Morgana Robinson and Mat Horne star in a new family sitcom for Gold

ExclusiveMonday 29th November 2021, 11:53am by Jay Richardson

  • Newark, Newark is based on writer Nathan Foad's adolescence in the East Midlands town
  • Newcomer Jai Hollis plays Leslie, based upon the young Foad, who is struggling with coming out ... sort of
  • Foad said: "It's a working-class, family sitcom. But the main focus is on the relationship between a mother and her son"
Image shows from L to R: Morgana Robinson, Mathew Horne

Morgana Robinson and Mat Horne are to star in a new family sitcom from Gold, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Loosely based on the upbringing of rising writer-performer Nathan Foad, Newark, Newark features the freshly crowned Taskmaster champion and Gavin & Stacey star portraying Maxine and Terry, parents of Leslie, played by relative newcomer Jai Hollis (Ackley Bridge), as Maxine adjusts to life post-divorce, Terry tries desperately to win her back and Leslie grapples with coming out and nobody caring.

Filming on the three 40-minute episodes begins today in Foad's home town of Newark-on-Trent, with the mini-series set to air early next year.

"There are elements in the show that are very closely based on my life but then I've fictionalised large parts of it" Foad told BCG. "It's a working-class, family sitcom. But the main focus is on the relationship between a mother and her son. Then we open out onto the wider family as well."

Goodness Gracious Me's Nina Wadia, Saskia Chana (The Bisexual, Starstruck), Jessie Mae Alonzo and Vahid Gold co-star, alongside Foad, who also writes the series and executive produces.

The comic and actor (pictured below) recently joined Sky's paramedic sitcom Bloods for its second series. And he will appear in Taika Waititi's period pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death for US channel HBO, alongside the Oscar-winning Kiwi director, Rhys Darby, Samson Kayo, Guz Khan, Joel Fry and Ewan Bremner.

Nathan Foad

But Foad's first job was working in his mother's chip shop, which she ran in Newark-upon-Trent for 21 years.

"She didn't like being called the manager, she was the manageress, a classy dame" laughs the comedian, who was part of the BBC's 2020 Comedy Room writing initiative and whose scripting credits include The Young Offenders. "So a lot of the show is set in and around Leslie working in that chip shop".

Mother and son are "going on a joint coming-of-age journey.

"Her recently divorced, him coming out as gay to very little fanfare. And he's furious about that. They have this summer where it's the two of them in a pressure cooker environment. Maxine is trying to find her mojo again as a single woman, what lights her fire. And Leslie, as a lot of teenagers do, is just clinging to anything resembling a personality or an identity. He's just trying to figure out who he is."

Newark, Newark

The production invited locals to audition and many of the series' younger cast members were drawn from Newark and the surrounding East Midlands.

London-based Foad left his home town at 18. But "most of my family is still here" he explains. "It's a very unique place aesthetically. And socio-economically and socio-politically, it's really interesting. I always thought it was really right for storytelling.

"It's a very proud town. It could have its own slang dictionary, it's like another language. And it's compelling, dynamic, I've always thought. It shaped me into who I am today."

Newark, Newark is directed by Amanda Blue (The Windsors) and produced by former BBC Studios development producer Kenny Tanner (There She Goes, Mandy) for production company Balloon Entertainment (An Evening With Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse, Harry And Paul's Story Of The 2s), which was setup by Enfield and Skins creator Bryan Elsley.

Originally piloted for Channel 4 in 2019 with a cast including character comic Colin Hoult and The Other One's Lauren Socha, the taster also featured Hollis, whom Foad praises as "absolutely fabulous.

"He was a real find for us. The part is so specific, it was hard. It's not the sort of role that's easy to slot an already established actor into because I was such a little goober as a teenager. I wanted someone that felt like a younger version of me. And that wasn't easy to get."

Newark, Newark was commissioned for UKTV by commissioning editor Sarah Asante and head of scripted Pete Thornton. The series was ordered by Gerald Casey, channel director for Gold.

"I'm thrilled to be working with Balloon Entertainment on my first commission for Gold" said Asante. "Nathan has written three incredibly funny scripts and the fact that it's a semi-autobiographical story adds a wonderful warmth, authenticity and distinctive voice to this family sitcom."

Casey added: "We are so excited to add this brilliant new comedy to our slate of UKTV Original scripted shows on Gold. The characters in Newark, Newark are so expertly written, and the cast is excellent. I can't wait to watch!"

The series is executive produced by Elsley and Dave Evans of Balloon with Foad.

"It's been a very mad sort of year" he reflects. "Acting has come back on the cards in a big way, which is really cool. But my first love has been, and always will be, writing. I'm excited about everything. Yet though it sounds schmaltzy, this really is my dream come true."

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