Drifting days are over for Knappett ; Best known as Neil's love interest from The Inbetweeners Movie, Jessica Knappett is set to soar as she debuts her own sitcom Drifters. SOPHIE HERDMAN discovers why the actress is adamant women in comedy are on the up
IN a black shirt, white tie and jacket and with her long brown hair styled into voluminous curls, Jessica Knappett could be a modern-day Charlie's Angel.
That is, until she starts speaking.
Knappett is not breathy-voiced and earnest but down-to-earth and very funny.
This is new hair for me, s says the 28-year-old. It's quite big - I think it's an attempt to make me look more feminine.
Those who saw The Inbetweeners Movie might recognise Knappett as Neil's dorky and quiet love interest.
It was while working on the film that the creators of The Inbetweeners, Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, spotted a star in Knappett and decided they wanted to work with her.
They asked if she had any TV show ideas and, as it turned out, she did.
Knappett wanted to write a show about a group of twenty- something women living in Leeds, going through what has recently been named a quarter-life crisis.
That is, they have left university with big dreams and enthusiasm, only to find themselves jobless and living back at home.
Morris and Beesley liked the idea and so Drifters, produced by the pair and written by and starring Knappett, was born.
The show is not autobiographical, she says, but many scenarios are based on her own experiences.
I've taken some embarrassing incidents from my life and exaggerated them beyond recognition - but I also have an imagination so I've used that too, she says.
The general rule is that it's got to go wrong. No-one wants to see successful people having a nice time. That's not comical. You want as much suffering and humiliation as possible.
It's why Knappett has incorporated crying, puking and scratching into the show. All the 'ings', she notes.
The actress admits she experienced her own quarter-life crisis when she found herself struggling to launch her career.
No one tells you that when you leave university there's hardly anything in terms of support or, in a recession, work. So I ended up doing the same jobs I was doing before uni, but being paid less, she says. Woe is me, I know it's not that bad, but it's what happens.
Her worst job was working as a vending machine assistant. The thing about a vending machine is it runs itself, doesn't it? That's the whole point, it doesn't need an assistant.
In Drifters, Knappett plays Meg, who returns home from travelling (she was exploring India, of course) to find that her mum, played by Arabella Weir, and dad, Bob Mortimer, have turned her bedroom into a walk-in wardrobe.
She ends up living in her ex-boyfriend's house, much to the dismay of her friend Laura, played by comedian Lauren O'Rourke, and cousin, Bunny, played by Lydia Rose Bewley. As it happens, O'Rourke had a 'blink and you'll miss it' role in The Inbetweeners Movie, playing Neil's girlfriend from home, but Bewley starred alongside Knappett as one of the main characters - she was Jay's love interest.
As such, Knappett admits she was reluctant to give Bewley the role of Bunny, concerned that viewers would see Drifters as a spin- off from The Inbetweeners film. But Lydia was hands down the funniest person, she says.
The show, while still a sitcom with a good dose of silly humour, is very different from The Inbetweeners.
We're a bit older and more sophisticated, Knappett says. And my QUICK character actually speaks, she adds, laughing.
The actress doesn't mind the associations with the hit show though. There's no escaping that comparison, but I love The Inbetweeners so I'm happy to be connected with it, she says.
This is Knappett's first attempt at writing a sitcom. She's appeared on TV a number of times, including small roles in E4's Meet The Parents, BBC3's How Not To Live Your Life, and the BAFTA- winning Twenty Twelve.
She recently had a small part in the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa too, but playing Lisa in The Inbetweeners Movie is her largest role to date.
. ? Drifters starts on E4 on Thursday at 9pm.
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