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Interview: Jess Harris and Josh Schmidt on twentysomething

twentysomething

Twentysomething DVD coverWe were lucky enough to get the stars of the Australian ABC comedy series twentysomething, Jess Harris and Josh Schmidt, to answer a few of our questions to coincide with the DVD release of their breakout comedy hit.

Jess (Jess Harris) and Josh (Josh Schmidt) are best friends and housemates, and they are twenty-somethings. Watching all of their friends and relatives going on to success with their lives, they grow tired of working for others and being evicted, and take destiny into their own hands. The series follows their misadventures as they decide to get their lives back on track by going off the beaten path.

Built  on development funding released in 2010 as a result of the Film Victoria/ABC TV comedy initiative STITCH, designed to develop the skills of comedy performers in writing longer-form narrative, twentysomething is a disarmingly funny and freshly hilarious comedy featuring some top-grade local talent, including series regular Hamish Blake.

You’ve probably been asked this before, but where do the lines between the fictional Jess and Josh begin and end?

JESS: We have been asked that a lot but we brought it on ourselves by keeping our real names. The similarities are that Josh and I really are the best of friends, we have spent our twenties side by side, looking for fun and searching for our big break and giggling a lot along the way.

I’m not selfish or manipulative, but I’m honest and I would say that Jess’ onscreen drive and quest to never be predictable is definitely in me. Her restless need to prove herself and be heard is how I felt most of my twenties and is what pushed me to make this show.

JOSH: We have been best friends since we were 14. So the friendship you see on T.V and the genuine love for one another is real. But it’s a comedy show so the characters are heightened and not really us.  We are driven and fun loving like them. But Jess is much sweeter in real life and I’m probably not quite as sweet and simple as the Josh in the show.

The show has a very frank sense of humour to it, almost the antithesis of US mainstream sitcoms. Was this conscious?

JESS: We wanted the humor to be subtle, not punchlines and obvious set-up jokes, but more of a show where you find yourself smiling throughout and occasionally laughing out loud at something that might have caught your fancy.  We also wanted it to have heart, to be honest and not be afraid to show vulnerability.

JOSH: It’s been really great to see that people share the humor of the show. The most blunt comments often get the best laughs and some of the smaller references people have really embraced. Like when Jess decides the party they are at is “going nowhere’ based on the fact they are serving dip out of a hollowed out cob-loaf.  It’s the simple observations of life that I think people really relate.

What or who are your comedy influences?

JESS: My main comedy influence comes from real life, watching people and how they work and interact is what fascinates me and makes me laugh more than anything, It’s where I draw all of my inspiration from.

JOSH: I think Gavin and Stacey and Arrested Development are flawless comedy shows.  Miss Piggy and Kermit have also always been a stunning comedy pair.

The series has a very Melbourne vibe to it: can you imagine the show set anywhere else?

JESS: Melbourne is where we were both born and raised, it has been the backdrop for all our twenties adventures, so for us its was the perfect stomping ground for twentysomething. But the story of a twentysomething is universal so you could definitely see overseas versions of Jess and Josh in New york or London…

JOSH:  To me its about two best friends struggling through their twenties and trying to find out what to do with their lives.   It’s a really universal story. So I feel like it could be set anywhere.

On the same topic, how universal do you feel the issues of Jess and Josh (the characters) are in the show? Do you think mid-20s crises are the new mid-life crises?

JESS: Jess and Josh’s main struggle is finding their place and purpose which I think everyone can connect with.

I think the 20’s for some of us has turned into a prolonged adolescence, people are giving themselves a few extra years to be irresponsible before they settle down. Which I think is great, maybe if we take our time getting it right early we’ll avoid a mid life crisis later in life.

JOSH: I think teenagers, twentysomethings, fortysomethings, we’re all kinda working out what’s next, what makes us happy and how we want to live our lives.  I have a feeling I’m going to always kind of feel like I’m in a crisis, but hopefully in a positive way – always changing, never settling, chasing fun and security in life.

twentysomething

How were the other cast members chosen? Were they based on people you knew?

JESS: I loosely drew inspiration from people I knew when I was creating the other characters, but everyone auditioned for roles, except for Hamish [Blake] who is a close friend. When I was creating Billy I started imagining him saying the lines, so I asked him early on to be involved and luckily he was available. He was perfect in the role and too much fun to work with – we were very lucky to have him on board.

JOSH: Everyone in the show is a reflection of people or sometimes a mash of people that we have had in our lives.

The series ended on an ambiguously upbeat note. Can we expect any more adventures of this dynamic duo?

JESS: Most of the other episodes ended with Jess and Josh not really coming out on top, so I wanted them to get their happy ending. I think it’s a really nice place to leave them for now, but who knows what happens while they’re overseas? I’m excited to see their progression, so hopefully we can invite the viewers back into their colorful world again sometime soon.

JOSH: I like to think Jess and Josh are still going on with their lives.  I’d really like a second season to see how life’s treating them.

What other future projects do you have lined up for us?

JOSH: Having twentysomething on DVD has been such a dream come true.  I just want to enjoy that for a while and continue to daydream about new shows.

The Reel Bits needs to thank ABC DVD and give a shout-out to Marguerite Barbara for making this all happen.

twentysomething originally screened on ABC2 in Australia. It is release in Australia on DVD on 19 October 2011 from ABC DVD.

About the author: Richard Gray

Richard Gray

Editor of DVD Bits and TheReelBits. You can see Richard's unfiltered train of thought on Twitter @DVDBits. The Reel Bits is also @The_ReelBits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/elodieo Elodie

    Such a big fan of the show! I can’t wait to buy myself a copy on DVD. It was so refreshing to find a Australian tv show that made me laugh out loud as much as Summer Hights High did back when I was at school. Now I’m in my twenty something’s I find this show has so much more to relate too! I love that Jess is sometimes selfish, out going, out spoken and a whole lot of crazy fun! Reminds me of me sometimes and I also relate to the fact she’s still a big sweety at heart always thinking of whats best for Josh! Thank you so much for creating the Australian cult hit of the year! xxx Love Elodie