Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs are at it again, this time with a full series on Fullscreen called Jack and Dean of All Trades. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of the first two episodes and let me tell you, it is seriously funny. I mean the ‘I’m sitting on a silent train during rush hour trying not to anger the Manhattan businessmen by laughing out loud, but end up just making weird noises because I can’t hold it in’ type of funny — not that that happened to me. I was eager to chat the guys and pick their brains apart about this clever new project, so I caught up with them amidst the chaos of VidCon to discuss the series, their characters, and that wonderful Marv (who I want to be my best friend).
Cliché: Obviously, as a series, you have six episodes to create deeper characters and plot arcs versus your normal three- or four-minute sketch. How was the writing process different?
Jack Howard: It was definitely interesting, but it felt like a very natural progression. The characters of Jack and Dean are already so solid in our heads that it was really fun to be find something to give those characters something to drive them, individually and as a friendship.
Dean Dobbs: We already know who they are as characters. This was introducing a deeper personality, in a way. Our audience knows Jack is the ‘serious one’ and Dean is the ‘funny one,’ so you don’t want to introduce anything that wouldn’t make sense for them because the audience will instantly reject that. I don’t know how we did it, but when I watch it, I think, “No, this is the same Jack and Dean.”
JH: It feels like we’ve popped them into a world rather than just a situation.
Expanding on that characterization, I really liked that the girls seemed like actual people with human personalities and not just second-tier plot points. Did you do anything specific to make sure that happened?
JH: Very early on, maybe a year or so before we even knew we knew going to make it, Marv was originally a guy. Then at one point I was talking to Andrea Valls, who plays Emma, and she said, “Why is it a man?” and I was like “Oh, good point,” and that was it. From that moment on, Marv was a woman, and we’re not going to consider the idea of going back. From that point on, it was more about “why is this person in this job? Why does this person care enough to stay here?” Later on, we got Andrea in again for an afternoon writing session and talked it through with her to really find the voice of Marv. Originally, we were thinking about casting her as the character, but she was too young, which is a shame, but then we found her the role of Emma.
DD: It’s interesting because the original version of Marv was a little bit more… seedy. Andrea played her in a kinder way and the kindness sort of aged her and it was clear that an older woman should play this. Not to say that you necessarily get kinder as you get older. [Laughs]
JH: Also, in the way that Jack in episode two sort of observes Emma was our response to the way movies tend to treat female co-stars. Dean’s character in that episode is pointing out that Jack’s character is wrong. He’s sort of just like, “Why are you doing this? Why don’t you just go say hello?”
DD: It’s well funny because Dean in the show is way more put together about that stuff than I am.
JH: I know you haven’t seen all of it yet, but the character of Emma throughout the show is sort of sprinkled in, but she plays a big role towards the end. She has a big secret that I think Andrea, more than any other actress, can bring across through this ‘face’ that Emma is putting on. You can tell that there is something else underneath, that she has this sort of fake confidence and there is more going on than we understand right away. We had to audition other actresses because Fullscreen wanted approval, which is totally fair, but they also agreed that she was the best.
You said that it was a natural progression because you know your characters so well. Was it difficult to start from the ground up on new characters like Marv and Emma and give them that type of depth?
DD: It was fun. Jack has obviously done projects like Project Library and other more character-based stuff, but it made me realize that I have never written any other characters other than Jack or Dean. So writing it was interesting because in my head, I knew what these things looked like, but seeing people play made them make more sense.
JH: I think if we get a season two (fingers crossed), I really want to explore the idea of making the show more of an ensemble, so it would be more like, “If Jack and Dean are over here doing this, what are Emma and Marv doing over there?”
What was the biggest surprise about this entire process for you?
DD: Jessica Hynes. Jessica. Hynes.
Just Jessica Hynes in general? [Laughs]
DD: We wrote Marv and were thinking, “If I could pick any actress for this character, it would be Jessica Hynes” –
JH: But obviously not Jessica Hynes because that will never happen.
DD: Because why would we be able to get one of the best comedic actors? But then we did.
JH: That was a moment we realized like, “Oh, this is bigger now.” Having the characters played by actors and not having to just ask one of our mates if they can spare the time to come in and be a character, not that that isn’t great, made it feel like this was something above and beyond anything we’ve done before.
DD: Also, the crew. They were from all over the place and I didn’t know most of them beforehand. I’m a bit of an anxious person, so I went in thinking, “Oh God, what if the focus pull is a bit of a dickhead and he’s there all the time?” You know, you don’t want to be in a crap mood while you’re doing a comedy, so I was just sitting there like, “It’s going to be 20 days and there might to be this horrible person there,” but turns out, they were all lovely people and the focus guy and the sound guy were two people I clicked with the most. I wrote the sound guy probably six songs.
JH: The positivity of the crew as well the entire time for the 20 days was incredible. These people wanted to make it a good thing. People wanted to be there. You hear stories about sets where people are complaining about lunches or organization, but everyone was really great and positive about everything.
DD: I also heard from a lot of people that this was their favorite thing they’ve ever worked on and it didn’t feel like they were just saying that to be polite.
JH: Yeah, my co-director Matt Holt said the same thing. He’s been directing for a long time but afterwards he told me that he really enjoyed the whole thing and it was the best-set experience he’s ever had.
DD: During the bakery shoot, we were working on this one specific shot and Matt goes, “I think I might be too creatively invested in this project,” with this huge grin on his face. I was like, that’s what I like to hear!
JH: I think it was the shot of the handprint developed onto the bread. Everyone was in a good mood and I just remember saying to Ciaran, “Can I get this shot” and he was just like, “Yeah, sure!” Normally, Ciaran’s just like, “Alright, yeah, okay,” but for that moment he was like, “Yes! Let’s do it!” I also remember once we got the whole shot with the bread and then the developing and the crumbs all over the floor, I showed Dean and he went, “This is too good to be in this series.”
Jack, knowing the crew had so much experience, was it intimating to take on that leadership role as the co-director, considering this was your first shot at this big of a scale?
JH: Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I live by the idea that you have to go into something with a bit of faux confidence, otherwise no one will take you seriously. Me and Matt Holt worked really well together and, okay this sounds really wanky, but I have a very clear vision for what Jack and Dean is; the tone of it, the pace of it, how it should look – and Matt just gets it and has no problem committing to that vision. But everyone on the set had a respect for the hierarchy of the set and who was in control over what, so people listened. I’ll be honest, it can be scary especially when people are older than you and you think they will look down on you as sort of like, “Who is this 24-year-old director who thinks he knows what he’s doing?” but no one did that and I think shows how wonderful the crew was to work with. They never had a laugh that this series was being helmed by somebody who hadn’t helmed anything this big before.
DD: Also, if anyone was going to give Jack any shit, they had to go through me.
You can watch episodes 1 and 2 on June 28th on Fullscreen’s streaming service with your first month free! And, if you can’t get enough Jack and Dean, you can read our conversation about their pilot “GFC” right here!
Read more Entertainment Interviews on ClicheMag.com
Photography courtesy of Fullscreen