Kayvan Novak on swapping the edgy world of E4 for mainstream BBC1 comedy SunTrap
“This was an intense way of making comedy and I thought I was the only man for the job and nobody else could have done what I did"
In SunTrap, Kayvan Novak has swapped the late night edgy world of his E4 prank show Fonejacker for the sunny uplands of a mainstream BBC1 comedy.
Remember Fonejacker? It was a rather funny series in which Novak duped people over the phone. It ran for for two years on E4 before it was axed in 2008, eventually brought back as Facejacker which saw Novak make use of prosthetics to play a variety of roles as he took to the streets to dupe members of the public.
In SunTrap, Novak is Woody – a former undercover tabloid hack (get the title, now?) who, for various preposterous reasons, finds himself calling on the help of his old expat mucker Brutus (Bradley Walsh) in sunny Spain.
Apparently Woody, who – like another well known real-life tabloid reporter – enjoys dressing up as a sheikh, has got in trouble with the British government and is on the run.
Novak may not be the world’s greatest actor but his mimicry skills are ably and exhaustively showcased in an assortment of silly capers that seem to consciously channel 80s favourites Magnum and Moonlighting.
Yes, the plotlines are weird (the opener sees Woody endeavour to rescue a missing parrot owned by a local British expat gangster) but there is a warmth and joy to SunTrap which is infectious.
But it's not edgy, so what is Novak – who admits to RadioTimes.com that he is an “E4 kind of guy” – doing in a mainstream comedy?
“I don’t know who that audience is,” he says, ever so slightly offended by the question, it seems. “I watch BBC1. It needs to capture the imagination of a large audience.
“I don’t concern myself with what channel it’s going out on. The audience will come if people watch it and they like what they see. The pressure is getting myself to deliver a performance that’s worthy of being on BBC1.
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“I have a big cult following. As far as being the BBC1 guy, there is huge prestige, huge tradition, a huge pressure. But my pressure was delivering a funny performance, learning my lines and wearing enough fake tan.”
He needed the latter partly because of the disguises required for the range of characters he plays – and also the fact that he didn't see much sun while filming out in Spain. When he wasn’t working on the show, he was back in his hotel learning his lines.
“I have never worked so hard,” he adds, speaking of the twelve-hour days and exhaustion that came with filming the series.
“From the moment I got in my car on the way home I would be learning my lines on the way home. I say a lot of words in this.”
He certainly does. One of the keys of the comedy is allowing Novak to adopt a variety of disguises during all the silly capers his character gets up to – from a camp Frenchman trying to dupe a vet played by Jack Dee to a Scottish falconry instructor.
”Doing those prank calls in Fonejacker was a challenge – there is never a greater challenge of acting than having to convince people you’re someone else.
“Doing Fonejacker was a big thing – I needed to work for 11 hours on end making these calls and maybe getting five funny ones. It helped me get that stamina.
“This was another intense way of making comedy and I thought I was the only man for the job and nobody else could have done what I did. Except maybe [co-star] Bradley [Walsh]!"
It's not all Novak, though. The comedy allows for some brilliant cameos – ex-EastEnders star Kara Tointon pops up in a later episode and there is a wonderful storyline in which Keith Allen plays a Spanish crook in an episode concerned with the death of Elton John impersonator Elton Juan (see pic). It's an extremely silly moment, and probably the highlight of a comedy which should do well (although it is being shown far too late in a 10:45pm slot).
“The show doesn’t have a nasty bone in its body," concludes Novak. "It’s the atmosphere, the spirit in which it is written. It’s silly, colourful, anything goes.”
SunTrap airs on BBC1 on Wednesday May 27 at 10.45pm
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