13th December 2023
Charlie Wernham first stormed into the entertainment industry back in 2008 when he auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent as a teenage standup comedian. He made it all the way to the semi-final, and was signed to an acting agent shortly after. He’s since taken roles in British television classics such as EastEnders, Hollyoaks and The Inbetweeners - but it’s arguably his iconic performance as Mitchell in Bad Education which is his most beloved. The hit sitcom originally premiered in 2012 starring Jack Whitehall, but having returned to screens last yearafter a ten-year hiatus, the show is back at the top end of the year for a Christmas special followed by a brand new series early next year. We spoke to Charlie about where we find Mitchell in the new special, his time on Britain’s Got Talent, and if he’d ever return to the world of soaps.
Thanks so much for the chat Charlie! Where do we find Mitchell in the new episode?
Mitchell is very much a Christmas-lover. He loves Christmas because it involves eating, drinking and partying. And some time off work! Mitchell is in full Mitch-mode. He's causing chaos. The Christmas episode is very much about Stephen's emotional journey, but Mitchell is very much part of that in that he brings a lot of the fun and a lot of reasons for Stephen to be positive about his life, and having Mitchell in it is one of those things. He brings a lot of joy - a lot of disaster as well - but a lot of joy. So Mitchell is causing chaos, he's being innapropriate and bringing the fun.
The series returned earlier this year after a 9 year hiatus. What inspired the revival?
I'm not sure what made Jack and Freddy who created the show wanna do it now, but I do think it was now or never. It was coming up to the ten-year anniversary, and I know they'd been asked multiple times if they wanted to bring it back for a special to revive the show, and I think it was very much now or never. Ten years was probably the last time people would come knocking for it. They were just planning on doing the reunion episode, but then they ended up saying well why not kick off with a new series and revive it for a new generation of people.
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How did you feel when you got the call about reviving the show?
When I got the call I was in Costco! It was Jack who called me and I was like, ‘Yeah, what do you want?’ and he told me all about it. Initially I was really quite nervous. It did so well the first time around, and I was obviously really happy to be asked, but it was a whole new team and Jack was busy doing his thing, but then he said that Freddy who created the show was gonna direct and produce it, and then I knew I was in safe hands. I knew that it was gonna be similar and have the same heart Freddy keep all the stuff that was so great about the original series in the new series. And then from the minute we were all together it was just so exciting.
How did you approach the character after such a long break? Did it feel different playing Mitchell this time around?
It didn't feel too different, but it certainly has changed. I think when Mitchell was in Class K, his goal was to make every day chaotic, to wind people up, to have banter, make Alfie’s life difficult, but still with a lot of heart to him. He was doing it from a lovable place. He was never the school bully. The show is so chaotic and slightly unrealistic how his character is still employed, so I needed to make it that he was always trying to do the right thing and keep a bit of order, but still make it enjoyable. He's trying to do the right thing, but he ends up messing up quite a lot. I think the way his character is different is that he's trying to make everyone happy and help the kids as opposed to making everyone's life a headache.
You started in the industry incredibly young, auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent when you were just a young teenager. What inspired you to audition for the show?
I always used to do talent shows when I was really young. I used to do standup because I can't sing and I can't dance. I used to love performing in front of a live audience in holiday camps or whatever, and then my Nan mentioned that there was this new show called Britain’s Got Talent, and that I should put in a form and try and get on it. I sort of didn't really think about it again, and then next thing I know I was doing the show and I was in the live finals. It was all a bit of a whirlwind. But I just did what I’d always done - I just had fun. I realised then that I liked being on stage and performing and showing off, like most performers! And then I got really stuck into drama in school, and got an agent and then was offered a scholarship at Sylvia Young. I was a little bit too out of my comfort zone to properly do it, so I just stuck with the agency. I got put forward for acting and have never looked back.
What are your memories of the whole Britain’s Got Talent process? Are you glad that you did it?
Yeah, absolutely. I still remember it very vividly. There were so many amazing moments, like meeting Simon Cowell and doing the performances themselves. My Grandad actually chaperoned me backstage, and my Nana and my Grandad are no longer with us so it's really nice to have them in those memories as well. I'm glad that I did it because it's got me where I am today. Without doing it I probably wouldn't have realised how much I love performing, and I probably wouldn’t have got picked up by my agent as well.
Were you always funny growing up? Have you always been a performer?
I thought I was always funny - other people probably thought I was a pain! I was always doing shows or plays with my parents, making up dance routines. I had a little kitchen and pretended I was Ainsley Harriot on a cooking program. I was always mimicking people and mucking around. And then I really fell in love when I was about fourteen years old when I started to really spend a lot of time in the drama department in my school, and I literally just wouldn't leave. I just loved it. I used to go in there at lunch, and there was a group of us who loved acting and improvisation and making things up. We all really enjoyed performing. I loved it and knew it was what I wanted to do.
Who inspired you initially as a young comedian and actor and why ? Who are you a fan of now?
Back then my favourite comedians were Lee Evans or Joe Pasquale. They were so cartoon-like and very physical performers. They were really good at using their voice and their bodies and props and so you didn't really always need to understand the jokes, but you couldn't help laughing at them. I loved shows like Only Fools, Blackadder and Faulty Towers. The sort of stuff that my Dad and my uncles always talk about and watch. I love people like David Jason. I think he is one of the best characters ever.
You've also starred in both EastEnders and Hollyoaks. What do you learn from those experiences and would you ever return to a soap?
I learned how to work quickly. And we need that on Bad Education. We shot a lot on those soaps, and we’ve got a lot of characters and a lot of set pieces. It's a really ambitious shoot with a lot of characters so we have to learn quickly and I definitely learned about my craft on the set of Hollyoaks. We shot an obscene amount of pages. On EastEnders, you shoot even more than Hollyoaks. But it's brilliant. It's so disposable - I mean that in a positive way. You can try something out and it's only gonna be on once, and even if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter because no one’s gonna watch it again after it’s been on. It's like a playground for people that are learning their craft. It’s like a crash course in how to learn the trade and how to conduct yourself. I'd never say never to going back, but I think the characters I played in both were quite impactful. It would have to be a really compelling storyline. Never say never. I enjoyed both of them so much.
What would be your dream role?
I've only ever done it once, but I love playing real people. I played Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, the guitarist. That was so much fun.
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Who would be your dream collaborators? Which actors or directors would you love to work with?
Shane Meadows. I'd love to do something with him. I also love Joe Gilgun. He's someone that I watched in This Is England. I've seen him in lots of other things, and he sounds so exciting to work with.
Thanks so much for the chat Charlie, and good luck with Bad Education!
Bad Education is back with their Christmas Special tonight at 9pm on BBC Three.