The First Team. Image shows from L to R: Olivia Talbot (Tamla Kari), Mark Crane (Will Arnett), Benji Achebe (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah), Mattie Sullivan (Jake Short), Jack Turner (Jack McMullen), Chris Booth (Chris Geere), Petey Brooks (Theo Barklem-Biggs).

The First Team

BBC Two sitcom about footballers. 6 episodes (1 series) in 2020. Stars Jake Short, Shaquille Ali-Yebuah, Jack McMullen, Will Arnett and others.

The First Team. Olivia Talbot (Tamla Kari).

Tamla Kari interview

Tamla Kari, who played Lucy in The Inbetweeners Movie, is reunited with writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley to play the press officer in their football comedy The First Team.

Having worked with Iain and Damon before on The Inbetweeners, did they reach out to you with this particular part in mind?

When the scripts were in the early stages, myself and other actors were asked to do a read through of the drafts so that Iain and Damon could hear it out loud and get a feel for what was and wasn't working.

Once the scripts were completed and casting began, Nadira Seecoomer, the casting director, asked me to self tape. I was on holiday at the time and I had to turn it around pretty quickly. I had my mum and two other family members in pyjamas huddled around a laptop reading the lads parts whilst I balanced my phone on a bin and biscuit tin to film. Once I got back home, I went in to meet with Damon and Iain for a recall and got the good news a few days later.

What can you tell us about your character in The First Team and her role within the club?

Olivia is the head of press and has a player liaison type of role. Basically, she has to sort out all the crap the players get themselves into off the pitch (which is a lot!).

She's kind of like a mean big sister. The players go to her with their problems but ultimately, she works for the club and whatever the club says, goes. There's no loyalty. She has the power to end a player's career at the club by putting something into the press whether it's true or not. She takes no prisoners and has no time for idiots.

Do you relate to Olivia at all?

I'd like to think I possess a bit more empathy than Olivia... she's a proper hard ass. I don't think you see her crack a smile throughout the whole six episodes! She doesn't suffer fools gladly and neither do I so we're alike in that sense.

The First Team. Image shows from L to R: Olivia Talbot (Tamla Kari), Mark Crane (Will Arnett), Benji Achebe (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah), Mattie Sullivan (Jake Short), Jack Turner (Jack McMullen), Chris Booth (Chris Geere), Petey Brooks (Theo Barklem-Biggs).

Despite being surrounded by men most of the time, Olivia's character definitely exerts her authority over the players. Can you discuss her unique position in this male dominated environment?

Olivia isn't intimidated by the guys and environment. She thinks they're all a bunch of divs! Sometimes she can become exasperated by the idiocy of it all but fundamentally, she's great at her job and she's the calm and constant amongst the chaos. She sees it for what it is. A business.

Did you do any research when preparing for the role or based your character on anyone in particular?

Iain and Damon spoke to me about somebody who has Olivia's job essentially, so I had an understanding of who she was and what her role was in real terms. I didn't base her on anyone in particular, but I watched a lot of clips of Karren Brady in The Apprentice. She is super smart and sassy and has a real edge to her. I wanted to bring a bit of that to Olivia.

What was it like to be back working with Iain and Damon?

I was so happy to be working with them again. I felt very grateful to them for trusting me with the role. After I got over my initial nerves on my first few days of filming, it just felt great to be back on set with them. They're so supportive and I felt really comfortable and confident.

I was a bit like a rabbit in the headlights when we filmed The Inbetweeners Movie but this time, I was able to take everything in and really appreciate it all. Being on set with them was always fun and it was impressive to see how many calories they could smash in between them. Damon with his crisps and Iain with his biscuits. It was a lot.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Really great. I was scared on my first day having to walk into a dressing room and address a whole football team but everyone was lovely. I got to work with Neil Fitzmaurice who plays Jack's dad again after not seeing him in a long time and also it was good to work with Theo Barklem-Biggs properly. We were in The Inbetweeners Movie together, but we never actually met during filming.

Do you have any favourite moments from filming?

Filming in the club shop and members of the public walking into it mid-scene thinking it was open. There was an incident where there was a war between Iain and an automatic door. I think Iain's head nearly span round and exploded. It was pretty funny for us, probably not so much for Iain. My favourite moment was probably the last day of filming. Most of the cast were in the last scene so it was nice to celebrate all together.

Are you a football fan? Do you follow the Premier League?

I used to be when I was younger. I was a Man United supporter (sorry Coventry). You could spot me pretty easily in class photos in primary school. I was the fat kid in the United shirt. I loved Eric Cantona and had pictures of him stuck to my French books in secondary school like an utter loser. Now I don't really follow it. I just go through the pain of watching England biannually...

What can audiences expect from The First Team?

Silliness. Cringe. Lots of laughs.

More The First Team interviews

Published: Tuesday 26th May 2020