Bobby Johnson

📷 : Michael Shelford

In the Bad Education Reunion Special in December 2022, Bobby Johnson was seen as his new regular role of Harrison in the British television sitcom for the first time, alongside the show’s creator Jack Whitehall, who reprised his role of Alfie Wickers, as well as the rest of the original cast. With Series 4 of Bad Education currently streaming on BBC iPlayer and airing weekly on BBC Three, Bobby and the new cast are working with Layton Williams, Charlie Wernham and Mathew Horne, who have each played their characters Stephen Carmichael, Mitchell Harper and Shaquille Fraser since Bad Education started in 2012. Further credits for Bobby have included commercials such as McDonald’s and British Heart Foundation, the feature films A Banquet and The Bike Thief, and he is set to play Lt. James P. Fitton in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air, which saw him film with Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan. Speaking to Bobby, he told us about filming as Harrison in the new series of Bad Education, working on the Reunion Special with Jack Whitehall and the original cast and his upcoming role of Lt. James P. Fitton in Masters of the Air.

Can you tell us about your character Harrison in Bad Education and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role?

Harrison is such a sweet boy, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is definitely the most loyal. He will always try his best for his teachers and his friends which is something I admire about him. Whether he knows what is going on or not isn’t important to him, he’s just along for the ride. When I booked the role I was over the moon, to be honest. I had gone maybe five to six months without booking a substantial job, which is very normal as an actor and that makes booking a role all the more special. I knew Harrison would be a lot of fun to portray and Bad Education is such a joyful show to be a part of so I was really, really excited.

What is Harrison like to play and how did you find the experience on set of the series?

Harrison is A LOT of fun to play, the combination of being slightly dim and really quite loveable just makes for a less stressful acting experience, as well as an extremely fun character development process! The dynamic with Harrison and his fellow students was really fun to explore and I enjoyed every minute of filming, especially the School Play scenes.

What is it like working with the rest of the cast, which includes Layton Williams, Charlie Wernham and Mathew Horne reprising their roles of Stephen Carmichael, Mitchell Harper and Shaquille Fraser respectively?

Layton, Charlie and Matt were all such great role models on set, each of them bringing such great energy to every scene and so much laughter, all in their own unique ways. Due to the fact the majority of my scenes were with Layton and Charlie in some way shape or form, I really got to learn from not only two actors who have so far had great and sustained careers, but also two members of the original Class K, therefore their advice and guidance was always well received and I just wanted to soak it all in. Both are incredible and kind people as well as great artists, it just made for such a lovely environment on set. Matt Horne was a gem on set, I savoured each scene that I got to share with him because he has such an intelligent mind when it comes to acting and comedy, hopefully one day he takes up directing as well because he helped all of us on set and brought such amazing ideas to the table, all of his experience in his career so far was so evident and I cannot praise him enough. All three actors mentioned are inspirational and it shows in their work because they’ve created three equally as iconic characters for the series.

How does it feel having Bad Education released on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer and what was it like watching the completed episodes for the first time?

It feels quite surreal if I’m totally honest, there was so much work put into it and I think everyone has been so excited building up to this day that now it’s released it feels all quite strange, but in the best way possible. It’s always weird watching yourself on screen but I have to say, after watching the episodes, I’m very happy so hopefully everyone enjoys the season!

How was it filming the Bad Education Reunion Special alongside the show’s creator Jack Whitehall and the original cast?

I felt a certain pressure when it came to the reunion episode because you really want to create something the old cast can be proud of. The last thing you want is for them to feel like there’s been an injustice when it comes to a show they all worked so hard on for a big portion of their lives. Jack Whitehall is, of course, like the founding father of the show and he really captured the hearts of the audience as Alfie Wickers in the original. When I got the role I re-watched every episode so it was surreal seeing Jack and the cast of the original turn up to set because it felt like I had been researching them for about two months! I think it goes without saying though that Jack Whitehall and all of the originals are brilliant and it was such a joy to share the screen with them.

Do you have any favourite memories from filming as Harrison that you can tell us about?

My favourite moment from filming is probably the huge dance/party sequence in the episode Whodunnit. That day was so much fun because it was all silliness and party vibes. The episode itself is one of my favourites because it has drama, laughter, a party, drag queens and a whole lot of catwalks. So much fun.

You will be playing Lt. James P. Fitton in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Masters of the Air, what was it like to work on and what are you looking forward to for the release?

Masters of the Air was, for me, one of the most incredible experiences. I took part in two weeks of military boot camp with the fantastic Captain Dale Dye, he taught us all about American army etiquettes, the language they used and rules they would have lived by. I also had the absolute pleasure of working closely with two incredible (and now Golden Globe nominated) actors, Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan. When you get that opportunity, all you think about is “I need to learn as much as possible from this”. So that’s what I tried to do every day and it made for a great experience in what was a challenging and really insightful project. The release has been building up for quite some time now and I’m really looking forward to it, we got to see a few sizzle reels on set and I think anyone who’s in to war dramas is in for a real treat.

How was your time filming for the 2021 feature film A Banquet?

Working on A Banquet was primarily night shoots for my role, so that was a BIG lesson learned for me about perseverance and preserving yourself as an actor because looking after yourself is crucial when you need to film throughout the night and early hours of the morning. I didn’t get as hands on as I have with other projects, mainly because I was primarily in a supporting artist role, however as a supporting artist you can still learn a whole lot and see the creation of the film from a different perspective which is always fascinating.

In 2020, you appeared in The Bike Thief, what do you remember most from being on set?

The Bike Thief was my first ever role in a feature film and my first role that wasn’t a commercial, I remember it like it was yesterday. My stand-out memory would probably be the night shoot where we filmed the scenes in the interior of the car. It was the first time I experienced that really magic of making a film, we were in a car, loaded on to the back of a truck, cruising through London whilst shooting the scenes. I had a real moment of feeling like a movie star which has stuck with me as a stand-out memory in my career.

You have worked on a number of commercials including for McDonald’s and British Heart Foundation, what are commercials like to be part of?

Commercials are very different to TV or film shoots, however, they can be just as fun! For example, my shoot for McDonald’s we were on a bus they’d hired for the day and we just drove through central London whilst filming, so that was really great and also allowed me to gel quite well with everyone involved as it was such an enclosed environment to shoot a scene.

Can you tell us about your training with ArtsEd and about some of the shows you’ve performed in with The Miskin Theatre?

My training with both ArtsEd and The Miskin Theatre were great for different reasons but they both equipped me with vital skills and a toolkit for character building and acting work, acting is one of those careers where you never really stop learning and I don’t think I ever will, but I give both institutions great credit when it comes to where I am now and how I go about my acting process. During my time at The Miskin, I performed in shows such as Half a Sixpence, a Christmas pantomime take on Narnia and Stephen Sondheim’s musical classic Into the Woods. Each and every show is usually directed by a different pair of directors so you get a real taste of how to collaborate with different people and try to combine your creative visions, which is pretty much essential in the industry and that’s why I think The Miskin Theatre does a great job with its students.

How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?

I started acting in school through GCSE Drama classes and found that I really enjoyed it. I have never been that great academically but I have always had a lot of fun mimicking celebrities or characters from movies and being a bit of a clown, so I think it came as no surprise that I found myself in a drama class. I realised I wanted to be an actor though when I went to The Miskin Theatre for sixth form/college. When I arrived, I realised they took acting so seriously which is rare in educational institutes like schools. When I started to go deeper into the craft of acting and storytelling, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue it as a career. Acting is a really fulfilling and sometimes very vulnerable craft, but stories will always need to be told, no matter how silly or sad.

What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?

My favourite movie of all time is The Green Mile. It was the first movie that really made me feel the power of great storytelling and after I watched it I was left with all of these emotions because it’s such a heartbreaking and beautiful film. My favourite TV show is Friends. It may be a common one but that’s for a reason! It’s funny and has some really beautiful moments, what’s more to want in a show! Friends is something I can watch over and over again and never get bored. When I’m not acting, I like to go to the gym, play football and I have a day job helping a company run sightseeing tours along the River Thames. I also attend acting classes because although I may not be constantly working, I can never stay away from it for too long!

What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?

Primarily I want 2023 to be a year of health and happiness and for me to really reach some goals I’ve set throughout my career. I would love to work on some more exciting projects, my dream would be a Netflix series such as Wednesday or Stranger Things. Both of those shows are utterly brilliant and they really remind me of why I chose to pursue acting in the first place, to tell enthralling stories. I’d just love to look back on 2023 and know that I’d made some brilliant memories with my family and loved ones, whilst also ticking off some personal goals.

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