Dylan Llewellyn: ‘I want to go to the dark side for my next role – I’ve got it in me’
Dylan Llewellyn’s trips to Tesco are a little different these days. He was in Belfast recently looking at the shelves and minding his own business, the Covid mask and all. Nevertheless, a fan stopped him: Here was this “little English guy” from the TV. “I tried to be undercover,” he said Derry girls star tells me “But the fan said, ‘I recognized your accent and your curls.'”
In fact, Llewellyn hears this nickname wherever he goes. It’s a sign of the Channel 4 show’s phenomenal impact that he’s now known to millions of fans around the world as the Channel 4 hit show’s ‘little English dude’ – despite being 5ft 9in for a Brit one has average size. Llewellyn was washing dishes when his agent called to say he’d landed the part. “I really had a year of nothing. I didn’t get many auditions and I couldn’t really land anything,” he says. “It was a tough time…then I found out I had been cast Derry girls and I said, ‘Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo It drew me right back into the acting world. It was fantastic.”
In the Bafta-nominated Troubles comedy, which just ended on an electrifying, emotional note after three seasons, Llewellyn played James, the confused British boy who stands out from a group of rowdy Northern Irish schoolgirls. And they don’t let him forget his English girl for a second. In the Season 3 premiere, Saoirse-Monica Jackson’s Erin tells James his breathing is “actually a bit oppressive.” In a previous series, James confesses to the girls while revising the story that he “can’t tell my rebellions from my riots,” to which cousin Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) shoots back, “If you all stopped when the five of us fucking minutes would invade us if there wasn’t so much to learn. Llewellyn says he’s just as cute as James in real life, but “sassier.” “I wouldn’t take it as much as James did if I was in that scenario,” he says.
As a token Englishman on the show, Llewellyn had to learn a lot of jargon. “The girls are like my sisters now and their slang is second to none,” the 29-year-old tells me via video call from the flat he shares with his brother in Surrey. “I love ‘pee’ and ‘catch yourself’, it’s like a way of saying ‘get your ideas together’. I love ‘dote’ which is like ‘cute’. ‘Oh, you little darling,'” he says, grinning to himself. “And ‘wain’! Wain is a child. When I first heard that, I was like, ‘Wayne’s World! Wayne’s World!’ And they said, ‘No, Dylan.'”
Much has been written about Llewellyn’s cupid-like curls – which he twists and pulls a lot while chatting – and his dimples. “I think I can thank my parents for those genes and their youthful looks,” he says, laughing sheepishly when I bring it up. “It’s pretty common for actors to have that, playing younger than themselves. I think it’s pretty cool.” Is he keen to shake things up and play a twisted psychopath next? “I want to go to the dark side,” he says, smiling. “Go to my casting in a completely different way. I really would. I have it in me to do it.”
The dark side will have to wait though as he is currently back on TV screens as another total sweetheart in the new Channel 4 comedy. big boys. Llewellyn plays Jack (after series screenwriter Jack Rooke), a freshman entering Brent University who comes to terms with being gay while grieving the death of his father. “Statistics show that everyone will eventually die,” Rooke says offscreen. “But it sucks when they’re 56 and your dad and the only one who knew the Sky Movies pin.” Jack is a loveable, blushing, mild-mannered, fleece-wearing ITV addict – a stark contrast to his new roommate Danny ( hilariously and gleefully played by Jon Pointing), whose presence is a satisfying inversion of the gay best friend trope. To Jack’s dismay, Danny says things like, “Dude, it’s freshman night, there’s cool birds to meet. Come on, you can’t expect me to go out there, bareback, on my death. I need a wingman!” The unlikely duo soon become inseparable.
Jack’s other best friend is his mother, Peggy (Camille Coduri). “Ever since we found out Dad was ill,” he explains at one point, “me and Peggy would have stuck together like Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, but deep down we were sad like Eamonn and Ruth.” I got on the first episode of counted no fewer than nine references to ITV shows and presenters big boysout The x factor to Jeremy Kyle and Permissive women. Jack, who is studying journalism, has a goldfish named after his favorite broadcaster: Alison Hammond. The show is likely to be revered by the followers of Love of Huns (British culture’s hugely popular Instagram account), but paradoxically its niche could also make it a global hit, like other exports Derry girls and This country. “The jokes are so homely,” says Llewellyn. “You can relate. There are decent jokes, and it’s a mix of healthy, cheeky, and rude. The perfect balance.”
Among all the jokes, the show based on Rooke’s memoir Cheer the F**k Up, weaves a thread of sorrow. It centers on a boy struggling without his father, and both Jack and Danny struggle with depression and anxiety. “I also had a family passport,” says Llewellyn. “It is very important to me to be part of such a project. I know what Jack has been through… He finds humor in difficult subjects like grief. We fight, people fight. I think it’s important that we address these things and try to open up as much as possible and try to help each other.”
Llewellyn began acting as a teenager while attending More House in Farnham, a special school for children with autism, dyslexia and developmental disabilities. He struggled at his previous school because of his dyslexia, but he says More House, who he switched to when he was 11, “helped me so much”. “I feel like I’m a better person for it and being able to keep up with the scripts and all that,” he says. He wanted to be a photographer growing up and just chose acting as a ‘fun subject’ so he could focus on his photography GCSE, but then found that he loved acting.
When Llewellyn’s GCSE drama company won a competition to perform at London’s National Theater he was spotted and got an agent when he was just 16. He then studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and had roles there Hollyoaks, City of Holby and Call the midwifebefore his big break came Derry girls. None of his family are performers, but his brother has tried to come along The x factor once. “It’s a shame he didn’t go all the way, you know, that happens,” he says.
Llewellyn next stars on Danny Boyle’s show pistol as Wally Nightingale, the former lead guitarist for the Sex Pistols – or The Swankers, as they were then known – who was kicked out of the band by manager Malcolm McLaren for wearing glasses and not being “punk” enough. “He was a talented musician and it’s so sad what happened,” says Llewellyn, looking genuinely dejected. There might be a few more delays before he arrives on the dark side; He is a treasure inside.
Big Boys is now available on All4
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https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/dylan-llewellyn-derry-girls-big-boys-b2087994.html Dylan Llewellyn: ‘I want to go to the dark side for my next role – I’ve got it in me’