James Buckley may be well known for playing the outrageously hilarious and unlucky-in-love Jay Cartwright in Channel 4 hit sitcom, The Inbetweeners. However, away from his mischievous on-screen alter-ego, the 34-year-old is happily married to his wife of nearly ten years, Clair Buckley, with whom he shares two young sons: ten-year-old Harrison and eight-year-old Jude.
The couple are making waves within the social media generation, having launched their YouTube channel, At Home with The Buckleys, in November 2020. With a huge social media following, the channel is continuing to go from strength to strength with 147,000 subscribers and more than 10 million video views.
WATCH: James and Clair Buckley share their exciting news
On the back of this, both James and Clair are releasing their debut book, At Home With the Buckleys. The book is one couple's take on the wild ride that is modern marriage, parenting and adulting.
Ahead of the exciting release, we spoke with the stars as part of our Back to School digital issue guest-edited by Alesha Dixon.
James, we all know about your character in The Inbetweeners... but what were you really like at school?
James: "Nothing, quite nondescript, I wasn't really interesting. I liked making people laugh but I was really into music and playing the guitar. When I was playing the guitar or learning how to play an instrument, people were listening to things like Sweet Like Chocolate and Artful Dodger.
"Nobody was really interested in instruments and bands. My break times and lunches were me mostly in a music room on my own, playing the guitar. I sort of flew under the radar."
Before you had children, did you have any ideas of what kind of parents you'd be and did you fulfil those expectations?
James: "I had a sort of idea and I think that's what happened to me. I basically made two little mates that I can hang out with."
Clair: "Well one of the first things we did when I was pregnant with our first [child] was to buy a guitar. We wanted to make sure that they like their music, and get them to appreciate it. Sometimes you try to get kids to like stuff and it makes them really not like them. Luckily our two boys love the Beatles and they love music.
"James and the boys always watch old cartoons that James used to watch, like Bananaman and SuperTed. We've sort of brought them up in the same way that we were brought up. They like watching the stuff that we watched, the music that we listened to. Of course, the only big difference is YouTube, just like every other kid, they love YouTube."
James and Clair share two young sons
James: "We're a very close family. We're pretty much always together. All we want to do is hang out with each other. I think we all get on very well and we all enjoy each other's company.
"To be honest, that's the kind of parent I've always wanted to be. I guess I had more of a traditional upbringing where I was just worried about getting into trouble and keeping secrets from my mum and dad."
Clair: "We're definitely more open and especially in today's age, I think you have to be. Harrison, at the moment, is learning about online safety and about different kinds of people in the world in school.
"We like to be really open, honest and teach them all the stuff that you would hope the new generation is going to grow up to be."
James: "We've always spoken to them as equals. We've always just spoken to them in an open and honest way. I think it's important to have these conversations. As the boys get older, there's going to be some [interesting] conversations on the horizon."
I bet you're looking forward to that...
James: "Harrison is ten now and he's started having sex education lessons. I was actually away working on something and he came home, and said, 'Dad, I've started to have sex education, and I've got some questions.' I said, 'Well, I'll be honest mate, I've probably got some questions for you as well, but maybe we can learn together as we go along.'"
As you've expanded your family, have you got into a better groove of learning to balance everything? Or has it got more hectic?
James: "Carving out time for us two – whether it's just dinner – is hard. I think we've made it to dinner half a dozen times over the last decade. It is really difficult, it is really tricky. But luckily for us, we love to hang out with our boys, hang out with each other as a group."
Clair: "Jude is a little bit more of a boy's boy. Harrison loves to sort of get dressed up. So if we say, 'Oh, we're going to go for dinner.' They both light up. Even date night as a foursome is great, it's just what we do."
The couple are huge on social media
What are your top back-to-school organisational tips for parents?
James: "I think we've got tips that we ourselves have never used. Basically, just try and get stuff done in advance. Try and get things done at the beginning, like new school uniforms. I'd say Clair is the most organised, but I don't think either of us is."
Clair: "When it comes to the kids I'm the most organised. The year after the first COVID lockdown, that was obviously when everybody was working from home and the boys were doing their schooling online. Then suddenly it was, 'Oh, they're going to go back to school.' I just hadn't thought about uniforms.
"I suddenly had the thought on the Saturday before they went back [to school] on the Monday, and I was like, 'Oh my God, they've not worn their uniform for a year and a half.' They put on their shirts and they had belly tops.
"And I was just like, 'Oh no!' But I would say just try to do stuff. Trying to get a pencil case these days, all the good ones are bought up. So, we'll probably start in mid-August, start ordering stuff and get organised. That's another fun thing, I think the boys love it when they pick their new bag, a new lunchbox, and a new water bottle."
As parents of younger kids, how do you feel about the prospect of them starting secondary school? Are you feeling scared? Excited?
James: "I try not to think about it because all it does is remind me how old I'm getting."
Clair: "A little bit nervous, I don't know. But maybe, we should give ourselves a little pat on the back - we made it to secondary! We kept him alive, we kept him hydrated."
They love spending time with their children
James: "That was the part I said when I found out I was going to be a dad. I was just like, 'Right, just keep them alive.' They seem to be doing all right. They're thriving those boys."
Clair: "I would say a bit nervous and excited too."
James: "Going to secondary school, a different school… It is serious, it's a bit more serious. You start to make proper friends and also you have to do proper work."
Clair: "There's a lot of big decisions when you get to secondary school. But you know, you've got to do it. Again, it's the next level of parenting, really talking about the future and talking about what you might want to do with the rest of your life, which is a huge conversation.
"It's an exciting time as well because you get to really see them shape up, where they're going to go and what they want to do. It will be exciting, but I'm sure it'll come with its stresses and its drama, but that's all part of it."
How do you navigate phones and social media as parents?
James: "This is something every parent will have to tackle."
Clair: "They don't have any form of social media or any way to even get on to the Internet. They've got their little iPads where they play games on and they can watch kids' YouTube. We have been quite strict with them."
The couple married in 2012
James: "They just don't need things like Facebook and Snapchat. Harrison has asked for a phone a couple of times and we are yet to oblige."
Clair: "I think when it comes to secondary school, it's probably a good idea for him to have an emergency phone. I think it's quite difficult to balance it because you don't want them to be the only kid at school without Facebook, a phone or whatever it might be. It's difficult because you don't want them to feel left out."
James: "It's just for safety and to make sure they feel protected. It's just a never-ending tightrope. You want them to be happy and you don't want to say, 'You can't do that or have that.' Ultimately, their safety, that's the most important thing."
Clair: "I think schools in general now are quite good about online safety because of the times we live in. I think it's also about keeping on top of it with your children.
"There's also an element of trust so that they don't hide stuff and lie to you. Right now, they are still too young so we'll try to enjoy the last few years before they explore it."
How would you feel if your children went into acting?
James: "I would be really happy to help them and push them into whatever direction. I wouldn't want to hold them back with whatever they want to do. My only deal is they get the grades so they have something to fall back on.
"I want them to concentrate, on their exams, maybe get some qualifications. Then if there's something they want to pursue, I'll help them in any way I can. But they need to have an education - because I learnt the hard way.
At Home With The Buckleys, £14.95, Amazon
"Things like acting and music, while they are absolutely amazing and you go on these adventures, I don't really have anything else to fall back on. [My job] it's still very precarious – you might not see me acting in anything again, it might be the end. Whatever they want to do, we will fully support them. I would never push them into following my footsteps, I rather they didn't – get a job and get a good wage, something that has stability and security."
Your YouTube videos are extremely popular, and now with a new book coming, do you think you might turn to making podcasts?
James: "I don't know but it could be a natural progression. I am a fan of them. My motto these days is, 'If everyone else is doing it, then why not?' Finally, what can we expect from the book?"
Clair: "It's just funny stories, little anecdotes, and a couple of recipes. It's just things we do on the YouTube channel. So really it could be for everybody."
James: "We're pretty much just like everybody else in the country, so we wrote in a way that we would like to read if someone else had penned it. You don't have to read it from cover to cover all in one go, it's just little five-minute anecdotes here and there about how we first met and things we get up to with the kids. Hopefully, each segment lasts about as long as a poem."
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