Samson Kayo’s crazy experiences as a South London pizza delivery driver have been brought to the small screen in Sliced.
Dave’s new sitcom stars Kayo – he co-wrote it with Phil Bowker, who also produces – and White Gold’s Theo Barklem-Biggs as two hapless drivers, Joshua and Ricky, who deliver pizza to their larger-than-life customers on the estates of Peckham.
Kayo, Bowker and Barklem-Biggs were speaking at an RTS Futures event in early May, which screened the first episode of Sliced and then hosted a discussion with some of the show’s talent, from both in front of and behind the camera.
"We kept it very authentic to south east London"
“I’ve been doing comedy for quite a while and I’d never seen [lives like mine] depicted on telly [until] I saw Michaela’s [Coel] Chewing Gum. It inspired me to want to tell my own story,” said Kayo.
The actor had worked on The Javone Prince Show with Bowker, who encouraged him to write. “He taught me how to write. I had loads of ideas, but I didn’t know about structure,” said Kayo. “Phil asked me to think of an idea [for a series) and I came up with Sliced because I’ve lived that life.
“We kept it very authentic to south east London, not making it look dangerous and scary, but showing the light side of it.”
Phil Bowker is steeped in comedy as a producer (Ruddy Hell! It’s Harry and Paul and Pulling) and, latterly, as a writer (PhoneShop and The Javone Prince Show).
“Samson would come to my house and I’d cook for him – I was like his nan,” said Bowker, a Liverpudlian and 20 years older than south Londoner Kayo. “It was a lovely experience. We’d just chat and he’d tell me mad things. We’d then go away and write a draft [script] and work on it.”
UKTV director of commissioning Richard Watsham and his team have notched up a series of hits on Dave, including Taskmaster and Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Goodish. When he saw the eight-minute taster tape for what would become Sliced, he was bowled over.
“It was unlike anything else we were getting sent,” said Watsham. “It really stood out; first because it was really funny and – not just because you’re sitting here – we thought you [Kayo] were quite good. Joshua is the most loveable character.”
Sliced features up-and-coming actors such as Theo Barklem-Biggs and Weruche Opia – and the highly experienced star of Quadrophenia, Phil Daniels – and newcomers.
“We’re looking for raw talent. If you’re right for a role, you’re right – it doesn’t matter where you come from,” said casting director Sally Broome, who worked on PhoneShop and The Javone Prince Show. She offered Wesley Bozonga his first TV role as an angry teenager in Sliced.
Barklem-Biggs enjoyed working with new talent on the sitcom. “It keeps things fresh and they always bring something a bit more interesting, which I envy in a way. But [Wesley] was also like a pro because he was ad-libbing. He was on it – I remember being quite blown away.”
"Not getting a role doesn’t mean you aren’t good"
Opia (Bad Education and Inside No. 9), who plays pizza worker Naomi in Sliced, had been working in the theatre but, when the play’s run finished, she was struggling to land a new job. “I was auditioning like crazy and getting really close to stuff,” she recalled. “That’s the reality of [acting] – there are peaks and there are really dark times. Persistence is key.
“As actors we base our worth on getting work but that’s not the case. There are a lot of elements that go into casting, so not getting a role doesn’t mean you aren’t good.”
But, sometimes, everything clicks. “Phil left after Weruche’s audition,” recalled Kayo. “He said, ‘Right, that’s [Naomi cast], I’m off.’”
The RTS Futures event, “Sliced: screening and Q&A”, was held at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden on 8 May. It was produced by Ali Laurie and Gem Pinkney, and chaired by Sam Homewood from Love Island Aftersun. A longer report of the event will appear in the May issue of Television.
Sliced airs on Wednesday 15th May at 10:40pm on Dave.
All photography by Paul Hampartsoumian