Simon Bird: 'Danger with The Inbetweeners is that it will no longer be believable that we are under the age of 30'

Actor tells Gerard Gilbert about his new sitcoms and reveals his mother's real ambition for him

Simon Bird has just returned, suitably jet-lagged and reassuringly speccy, from promoting The Inbetweeners Movie in America. Already phenomenally successful in the UK, where it recorded the biggest ever opening weekend for a comedy film before going on to gross over £45m, the E4 sitcom big-screen spinoff is now showing in 80 cinemas across the US. "They split us [the cast] up", says Bird. "I got San Francisco and LA – Blake [Harrison, who plays dim-witted Neil] got Columbus, Ohio. Actually the fact that it's in America at all is a massive bonus. It's not really designed for America."

That latter fact is reflected by the pallid MTV remake of the show, which has been likened to The Wonder Years rather than the raucous, potty-mouthed British original. Bird's next appearance on British TV will be in the second series of Friday Night Dinner, the sitcom about a north London Jewish family and their weekly Sabbath meal-time gatherings. Channel 4 rate the show so highly it has scheduled it to follow the new series of Homeland on Sunday evenings.

"Six more episodes of silliness and fun", promises Bird cheerfully. "There's no character development or growth". In the show, filmed in a real suburban semi in Mill Hill, a north London neighbourhood with a large Jewish community, Bird plays Adam, a twenty-something music-jingle writer who reverts to being a puerile teenager whenever he returns home to see his parents – straight-talking Jackie (Tamsin Greig) and eccentric Martin (Paul Ritter). In the meantime he fights with his younger brother, Jonny, an estate agent played by Tom Rosenthal, son of sports presenter Jim Rosenthal and the only actual Jew among the cast members.

"Robert [Popper] didn't set out to write a Jewish sitcom, he set out to write an autobiographical sitcom and his family just happened to be Jewish", says Bird, who was born into a solidly professional middle-class, gentile family in Guildford 28 years ago. Both his parents are academics, as is one brother. The other two brothers are doctors.

He read English literature at Cambridge, and became president of Footlights, where he met future fellow "Inbetweener" Joe Thomas (Simon Cooper), as well as Jonny Sweet. The trio went on to write and perform sketches at the Edinburgh Fringe – which is where Bird was discovered by Iain Morris, who was then casting his new E4 sitcom. "We decided to go and watch the Footlights", Morris recalled last year, "because, hatefully smug as those shows can often be, they invariably contain at least one or two brilliantly talented performers".

Bird's own estimation of his performing ability is more equivocal, and he has no trouble with critics who say that Adam from Friday Night Dinner and Will from The Inbetweeners are virtually indistinguishable.

"I don't really view myself as an actor", he says. "I'm under no illusions – I'm not Philip Seymour-Hoffman – but I think the other way is perfectly valid as well. Somebody I love is Michael Cera, who was in Arrested Development and Superbad, who I don't think is very different in the things that he's in, but he's always funny".

Bird's mother – an economics lecturer – would have preferred her son to have chosen a different career path. "When I finished filming the first series of The Inbetweeners she said: 'Good, Simon, you can go back to your PhD now'. My parents get annoyed when I imply in interviews that they weren't 100 per cent behind it, but I think that is a fair reflection. My mum came to the premier of the film, but I think she just finds it all a bit rude. They much prefer Friday Night Dinner."

But if Mr and Mrs Bird worried about their son settling down, they needn't have. This summer he married his girlfriend since university, Lisa Owens, who works in publishing, and he now has a mortgage on a house in London. Perhaps he wouldn't need a bank loan, I suggest, if there was to be a sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie – £10m shared between the four cast members being one figure that has been reported.

"I know that Iain and Damon are talking about ideas for a sequel, but that's as far as it's gone", he says. "The two dangers are that it will no longer be believable that we are under the age of 30, and the other one is that we won't want to do it any more. The first film felt like a natural ending to The Inbetweeners, so I think as far as we're concerned we're happy to leave it there. We all really want to do other things."

One of those things – for Bird and Thomas at least – is Chickens, their First World War sitcom about three men (their old Footlights confrere, Sweet, makes up the trio) who, for one reason or another, are failing to do their duty on the Western Front. The pilot episode was aired last summer by Channel 4, but the full series – due out next year – will be on Sky. "Channel 4 turned it down", says Bird.

"We were surprised because it was very supportive throughout the whole thing and obviously Joe and I have a history of working for Channel 4. But I think that was probably the reason, in that Fresh Meat (which stars Thomas) and Friday Night Dinner are both on-going and The Inbetweeners is constantly being re-run, so it probably thought 'enough is enough'".

Chickens, he says, is more "terrifying" than previous projects because, instead of performing other people's material, this is their own baby. "Joe and I, having been in The Inbetweeners, have got this level of fame and recognition that we don't necessarily deserve", he says. "The Inbetweeners would have been a success with a totally different cast because the scripts are good – so while we were fortunate enough to be cast in it, we feel we still have a lot to prove. I guess this is our opportunity."

'Friday Night Dinner' returns on Sunday at 10pm on Channel 4

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders