The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner star Simon Bird returns to C4 with Chickens, a new comedy pilot set in WWI about three men of fighting age who don’t go to the Western Front for various reasons. One has failed the medical, another is a conscientious objector and the third is a draft dodger. But they all have one thing in common — they’re despised by the women in the village. Simon is joined on screen by fellow Inbetweeners favourite Joe Thomas and comedian Jonny Sweet, and the trio also wrote the show
Was there any reason for setting Chickens during WWI?
We do a lot of sketches together and we’re always trying to write stuff about groups of people who are often forgotten about and this seemed like an area of life that hadn’t had much light and attention. When people talk about WWI, it’s all about the soldiers who went off to fight, you don’t see much about what happened in England when the war was on.
Did you know much about the era?
It’s definitely something that interests me and conscientious objectors in particular. I’m not a history buff, in any way, so I had to do some research. Joe did history for his degree, so he knew a bit about it.
This is comedy, but the reality must have been pretty grim for the men left behind?
Oh God, yes. I suppose the most famous thing was the order of the white feather, where the government encouraged women to shame and bully any men who hadn’t signed up. They were definitely treated as the scum of the earth. We didn’t want to be seen to be making fun of conscientious objectors because they were very brave and courageous men in their own way.
Despite everything, there are lots of laughs…
With it being set so far in the past it enabled us to do it in the same way as Mad Men, where they’re allowed to be sexist, smoke loads and drink. We had some fun.
Chickens is set in an idyllic village, where is it?
Filming was amazing and it took a long time to find the right location, one without too many pylons or wires. It’s a mixture of Chilham in Kent and also the Chiltern Open Air Museum in Buckinghamshire.
The Inbetweeners Movie is now out in cinemas. Is that it for the four characters, or could they return?
I think that’s the end. The show works at school, but beyond that it would become a bit far fetched. We’ve come to a natural end and we’ve all loved it.
Have you had a farewell party?
We have had so many. You’ll finish filming, go out for dinner and have a little cry. Then you’ll be back in a month because one of the shots hasn’t worked and you’ll have to re-shoot it. We haven’t had a big final farewell, but we’re planning it.
Friday Night Dinner was a huge hit, when is it back?
Robert Popper is writing the second series at the moment, so hopefully we’ll start filming early next year. I’m a massive fan of Robert’s and I always knew I wanted to work with him. It was exciting for me to do something slightly different and a bit more mainstream, family friendly.