more scary when it's your own baby. But with big risks comes the potential for something truly original and special.

Luckily, I was surrounded by people who I completely trusted. Producer Hannah Moulder and directors Behnam and Gideon were the biggest support mechanism a writer could ask for!

Juice started life at the Edinburgh Festival, did you ever think it would become a TV show on the BBC?

It's been my dream to make a TV show for a very long time. I've been pitching stuff for years that has never taken off. But live performance wasn't a stepping stone to making a TV show, if anything it was something I could always go back to that was consistent and immediate.

When the fringe show started catching a buzz with production companies and broadcasters, it felt like stars were aligning and a lot of the skills I'd garnered from various jobs within the industry started coming into play, including the theatrical elements of my performance style.

Juice. Image shows left to right: Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan), Guy (Russell Tovey)

How did you get Russell Tovey involved?

He randomly came to watch the show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018. How about that! Half way through the show I remember thinking what the hell is Russell bloody Tovey doing in the audience? He must have come in by mistake. But then he came backstage after to tell me how much he loved it. He was so lovely - he recommended it to all his followers on social media.

When the TV pilot got commissioned, I messaged him on Twitter and that was that! He's been a dream.

What was your ambition for the series?

I wanted to make something that I myself would watch on television. I love shows where you genuinely have no idea what's going to happen next. I want the series to entertain, to thrill but to also catch people off guard.

How would you best describe Juice?

A trippy joyride that's got the adventure and chaos of a cheese-induced dream but the emotional truth of a good therapy session.

Russell Tovey

Juice. Guy (Russell Tovey)

Russell, what can you tell us about your character Guy?

Guy is a therapist and has been through many periods of intense soul searching in his life to bring him to this point today. He's full of love but he has to work on his tendencies to parent and lecture others around him. He is a fairly solitary character and likes to be in a relationship to know he has a partner in crime to enjoy his life to the max. He's smart, shy and acerbic.

How would you describe Guy's relationship with Jamma?

Guy adores Jamma, he makes him laugh and cry and really challenges the personal boundaries that Guy has worked on to instil in himself. Every day is an adventure for Guy while with Jamma and this always feels exciting, addictive and as though they're on the verge of something dangerous!

Would you make a good therapist like Guy? Are you a good listener?

I'd like to think I've got the capacity to really listen to my friends and family when they ask for advice or understanding. I think being a therapist full-time must be exhausting and not something I'd have the mental capabilities for.

What was it like working with Mawaan?

Like Guy, I adore Mawaan. He is a true genius and his comedy feels so fresh yet also rooted into a great lineage of comedy history.

Juice. Image shows from L to R: Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan), Guy (Russell Tovey)

Have you seen any of Mawaan's YouTube or stand-up shows?

Yes - I first met Mawaan after his show in Edinburgh almost 7 years ago - I thought he was incredible and really connected to the stories so it's amazing really to be playing that part now.

Are there any similarities between you and Guy?

We certainly look the same, I'd like to have his outward calmness and consideration too. And his emotional consistency is something I'd like to have too.

Why did you want to be part of Juice?

Because I think Mawaan is a superstar and I loved the pilot.

What did you think when you first read the script?

That I had to play this role and be part of Juice by hook or by crook.

Do you have a favourite scene or episode from the series?

I loved the family dinner scene in Episode 3 and anything where myself and Mawaan had the opportunity to improvise.

How is Juice different from other shows you've worked on?

It's unlike anything else in its beautifully abstracted scope of ideas - it is fundamentally about love but, in Juice, it reveals all the complications of love in the most inventive ways ever.

Any funny moments on set?

Always.

How would you best describe Juice?

A seriously funny and clever comedy about one highly unfunctional man's ability to make the seemingly uncomplicated, complicated.

Nabhaan Rizwan

Juice. Isaac (Nabhaan Rizwan)

How would you describe Juice?

A surreal exploration of family history told through funky costumes and excellent bowl-cut wigs.

What can you tell us about your character Isaac?

Isaac is an avant-garde, socialist fashion icon with little direction in his life. A bit too cool for school (or employment) but he's soon to find what really matters to him.

What did you think when you first read the script?

"I didn't know Mawaan could spell" was the first thought. And then thinking I've got a good shot at playing his brother. I think it's really smart how he and Emily Lloyd-Saini (who plays Winnie and co-wrote Episode 4) contorted reality to make it funnier, and growing up was pretty funny.

What was it like working with your brother and mother?

Brotherly and motherly. I think we all had a few "What are you doing at my work?" moments but after that it was pretty chill. We all like to sneak in a tea to sip between takes.

Have you worked together before?

My brother used to put us in his YouTube videos, which gained some notoriety. But we're calling this the first official collab, with hopefully more to come.

Do you have a favourite episode or scene from the series?

Episode 5. It's pure magic.

Any funny moments from set?

Every time Jeff Mirza walked on set. The height difference between him and my mum is comedy gold.

Did you get to keep any of the props?

I tried for the tin foil sword from Farida's War Horse adaptation. There was understandably an age restriction on that.

Why should viewers tune in and watch Juice?

To witness a sharp take on work, family, and relationships with a cameo from Brown Elvis himself. The TV licence pays off here.

Shahnaz Rizwan

Juice. Farida (Shahnaz Rizwan)

What can you tell us about your character Farida?

Farida is a larger-than-life matriarch with big dreams. She can be impulsive, insulting and dramatic, which makes her a very enjoyable character to play.

What did you think when you first read the script?

I was very excited. It was a great opportunity to perform a totally different role than I have ever played.

Did you have any input into the writing process?

Not initially. But Mawaan was very good at working with my ideas during rehearsals and he would often amend the script to suit my voice and acting choices. It is lovely when the process is so collaborative and open.

What was it like working with your two sons?

It was like a dream to start our day early morning sitting in a row in the same make-up trailer. At the same time, it was very nostalgic working with them as after performing with my dad, sixty years ago, I was working with my children in such a professional manner.

Have you worked together before?

When they were children, I staged many local plays and community functions. Performing together was always a part of our life and a creative way to cope with difficult times.

When Mawaan was a teenager he picked up a camera and started making YouTube videos and short films. He made me wear terrible costumes and wigs and told me to act in the videos. I would often just insult him on camera. People on the internet loved it!

I had a very busy life and worked many jobs but I did it because I wanted him to stay busy in creative activities and develop his talents.

Never could I have imagined he would be writing and starring in his own BBC series. It was emotional to watch our journey come full circle. I am so proud of him and thankful that the terrible YouTube videos paid off.

Juice. Image shows left to right: Farida (Shahnaz Rizwan), Jamma (Mawaan Rizwan)

How would you best describe Farida's relationship with her family?

Like many people, Farida wants to be seen. She struggles with her family because she believes they are not recognising her for all her talents and hard work. She has made many sacrifices to get her family where they are. She's a star and she needs everyone to know - whether it's her children or her acting students.

Behind her dominating attitude is a soft heart. She does love her children; she just doesn't want to give them the pleasure of knowing that.

Do you have a favourite episode or scene from the series?

Yes, there are many scenes in almost every episode but if I have to pick only one in particular... In Episode 3 when Farida and Jamma are watching Guy's choir performance Farida makes a small emotional confession. It's a very quick exchange but for a character like Farida, you can see how hard it is for her to be vulnerable. You'll have to watch it to find out what I mean.

Any funny moments from the set?

I am very good at making realistic sound effects like a dog barking and a crying baby. During rehearsals, the directors Behnam and Gideon heard me bark and became obsessed. Sometimes after an emotional take, I would bark loudly and everyone would start laughing. A dog is very useful for morale on set.

How would you best describe the series?

It is a rollercoaster of vivid visuals, hilarious comedy and relatably flawed characters. It looks at the complexities of romantic relationships, the consequences of a broken family, and how a helpless mum fails to make a happy family in spite of all her hard work and sacrifices. And finally, how the course of a family's history is changed. We had a lot of fun immersing ourselves in the world of Juice, and the audience will too. It is unforgettable.

Published: Sunday 17th September 2023

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