A FOUNDER member of Edinburgh Fringe favourites Lady Garden, Jessica Knappett followed her stint in the female sketch troupe with the role of Neil’s love interest in The Inbetweeners Movie.
Now she’s written – and stars in – her first sitcom, Drifters, about three mid-twenties women living in Leeds struggling to cope with dreadful jobs and dysfunctional relationships, drifting until something better comes along.
Produced by The Inbetweeners creators Damon Beesley and Iain Morris and also co-starring Lydia Rose Bewley and Lauren O’Rourke – who were also in the high-grossing film – Drifters has drawn inevitable comparisons to the sixth-form comedy and Lena Dunham’s hit Girls, with its career frustrations, angsty sensibility and frank discussions about sex. It is, however, more knockabout than the US show, and Knappett’s creations are (marginally) more self-aware than Jay, Will, Simon and Neil.
Knappett is ambivalent about the resemblances. “There are similarities [to The Inbetweeners], in that we’re a group of friends in a hinterland period of our lives,” she ventures.
“I suppose we share a similar desperation to those boys always trying to find ‘clunge’. But we’re less crude and more desperately trying to find a source of income – along the way having ups and downs in friendships and relationships. If we have even a fraction of their success, we’ll be very lucky.”
Admitting that the show is semi-autobiographical has been problematic for the 29-year-old. As with a notorious Lady Garden sketch, there’s a plot strand in Drifters that focuses on scabies, an embarrassing, itchy skin condition that she’s personally dealt with – “the best way a writer possibly can, which is write about it till the pain goes away!”
Like her socially awkward character Meg, she’s “quick to point out that, yes, it can be sexually transmitted. But not necessarily!”
Attracting comic luminaries such as Bob Mortimer and The Fast Show’s Arabella Weir to play Meg’s parents was a vote of confidence in her writing, “like a paternal link to the shows you watched growing up, reassuring that you must be doing something right”. Nevertheless, she’s understandably worried that viewers will transpose her parents’ love life on to an entirely fictional and explicit incident alluded to in one episode.
“That’s going to be embarrassing for them,” she sighs. “But I’ve watched it with my mum. I said ‘sorry’ because she was crying. But it was tears of laughter, she thought it was hilarious.
“I’m not sure my dad will see it though. It might be a good idea for him to stay away after the damage I did to him with The Inbetweeners.”
• Drifters will be available to own on DVD from 25th November 2013