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Mathew in Yonderland ; Already a hit with young viewers, Horrible Histories star Mathew Baynton now has some grown-up fans thanks to his recent run...

November 9, 2013


Mathew in Yonderland ; Already a hit with young viewers, Horrible Histories star Mathew Baynton now has some grown-up fans thanks to his recent run in The Wrong Mans. As his new family fantasy series Yonderland begins, he tells SOPHIE HERDMAN how it's taking a bit of getting used to

AS the year nears its end, Mathew Baynton can look back and feel proud of what he's achieved.

Mainly, it has to be said, due to The Wrong Mans, the BBC Two show he co-wrote and starred in with his mate James Corden.

The comedy thriller has been a huge hit both ratings-wise and with critics, and fans are desperate for a second series.

But this is also the year that Yonderland, the fantasy comedy written by and starring Baynton and his Horrible Histories co- stars, hits screens.

The 32-year-old is just about getting used to his new-found fame. I've noticed a lot more people recognising me, but it's very different because they just stare at you - so you don't know if they hate a show or love it, he says.

Run-ins with young fans of Horrible Histories - the Bafta- winning children's show which recreates funny and gory moments from the past, and which has been hugely popular since first airing in 2009 - are very different.

It's the most wonderful thing because children never try to play it cool. They just run up to you and tell you they love you, he says, his dark brown eyes (a fascination of his mummy fan base) peeking out from below his floppy fringe.

It's not just members of the public who've started recognising Baynton's talent; industry folk have also sat up and noticed.

James is probably used to it, he says. But having people in the industry who I really admire paying me compliments means more to me than any review.

Having said that, he does enjoy the positive write-ups. If you're going to get hurt by the bad reviews, you should also allow yourself to enjoy the good ones.

And get hurt he does. When I was a young lad wanting to be an actor, people told me it's a tough industry, you've got to have a thick skin.

I think that's nonsense. You've got to have sensitivity to be good at the job. I don't know anyone who doesn't get hurt.

Luckily for Baynton, Yonderland is funny. It's little surprise the show's a winner, considering Horrible Histories has been such a success.

It was drawing to a close when the cast and writers - Martha Howe- Douglas, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond and Baynton - decided to start another project.

We were desperate to keep working together, so we tried to work out how we could do a show that we could still treat like a grown- up dressing-up box, and we immediately centred on the idea of making it a fantasy, Baynton explains.

The story centres around a mother-of-two, Debbie, who discovers an elf in her cupboard. It tells her that she is 'The Chosen One' and must save Yonderland from the forces of darkness.

And so she sets off on an adventure, meeting 'The Wise Elders', who are not actually wise, and a tribe of people who, having once presumably evolved, are now devolving and becoming less intelligent.

Many of the characters are puppets and Baynton, along with the rest of the cast, plays various different roles.

The show will be broadcast on Sunday teatime and, as with Horrible Histories, Baynton's frustrated that it's categorised as a family comedy.

When I was growing up, I don't remember seeing a distinction between adult and family comedy, he says.

It's a shame, he notes, that clean comedy is now categorised as such.

Everything my parents watched, in terms of comedy, we would watch with them - Blackadder, Monty Python, all of those big shows, he says.

The actor, who grew up in Essex, the youngest of three brothers, was always quite attention-seeking as a child, he says.

I decided it was my role to make the family laugh. Looking back, I think I was quite irritating. They're probably glad that I've found an outlet now. He trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama, landing a number of small roles, including in 2008's Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, where he met Corden.

The pair hit it off and Baynton went on to appear in Horne & Corden and Gavin And Stacey. Further small roles followed, including in Peep Show and Spy, but it was Horrible Histories which took his status up a notch or two.

At 32, Baynton's still young - and he feels even younger. When I talk to people who are in their early twenties, I don't feel any older [than them]. I think it's going to get embarrassing, he laughs.

At Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year, appearing in Tom Basden's play Holes, he did start to notice a change. Some of the young comics spoke to me as though I was a veteran, or at least a professional, he says.

Plus, he's starting to spot a few grey hairs, thanks to his two- and-a-half-year-old son, Bo.

In the pipeline for Baynton is a film, Bill, about Shakespeare, and, of course, the possibility of a second series of The Wrong Mans.

James and I never made a secret of the fact that the BBC's indicated they'd like us to do more, he says. He and Corden are currently working on some new stories.

If we can't come up with a good enough one we probably won't do it. Having said that, we've got an idea now that we're progressing and we feel like it's worth doing.

Sounds as though Baynton will have to get used to being recognised. We're all just luvvies looking for attention, really, he says.

? Yonderland starts on Sky1 at 6.30pm tomorrow.

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