Meet the cast of BBC Two’s The First Team

The full squad of actors appearing in the new football sitcom – and where you might have seen them before.

Programme Name: The First Team - TX: 28/05/2020 - Episode: The First Team - Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Petey (THEO BARKLEM-BIGGS), Benji (SHAQUILLE ALI-YEBUAH), Mattie (JAKE SHORT), Jack (JACK MCMULLEN), Mark Crane (WILL ARNETT) - (C) Fudge Park - Photographer: James Stack

Damon Beesley and Iain Morris created one of the most defining sitcoms of a generation with The Inbetweeners, and so hopes are high for their new venture, The First Team – a comedy based around three footballers on the fringe of the first team squad at a Premier League club.

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The cast for the show includes a mix of relative newcomers and more seasoned stars – here’s everything you need to know about the characters and the actors playing them…

Jake Short plays Mattie

Mattie

Who is Mattie? Mattie is a new arrival at the club, having recently transferred from Sporting Kansas City – and quickly discovers that he may have been signed as an accident, with neither the manager, chairman or the rest of the squad overjoyed by his arrival.

Short said about the character, “My character Mattie signs to a high profile English club, but can’t figure out why. He’s a college educated kid who’s pretty aware, but somehow seems to find himself in Curb Your Enthusiasm type predicaments.

“He’s an optimist always trying to make the best of situations, but lacks confidence when put under pressure. At first his role in the club causes him to feel out of his element (imposter syndrome), but he finds his place with two other youngsters also trying to navigate the spotlight that comes with playing for one of the world’s top teams.”

What else has Jake Short been in? Short’s early career saw him star in a couple of Disney shows – comedy series A.N.T. Farm and Disney XD original Mighty Med. He also appeared as Scott Smith in three episodes Dexter, and more recently starred in Hulu comedy All Night.

Jack McMullen plays Jack

Jack

Who is Jack? Jack is one of the hot prospects at the club and is on the verge of breaking through to the first team, but his progress on the field could be badly affected by his behaviour off it – as he often seems to get himself into difficult situations. He’s more welcoming to Mattie than most of the other players in the squad, and so the two form a friendship of sorts.

McMullen said of the character, “Jack Turner is a young up and coming academy player who’s just starting to break through into the first team.

“It seems he has all the quality and technical ability to make it, but his inability to keep his nose clean off the pitch is his main barrier to success. He means well, but always manages to put his foot in it. He’s got a good heart and befriends new signing Mattie Sullivan (Jake Short) after he receives a not-so-warm welcome from the rest of the squad.

What else has Jack McMullen been in? McMullen was recently part of the cast for Oscar-nominated film Le Mans ’66, but probably remains best known for his role as Finn Sharkey in Waterloo Road. Other credits include early career roles in Brookside and Grange Hill and film appearances in The Souvenir and Brotherhood.

Shaquille Ali-Yebuah plays Benji

Benji

Who is Benji? Another young prospect at the club, Benji finds himself distracted by the lifestyle that comes with being a young Premier League footballer – possibly to the detriment of his career development. He’s fascinated by cars, FIFA and girls on Instagram…

Ali-Yebuah said of the character, “I play the role of Benji Achebe, who has come up through the academy and has potential to be the next big thing. I’d say he’s a part time footballer, full time rockstar!

“Out of all the boys he’s more in love with the lifestyle and what fame can bring, so he goes with the flow no matter how bizarre the idea may be. Besides that, he’s a young, charismatic kid waiting for his chance.”

What else has Shaquille Ali-Yebuah been in? Ali-Yebuah’s most high profile appearance is a small role in  Solo: A Star Wars Story, while other film credits include iBoy and Social Suicide. On the small screen, he was part of the cast in the first series of Sky Atlantic drama Save Me and sci-fi series The Feed.

Theo Barklem-Biggs plays Petey

Petey

Who is Petey? Petey is a senior player reaching the end of the career, but while his talent on the field may be dwindling, the same is not true for his presence in the dressing room. He’s something of a combative character, antagonising Mattie soon after his arrival at the club and refusing to take instruction from the assistant coach.

What else has Theo Barklem-Biggs been in? Barklem-Biggs is no stranger to Beesley and Morris having previously appeared in The Inbetweeners Movie and Beesley’s sitcom White Gold, while other credits include playing Ryan in Kingsman: The Secret Service and a regular roles drama series Cleaning Up.

Chris Geere plays Chris

Chris

Who is Chris? Chris is the assistant coach of the team – but often finds his presence in the dressing room undermined by some of the senior players, who he used to play alongside.

Geere said of the character, “Chris Booth was a one-time player for the club that suffered an injury that stopped him playing. He then became a part of the coaching team despite not necessarily being the best person for the job!”

What else has Chris Geere been in? Geere’s most high profile roles to date are playing Matt Wilder on Waterloo Road, the lead role of Jimmy Shive-Overly in US comedy series You’re the Worst and Roger Clifford in last year’s Pokémon Detective Pikachu – while other credits include 9 episodes of Modern Family and a role in Iain Morris’s 2018 film The Festival.

Tamla Kari plays Olivia

Tamla

Who is Olivia? Olivia takes charge of PR at the club and therefore often has to deal with the fallout from the squad’s off-field antics.

Cari said of the character, “Olivia is the head of press and has a player liaison type of role. Basically, she has to sort out all the crap the players get themselves into off the pitch (which is a lot!).

“She’s kind of like a mean big sister. The players go to her with their problems but ultimately, she works for the club and whatever the club says, goes.

“There’s no loyalty. She has the power to end a player’s career at the club by putting something into the press whether it’s true or not. She takes no prisoners and has no time for idiots.”

What else has Tamla Kari been in? As with many other cast members, Kari has history with Beesley and Morris, having appeared in both of The Inbetweeners Movies, while on the small screen she’s been seen on Cuckoo, Call The Midwife and Britannia.

Paolo Sassanelli plays Cesare

Programme Name: The First Team - TX: 28/05/2020 - Episode: The First Team - Episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Cesare (PAOLO SASSANELLI) - (C) Fudge Park - Photographer: Jack Barnes

Who is Cesare? Cesare is the mysterious Italian manager of the club, who is famous for taking extensive notes and who’s stock in the game has fallen from its once high status.

What else has Pablo Sassanelli been in? Sassanelli has appeared in a wealth of film, TV and stage projects in his native Italy, but this is a relatively rare English language role for him.

Will Arnett plays Mark Crane

Programme Name: The First Team - TX: 28/05/2020 - Episode: The First Team - Episode 1 (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Mark Crane (WILL ARNETT) - (C) Fudge Park - Photographer: James Stack

Who is Mark Crane? Crane is the club’s eccentric American chairman, who seems to have not done his research before bringing Mattie to the club.

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What else has Will Arnett been in? No doubt the most high profile member of the cast, Arnett is best known for his role as magician Gob in popular sitcom Arrested Development and for voicing the titular character in Bojack Horseman. Besides that, he has racked up a wealth of credits across film and TV including an Emmy nominated turn in 30 Rock, a prominent role in Hot Rod and voicing Lego Batman in The Lego Movie franchise.

The First Team begins tonight (Thursday, 28th May) at 9:30pm on BBC Two – check out what else is on with our TV Guide.