In Series Eight of Derren Litten’s TV comedy series Benidorm, Steve Edge was part of the new Dawson family playing the role of Billy Dawson until the show ended in 2018, and he reunited with Derren Litten for his latest BBC comedy Scarborough, with Steve playing the role of Bigsy across all six episodes. Since starting his career, Steve has had many roles on screen which has seen him appear in Phoenix Nights, have his first lead role in The Cup and work with CBBC on their comedy series All At Sea. Also a writer, Steve released his comedy series Starlings in 2012, co-writing the show with Matt King, which they both also starred in. During lockdown last year, Steve appeared in Dun Breedin’ playing Steve Jameson opposite Julie Graham, who wrote the series and also co-starred with him in Benidorm, and he played Tony in Housebound. Talking with us, Steve tells us about playing Bigsy in Scarborough, his time as Billy Dawson in Benidorm and writing and appearing in Starlings.
How was it filming as Bigsy for Derren Litten’s new series Scarborough?
We had an absolute ball filming that series. The sun was shining for the few weeks we were there shooting and Scarborough looked amazing on film. Bigsy himself was a lot of fun to play; he was clumsy, conceited and full of bravado – most of which was a front for quite a sensitive man underneath it all. It was also nice to spend so much time with Jason (Manford), as we’ve been best friends for over twenty years but never really worked together. The only downside for me was the sideburns sported by Bigsy, these were ‘models own’, so I did have to live with those for six weeks. I’d find myself getting funny looks in the street and then remember what I had on my face.
The highlights for me were Harriet Webb, who played Bigsy’s love interest Lisa-Marie, and Rebekah Hinds, who played Yolanda, both extremely funny actors that made it difficult not to corpse mid-scene. Plus, working with Stephanie Cole was also a little dream come true. My son is named after a long-forgotten actor who was my wife’s grandad. Steph not only remembered him, but she’d also worked with him. She was a delight to be around.
Was there anything in particular that drew you to the character?
Most of it was there on the page as Derren had written a rounded, flawed, lovable idiot but there was also room to play. Lots of the clumsiness and puncturing of pride was added by me on set, which Derren was happy for us to do. It’s always fun to play someone that full of themselves with the knowledge that the character too is putting on an act. I think we saw a lot more of the real Bigsy when he was trying to woo Lisa-Marie, he was actually quite sweet and vulnerable. Having worked with Derren (and Jake Canuso) on the final three series of Benidorm, I knew we would have a lot of fun.
Can you say what Billy Dawson was like to play in Benidorm?
Billy was, in many ways, the mediator of the Dawson family, almost like a boxing referee in amongst the punches trying not to get knocked out himself. Sheron and Eddie never really saw eye to eye and neither did Lorenna and Billy, so it was quite the job to try and get out of the Solana without any bloodshed. It was lots of fun to film as I spent four-and-a-half months a year on the Costa Blanca in the sun and that makes a welcome change from a unit base on a Morrisons car park in Harrow, which is more often the norm.
What was it like working with your on-screen family?
For me personally, the best thing about my time on Benidorm was meeting my on-screen family. We’d never worked together before and we were the newbies to the show so we had to bond pretty quickly and luckily we all did. We had a gift of making each other dissolve in fits of hysterics whilst talking absolute nonsense. There are a lot of days being in the back of the shot, round the pool or at the Neptune’s Karaoke bar whilst filming, so we managed to keep each other entertained and loved spending time together. Josh (Bolt), Julie (Graham) and I had a Zoom meet up only last week for a catch up with a few glasses of vino tinto and we are all still very close. During filming, Knutty used to do a great big curry on some nights and me and Josh would go over to his flat in Albir for film nights and watch James Cagney films, which Josh had never seen before. Very happy memories, myself and Josh also made it to Sheffield for Knutty’s 70th. He’s still very much missed by all of us.
What do you enjoy most about working on a Derren Litten show?
There’s a real sense of family working on one of Derren’s shows. The characters, albeit not always related, exist in a kind of dysfunctional family unit, with some being more parental and others more childlike. Also, as a cast, you do a lot of your scenes within smaller groups so you get to know your family unit and how they all behave. Scarborough was a very different show because I think as much as Derren loved doing Benidorm, he was trying to do something slightly different, with more drama, cliffhangers and more pathos. And he had written it, was directing it and starring in it, so had a lot of plates to spin. It is a real shame we never got to do more because I think it would have only got better and better as we got to know the characters.
What was it like filming your episodes of The Reluctant Landlord and can you tell us about your character David Foster?
It was all filmed at Shepperton Studios, which is only twenty minutes from where I live, so that was a bonus. And the director was David Sant, who I’d worked with many times before, including a couple of series of Benidorm. One of the secrets of a successful sitcom is when you can tell the cast are actually enjoying themselves too. Rom (Ranganathan) is a real giggler, which I didn’t really expect before I’d met him because his stage persona is more abrasive, but he’s such a sweet man and we had a lot of laughs. I’ve also known Sian (Gibson) for about twenty-six years as we went to Uni together so that was a nice reunion. David Foster was a wonderful mixture of pretension and herringbone tweed. Very much the modern-day hipster who could prattle on for hours about small batch gin and ethical pub grub, but underneath it all was actually not a bad man. I think Rom’s character just saw something in David he actually admired but rather than admit that just turned on David. We always joked that one day he would snap and just tear the place apart taking no prisoners. I think bubbling beneath the surface David had had some terrible things happen to him in his life and this was maybe a façade he felt comfortable hiding behind.
How was it working with CBBC on their series All At Sea and what was it like to be part of?
All At Sea was a fantastic couple of series with a great bunch of kids and the chance to pretend Nicola Stephenson was my wife. It was mainly filmed on the old Shameless sets in Wythenshaw but we had a few days in Scarborough for location filming. Nicola and I had a lot of fun adding little bits here and there and most of that is still in the show, there was lots of room for messing about and being slightly larger than life as it was a kids show. Milly Zero, who played my daughter in the show, is in EastEnders now and I’m ridiculously proud of her, she was always fantastic. I still get kids coming up to me now and saying they love the show. We’d definitely have done more but the kids started to grow up, as they tend to do.
You wrote and played Fergie in Starlings, can you tell us more about this?
I did an episode of Peep Show (Series Two) and Matt King and I became great friends. We then did a sketch show together with Catherine Shepherd and Olivia Colman where we both decided we’d like to write something together. We basically set out to write a show about love in all its forms and what happens to it when life is thrown at it from a great height. A kind of modern day Darling Buds of May about a big family under one roof, rolling with the punches. We had a great cast with Brendan Coyle, Lesley Sharpe and Alan Williams as the grown ups of the family and also got the chance to get our mates Kev Bishop and Harry Peacock involved too. That’s the beauty of writing and producing your own show, you get to be more involved in things you wouldn’t normally have a say in. Danny Peacock, who was in absolutely everything we loved whilst growing up, had a small part in the first series and we loved him so much he became Terry’s boss in Series Two. Without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had on a film set in the most beautiful location up in Derbyshire. Also, having producers like Gill Isles and Henry Normal looking out for us meant we really couldn’t go wrong. Matt and I are still immensely proud of that show.
How did you find the experience writing for the series?
Matt and I are both former stand-up comedians so we’d always been writers, for ourselves and for other comedians when we’d hung up our mics. And we’d also both written lots of TV scripts but sadly getting things commissioned is the highest hurdle to jump so most things never see the light of day. Stuart Murphy, who was the head of Sky at the time, and Henry Normal and Steve Coogan’s BabyCow productions had a lot of faith in the idea so commissioned six one-hour episodes. I then moved to Brighton for four months where Matt and I spent every single day writing together. Once we’d finished writing six episodes, Sky asked for another two, but Matt was on holiday in Australia by this time. I then had to fly out to Bali so we could write two more episodes which, I have to say, was a lot nicer than the flat in Brighton we’d written the previous six episodes in. Series Two was a lot easier to write because we knew who our cast was this time round and what they did best, so could aim certain plotlines towards their strengths. The second series remains my favourite, especially the fishing trip episode. We went from big laughs to heavy pathos in seconds and Matt was brilliant in those scenes. I also loved all the stuff with Judith (Cherie Lunghi) and Fergie’s shock at finding out someone had carried a torch for him for nigh on twenty years. Cherie was fantastic in all of those scenes and a joy to work with as was Deborah Finlay, who turned up as Fergie’s terrible mother in one episode. We were so blessed to have such great actors really mucking in and doing their best.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time in Phoenix Nights?
It was the second acting job I’d ever done, the first being four episodes of That Peter Kay Thing, so none of us really knew what to expect. I’d been to Uni with Peter, and he said that if he ever wrote something, he’d put me in it. A couple of years later, I was in Blackpool shooting the Eyes Down episode of That Peter Kay Thing. At the time, we were all still stand-ups who’d met at some gig somewhere rather than actors, so we were learning as we went. We were basically in all day for the six weeks of filming at St Gregory’s in Farnworth, and we had a great time. We had no idea that Neil (Fitzmaurice), Dave (Spikey) and Peter had written something that we’d still be talking about twenty-odd years later. I think my favourite memory would be the audition days where we all sat and watched the acts that appeared on the closing credits. None of that is acting, we are crying with laughter at some points.
In 2015, you were involved with Phoenix Nights LIVE for Comic Relief, how was this?
It was great to get the gang back together and just make each other laugh as we had done fifteen years earlier. And the chance to play an arena in front of 15,000 people was something you’d never get to do unless you were in Take That. Each night was an absolute privilege. The only downside was that because Toby and I, as the band, never really got to see any of the show because we were on stage for most of it. It was very much an event that you had to be there to see but I would’ve loved to have seen a recording just so I could see what everyone else saw.
Over the years, you’ve been involved with many screen roles including Plebs, The Cup and Walk on the Wild Side, can you tell us about some of them?
Walk on the Wild Side came about because the BBC had lots of wildlife footage which mainly has no sound because you can’t really hover a boom mic over a gazelle’s head as they’re getting torn apart by a lion. So a few of us watched the footage and wrote what we thought the animals might be saying. The marmot shouting Alan, which I wrote and voiced, seemed to take on a life of its own at one point and I’d like to apologise to anyone called Alan who has had it shouted at them in the street. The Cup was the first time I’d been the lead in a show so was both nerve wrecking and exciting. Jack Docherty and Moray Hunter had written it and it was based on a Canadian show about hockey. Ours was football and was shot in that pseudo-documentary style made famous by things like Spinal Tap. There was a great script in place but I was also free to improvise and lots of that made it into the edit. I was nominated for a British Comedy Award for my performance so I was very pleased with the end result. Jenny Hennessey, who played my wife in the show, is an absolute dream to work with, she really should be in everything.
How was it filming Dun Breedin’ and Housebound during lockdown and can you say more about them?
There was very little to do in the first lockdown and even less to keep you sane so when Julie Graham said she’d written something and wanted me to play her husband (again), I jumped at the chance. We all shot our own sequences individually, me in my actual shed and Julie down in Brighton. It was brilliantly written but I always knew she was multi-talented, so that came as no surprise. Housebound was written by Justin Sbresni and Mark Bussell, who I’d worked with on Guantanamo Phil and The Royal Bodyguard. I’ve always loved their writing so when they asked me to play a man filled with rage of Zoom-based quizzes I was not even acting at that point in lockdown, the quiz rage was tangible.
Had you always wanted to do acting and comedy and how did you start?
I used to make little films with my friends with a camcorder when I was younger but didn’t know how to get involved but had always obsessively loved comedy. I started by doing a BTEC in performing arts when I was eighteen and then went onto the University of Salford where they did a stand-up comedy module on the Media Performance degree course. It was there I met Peter and we both had a love of comedy and became friends. I then worked as a stand-up for about ten years, doing acting work as and when it came up until I finally got too much acting work to continue doing stand-up. Gigs are booked so far in advance and I ended up having to cancel them if I got an acting job so decided to concentrate on that and writing.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the industry?
My advice would be to research what field you want to work in, learn from the greats, stay humble, always listen and remember that fame is the least important part of the job. Doing the job is the reward, anything else is a bonus. If you’re getting paid for doing a job you love, you’ve won.
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