With the fearless candor of “Awkward” and the half-baked gross-out humor that keeps theaters packed for every Judd Apatow movie ever, the U.S. remake of UK cult hit “The Inbetweeners” is essentially MTV’s small-screen answer to “American Pie.” The series premieres Monday, August 20 at 10:30 p.m., chock-full of laugh out loud moments that will take you right back to your high school days… but not necessarily the good days, if you know what we’re saying.
Joey Pollari plays Will McKenzie, who transfers to a new school after some problems with bullies at his old one. There, he meets the unlucky in love Simon Cooper (Bubba Lewis), the dimwitted Neil Sutherland (Mark L. Young), and Jay Cartwright (Zack Pearlman), who one television critic at this year’s TCA Press Tour described as one of the most despicable characters on television. (He’s our favorite.) By default, Will becomes one of the gang, and they spend their days making futile attempts at being cool enough to get a girl’s attention.
We caught up with 18-year-old Pollari — get the 411 below.
Zap2it: Okay, give us the basics — where are you from, and what made you want to become an actor?
Pollari: I’m from Minnesota. At six years old I remember hearing about some radio commercial that’s like ‘Here’s how you get an agent or a manager!’ and usually those things are a scam, but this one was for real, and I got an agent and a manager, and ever since I have been working my way up. Now I have a project that I’m really excited about.
Zap2it: You shot the first season a while ago, so now you guys are just doing to press circuit. I saw your “50 Shades of Grey” reading.
Pollari: It’s been so fun to do things like that! Honestly, I love my cast, like I love my guys, we have such a good friendship, so it’s been a good time.
Zap2it: So you’re not one of those casts who secretly hate each other.
Pollari: No, not at all! We love hanging out together. We go out to eat all the time. Every Thursday or Friday on set we’d have game nights with each other, where we’d all just go over to my apartment and all play games together.
Zap2it: Where did you guys film?
Pollari: Orlando, Florida, the hotbed of tourism.
Zap2it: That’s a long way from the UK. Did you watch the UK version of the show, or did you want to approach it without having that over your head?
Pollari: I think most of us are fans of the original. Once I heard about the remake and I got the audition, I said ‘Maybe I’ll just try it out, and see what it’s about,’ and it just blew me away. I’m such a huge fan. I think it’s brilliant. At the same time, all of us being fans of the original, knew where we needed to deviate. Only six concepts are used from the original in total, so we still got to make our own show.
Zap2it: If it was five years ago, and the show had aired in the UK, hardly anyone in the US would’ve seen it, but in the age of Hulu and all kinds of digital options, there are a lot of fans here that are going to be critiquing your version against the original. There’s a tendency for people to automatically scoff and say, “The British version is better!” without even giving the new version a try. Is that nerve-wracking?
Pollari: Absolutely. The backlash, just from our trailer, and the announcement that it was being made, was huge. I definitely have some nerves, especially because it’s a cult show. Not only is it a favorite in the UK, but it’s a cult favorite. I am a cult fan of some things, and I’d defend my shows, so I understand the skepticism. At the same time, over the twelve episodes it just becomes a different show.
Zap2it: Is there anything that you’re particularly excited for fans to see? A favorite episode, maybe?
Pollari: Of course. It’s one of my favorites — all of them are unbelievable. An episode called “Fire” comes later in the season. A fire is started at school, and it’s just an insane episode and I’m so excited for that because it’s really different and incredibly witty. I’m so excited to see it.
Zap2it: The show sort of thrives on these kids’ embarrassing moments. Were there any scenes that were awkward to actually shoot?
Pollari: There’s a part where Will dances at once point, we go to a club. That was one where I was like ‘Oh, man.’ The biggest one, where I was like ‘This is going to be too awkward,’ was there’s a nudity scene. All of us get nude at one point, at least partially nude, and I got half naked and I thought to myself, ‘This might be the most insane thing I’ve ever done.’ Fear is often the greatest tool for an actor. For me it was one of the most freeing experiences in my life.