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Big Boys creator Jack Rooke on writing about real-life trauma experiences: 'It's a big responsibility'

Dylan Llewellyn stars as a semi-fictionalised version of Jack in the Channel 4 comedy

Big Boys creator Jack Rooke on writing about real-life trauma experiences: 'It's a big responsibility'
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
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Big Boys creator Jack Rooke has said he felt a "big responsibility" when writing about his family's real-life grief in his hit Channel 4 comedy. 

The sitcom stars Dylan Llewellyn as a semi-fictionalised version of Jack, who is trying to overcome grief after his father's passing while also exploring his sexuality at university. 

WATCH: Dylan Llewellyn and Jon Pointing star in Big Boys series 2

The series is loosely based on Jack's 2020 memoir, Cheer the [expletive] Up, which explores the comedian's mental health journey following his father Laurie's death and the suicide of his best friend, Olly. 

During a Q&A at the launch of series two, Jack revealed his approach to writing about real-life experiences for the show. "I try to make sure that I'm keeping everything at a respectable, kind distance and a change from real people's perspectives because I think you've got the capacity to cause a lot of hurt and upset," he said. "It's not only my life, it's also my mum's. I take it as a big responsibility."

Dylan Llewellyn as Jack and Jon Pointing as Danny in Big Boys series two© Channel 4 / Olly Courtney
Dylan Llewellyn as Jack and Jon Pointing as Danny in Big Boys series two

Praising the cast for respecting his story, he went on to say: "I feel very, very safe that [the cast] genuinely has a real connection with the story and respects it a lot. I actually feel very looked after by all of them."

Camille Coduri, who plays Jack's mum Peggy in the series, also spoke of the "constant reminder" of the painful experiences that inspired the show. 

Speaking about returning to set for series two, Camille revealed how the cast "constantly remind" each other "that there's a massive reason for this show that may have been very painful for a lot of people in Jack's family, including Jack." 

The series is loosely based on writer Jack Rooke's real life© Channel 4 / Olly Courtney
The series is loosely based on writer Jack Rooke's real life

"Yet, he's decided, unselfishly, to share it with everyone and make it a success. It's a fantastic homage to those people who live on forever," she added. 

When writing the show, Jack was keen to make sure there were just as many laughs as there were tears. "For me, when I went through losing my dad, I certainly felt like there wasn’t much stuff that I could watch where I felt like I could really relate to that experience," he told Channel 4. "I felt like the only rule I really had with Big Boys was that if I was going to do something that was very emotionally charged, or potentially dealing with traumatic themes, that there still had to be loads of jokes in there. That for every sad moment, it had to have a massive gag after it, because I still want to write a comedy."

Series two sees the gang return to university for their second year © Channel 4 / Rob Parfitt
Series two sees the gang return to university for their second year

For those unfamiliar with the show, series one explores the unlikely friendship between shy, closeted teen Jack and his uni roommate Danny, who despite his laddish exterior is struggling with his mental health. 

When we meet Jack and Danny in series two, they're struggling to find somewhere to live as they prepare to go into their second year at Brent University. While Jack's family continues to navigate life after his dad's passing, Danny revisits his past.