What to Expect from North East Comedy Short Where it Ends on BBC iPlayer
This new BBC comedy pilot show is created by and stars a former Gateshead College student
The creator, writer and lead performer is Whitley Bay-born Jack Robertson. ’Growing up I went to drama classes at Whitley Bay’s ACT 2 CAM which is where I started to grow confidence in acting for camera and it gave me really good experience to get a job,’ he says. ‘I started to become really interested in making short videos and films, and acting in them and developing them. In 2019 I started writing my own sketch show, Metroland Comedy, and we’re really fortunate that we essentially gave ourselves the freedom to make what we wanted. Since then, we’ve been uploading sketches on TikTok, Facebook and YouTube accumulating to around 20 million views.
‘At college, I was in a class with people who were genuinely really serious about their work. Some of them left to continue their work in London, but I stuck around because I think I was scared about leaving the North East, and what’s so original about me here becoming unoriginal somewhere else. It was a small pond big fish thing and being able to stand out in that respect. My lecturer Paul Phillips was really the saving grace for me. He was very honest which was the main thing, and that gave me the closest I’d ever get to any sort of drama practitioner. It’s very true about being the best for yourself, not the best in class, and that’s the main thing he’d always preach to me. As an actor you’re always comparing yourself to other performers. He was really good at encouraging me to be original and the best of myself.’
In Where It Ends, Jack is part of a touring off-season budget two-person pantomime, performing in a care home. There he is confronted with where life ends, causing him to become more aware of his own existence and mortality.
‘Where It Ends is based on an actual tour that I did as a jobbing actor around Manchester in 2018,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t necessarily writing loads at the time but I knew that I had to write down what was happening because it was so surreal it was like journaling. I’d be going into care homes as an actor and, although I had a grandad with dementia, I was new to quite a lot of the issues there. The job of trying to make them laugh or trying to distract them was a mad experience that I held onto for a while.’
The head of comedy at Tiger Aspect saw Metroland and Jack met him at a networking event in Newcastle. ‘When I got chatting to him at this networking event, our producer of Metroland suggested sending a script to him,’ explains Jack. ‘I heard nothing for a while, but an opportunity came up for a writer’s room job and they needed a writing sample so he asked if he could use my script. During the writer’s room he said he thought Where It Ends would have a chance of being a BBC short film. He asked if I could tweak it from being what felt like a pilot episode to being a more grounded film. It was a pretty quick process, having to get the project wrapped up within two or three months, and we shot the whole thing in two days. It was a great opportunity.
‘It’s definitely a comedy that has a huge emotional weight to it that I think fluctuates between joyous, funny moments and an immediate drop that’s a constant reminder of reality. It sounds crazy but comedy and death are quite close together, weirdly. There’s shows out there like After Life that prove it. It’s sort of comforting in that respect. This has such a Northern charm and sound to it which I think is naturally funny as well.’
Jack says he was excited to work with such a great Northern cast, and that he’s ‘still trying to figure out how that even happened’. ‘We were a real dream team of people from the North and never once was I ever worried that we wouldn’t be able to do these characters justice,’ he says. ‘There were moments with Charlie Hardwick when she was talking about her Byker Grove days and we had crew members, not just the cast, who had tales to tell – we were playing a bit of who’s who. It was an amazing experience. They took on my writing so well and they were so complimentary about it too. They’ve read plenty of scripts, so that’s going to be a core memory for me. I feel like acting is what I’m good at, but writing isn’t always easy so that meant a lot. They’re real local legends so it was amazing to work with them. We’re taking elements of Where It Ends and moving forwards with that. Nothing’s set in stone but I’ve got a really great team to work with.’