The Cockfields is a modern family sitcom, which brings together some of British comedy’s brightest new stars and established legends.
Created by Joe Wilkinson (8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Rovers) and David Earl (After Life, Derek), the warm-hearted series is a must-watch this November on Gold - BT TV channel 310/392 HD.
The Cockfields is about a man taking his girlfriend to his home on the Isle of Wight for the first time to meet his mother and unusual extended family to celebrate his 40th birthday.
"David and I adore writing about this oddball family who, despite their faults and differences, love each other. We can't wait to see our dream cast bring The Cockfields to life," said Wilkinson.
"We're both chuffed and incredibly thankful to UKTV for giving us this opportunity to share The Cockfields with the Gold audience," said Earl.
"On a personal note, I've had to endure many months staring at Joe Wilkinson's face over Skype whilst writing the scripts - he usually has food in his beard - so, after all that, I bloody hope everyone likes the show. "
Who is in The Cockfields cast?
Simon – Joe Wilkinson
Simon is prepared for a “fun” 40th birthday weekend filled with awkward moments as his girlfriend Donna meets his unusual and quirky family.
Wilkinson is one of Britain’s hottest comedians, regularly appearing on shows like Live at the Apollo and 8 Out Of 10 Cast Does Countdown.
His acting credits include Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series After Life, Sex Education, Rover on Sky One and BBC Three sitcom Him & Her.
Where did the idea for The Cockfields come from?
My writing partner, David Earl, and I always wanted to write a family sitcom because it is the most recognisable thing in the world. You have to find what your take on it is.
We had a moment a few years ago where we were talking about coming into a whole new world. You’re trapped for a few days and something is going to go wrong.
We both have connections with the Isle of Wight - my Mrs is from there, and David’s family lived there – and we went, “Oh, you’re even more trapped there”.
We looked at it from both sides. Her taking me to her family, me taking her to my family, and David taking his wife. It’s a shared experience.
Everyone has done it at some point, introduced a new victim into your world for them to suffer. The truth is you have to love the other half a hell of a lot to join their gang.
Does some of it come from real life experience, then?
Yeah, you take all of those moments of your life and push them into one weekend, but everything in the show is based on truth, believe it or not. Everything has happened to one of us.
Surely not the bit with the bread knife…
Yes! It is all drawn from real life. I guess it’s observational comedy. We are trying to notice what happens in that family dynamic.
We’ve all been through this thing where you love your family to bits, but they drive you mad. You realise you’re not all going to be together forever so that is where the warmth comes from and the underlying truth of it. There is no one else in your life who will be there for you like your family will.
Donna – Diane Morgan
Simon’s unsuspecting girlfriend, who is about to discover the very unusual home life of her boyfriend, is played by the much-loved Diane Morgan.
Morgan is best known for her performances as the comedy character Philomena Cunk, who started out as a guest on Charlie Brooker’s Wipe series and has gone on to appear in her own mockumentaries such as Cunk on Britain, Cunk on Shakespeare and Cunk on Christmas.
Her acting credits also include BBC comedy Motherland and Netflix series After Life.
It is a scenario most people will be familiar with so do you think it will resonate with people?
Definitely. Everyone thinks their family is weird.
Sue plays the mum and I think she plays everyone’s mum, fussing over you relentlessly. And there’s a new brother-in-law to deal with in David, a stepdad in Ray. It’s a modern family so I think everyone will be able to identify with it.
How would you describe the tone?
When I used to work with Joe, all of our sketches were described as ‘mundane but surreal’. Both of us like that kind of humour – based in reality, boring and mundane but with something really weird thrown in. I always think that is the funniest thing.
How did you enjoy working with the rest of the cast?
I knew quite a few of them - Sue, from Rovers - it’s always going to be a nice job when Sue’s involved.
I knew Bobby from Mount Pleasant, Joe and David from the stand-up circuit. I’d never met Sarah or Nigel so that was nice.
Bobby makes a big difference. Throw him into the mix and it is a whole different job! There is a lot of larking about.
A lot of the time I felt like I was on a very strange cruise because Bobby would start singing and Sue would join in and they wouldn’t stop for a long time. It was lovely.
The stories Bobby has, the people he has met – Tommy Cooper, people like that.
I couldn’t imagine Bobby and Nigel Havers being in the same room, it was a mad mix but it works.
Sue – Sue Johnston
Simon’s slightly over-baring and ever-doting mother Sue is played by the legendary Sue Johnston.
Best known for her performances in The Royle Family and Brookside, Johnston’s TV credits also include Waking the Dead, Coronation Street and Downton Abbey.
What was it like working with Bobby and the rest of the cast?
Oh Bobby is wonderful. He kept worrying about being mean and I’d say, “It’s just acting!” The character is quite surly but he is good hearted underneath, and Bobby is wonderfully kind.
It was a lovely cast. I love Diane, who I’ve worked with before. In fact, most of them I’ve worked with before, so that’s always lovely to pick up where you’ve left off.
And in fact one of my oldest friends, Maggie Steed, played my oldest friend, so that was a joy for us because we don’t see enough of each other these days. That was a bonus.
It’s a great ensemble and we all got on. And there was a dog called Queenie, a border terrier, and she was lovely. We all fell in love. Just gorgeous. It’s very calming to have a dog on set, I find.
How would you describe the tone?
It’s quirky, and I like that. It’s full of surprises. Joe and Dave go off at a tangent and introduce strange characters into it from time to time.
They were great fans of The Royle Family and I can see that running through it with all the relationships. Sue’s not dissimilar to Barbara but she’s much more anxious and needy. Barbara was quite laidback. But all power to their elbow because it’s great writing and they’re very funny.
Ray – Bobby Ball
Simon’s relationship with Ray is strained and often awkward, due to his father-in-law’s controlling manner and peculiar habits
Ray’s played by veteran star of stage and screen Bobby Ball. For nine years, he was one half of The Cannon and Ball Show and in recent years he’s found a home in some of the country’s most popular sitcoms such as Not Going Out and Last of the Summer Wine.
This theme of introducing a partner to your family or meeting theirs for the first time is universal. Do you remember doing it?
Well when my wife Yvonne was younger she took me to meet her mum Maude who was very lovely but I am only 5’3 and my wife was 5’8. Maude said to her, “Can I see you in the kitchen?” and then she said, “How can you go out with a man who is smaller than you?”
Then I took her to meet my parents and my dad was even smaller than me. I said, “This is my new girlfriend” and he said, ‘Well she’ll be alright for cleaning windows”. That was the first meeting. My dad loved her.
She would always ask me, "What did he say?" because she couldn’t understand him, he was from Lancashire.
How long can you spend with your family before you go a little mad?
Weeks. I have a very close family. We are very tactile. Even the boys turn around and say, "I love you, Dad".
We don’t argue in our family at all - because they know who the boss is. Just kidding!
In the series, David is obsessed with celebrity hunting. Did you ever hang around to get an autograph of someone?
There is only one regret in my career. We had everyone on our show so I met loads of celebrities and it never really bothered me but there is one man I had the opportunity to meet in the 1980s and I said ‘no’, and that’s Max Wall. I loved him.
I didn’t want it to be spoiled for me but I regret that now that he’s dead.
What about the other way around: have you ever had a funny experience with fans?
Oh yes, all the time, but I understand it.
I love people. When they come for autographs I don’t refuse anyone – that’s our job. What are you in the business for?
These people have paid their money to keep you in the business, to pay your wage, so I do all of that.
David – Ben Rufus Green
The most unusual member of The Cockfields clan is Simon’s brother-in-law David, who has a passion for Alan Titchmarsh, an odd diet and a worrying use for a bread knife.
Ben Rufus Green is a popular sketch show actor, who you may have previoiusly seen in Alan Partridge's Scissored Isle or Channel 4’s Gameface.
What was it like to act with the rest of the cast?
This is my biggest gig ever! Now and again I’d think, “I can’t believe I’ve got a scene with Bobby Ball in a minute” but I had to park those thoughts at the back of my mind because it would be overwhelming otherwise.
They’re all very established and then there’s me in there. It was a dream job.The mood was constant comedy. There’d be some silliness in breaks but we were all very professional when we had to be.
How long can you spend with your family before you go a bit potty?
I find that as soon as you get there it’s a bit jarring but you soon get used to it. The first couple of days you have to get used to their way of doing things, but by the end of the week you’re thinking, “Oh, I don’t want to go home now”. The longer it goes on, the better it is. I think about a week is peak good times.
You have to recalibrate and get used to Mum looking after you again, or whatever, but then it’s fine.
What’s been your experience of meeting your wife’s parents, and vice versa?
I remember meeting my wife’s mum. I had a line that I was going to say, which was, ‘Ah you must be Emily’s sister”, but I fluffed it. I think someone coughed as I was saying it, and she didn’t quite hear me and said, “Sorry, what was that?”, so my smooth operator line didn’t work out.
When I met her mum, we got to the house first and the key was under the mat. Her mum had been at a party, had a bit too much champagne and she came in and was very excited and the champagne had loosened her inhibitions. But that was okay. She wasn’t that different to how she is normally!
Larry - Nigel Havers
Simon’s dad is every mid-life crisis rolled into one and he’s played by the very game Nigel Havers.
Havers is English acting royalty and is best known for starring in Chariots of Fire, Coronation Street and Don’t Wait Up.
What made you say ‘yes’ to this project?
The script was so great and I had worked with Gold before on a comedy called Murder on the Blackpool Express so it was a sort of welcome home.
I think these sorts of family shows work brilliantly. And casting Bobby Ball is genius. Sue and Bobby together are brilliant.
Tell us about your character, Larry.
Larry is a sad case. He has a new girlfriend who is very controlling but he is genuinely in love with her.
She has managed to make him dye his hair and wear inappropriate clothes.
It is a ‘look’. I quite like it. I think I am getting into the necklace. I used to wear golden bracelets and things when I was 17.
What’s he like as a dad?
He’s not interested in children at all, he’s mostly interested in himself. He’s such an absentee dad that it is pointed out that he actually had other plans on the day of Simon’s 40th but he was reminded he had to come to this.
It would have all been fine had I not brought my new girlfriend into the equation. She’s the explosive bit and she says the first thing that comes into her head.
They are a typical family but they live in the past, they’re old fashioned and quirky.
Melissa - Sarah Parish
The new young girlfriend for Simon’s dad is not particularly interested in her new extended family – she’s more dedicated to transforming Larry into a younger man
The character was originally going to be played by Kim Cattrall, but the role was recast after unforeseen scheduling issues.
Sarah Parish is best known for roles in ITV’s Bancroft, Cutting It, Doctor Who, W1A, Mistresses and the final series of Broadchurch.
What has it been like working with Nigel Havers?
Really lovely. I have always loved Nigel. I had never met him so it was exciting to meet him and he is so funny, and such fun to have on set.
We all get on very well. I think it’s a family unit that works really well.
It wasn’t the easiest shoot. When Joe planned it I think he thought it would be a balmy summer, but it rained every day. It was quite stressful: I was wearing all white, trying to not get dirty in the rain during this garden party scene! But it was a great experience.
You’re obviously known for W1A as well as straight roles. Do you love doing comedy?
I do love comedy because it’s more challenging. I like creating characters who are quite extreme and then pulling them back into reality.
I know people like Anna (from W1A) and have been in meetings with people like her, and I also know Melissa.
It’s about pushing that boundary a little and put them in a comedy scenario. It’s challenging. I like to go: comedy, then drama, comedy, drama.
But it’s not set up gags, it is just a piece of drama that happens to be funny. It is also quite moving and it should be, I think that’s what great comedy is.
Watch this if you liked…
Mum, Motherland, Gavin and Stacey, The Royle Family.
When will The Cockfields air?
The Cockfields starts on Tuesday, November 12th at 10pm on Gold.
Series one has three episodes, which are stripped across the week. Episodes two and three air on Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th of November.
How to watch The Cockfields?
Watch The Cockfields on Gold – BT TV channel 310/392 HD.