"The Inbetweeners" is one of the most beloved British comedies of the past decade, managing to garner enough international appeal to amass a sizeable cult following in the US during its three-season run. So naturally, when MTV announced it was planning to adapt the series for American audiences, outrage ensued. (Especially after the "Skins" debacle.)
Luckily, the show has retained much of the charm of its predecessor without wholly retreading its steps. Similar to the way Showtime's "Shameless" utilized plots from the UK version before forging its own path, the US "Inbetweeners" will use certain stories as springboards before heading in an original direction, usually riffing on the most embarrassing elements of the high school experience in a similar way to MTV's other charming teen comedy, "Awkward."
"I think that the first season, out of 12 episodes, six borrow ... skewed versions of their plots," executive producer Brad Copeland told reporters at the recent Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. "We have plots that we really enjoyed from the series that we wanted to put in, but usually we had to tweak it a little bit just to fit the American sensibility, or things where their kids are allowed to drink at prom and obviously ours aren’t. And I think that was it. They only did 18 episodes, so there’s really not that much to borrow."
There's also a fair amount of reverence towards the source material, both amongst the creative team and the cast. During their interview with HuffPost TV, the actors admitted that they were all fans of the British comedy before reading for their roles. "I actually had a little bit of a problem when I first heard they were remaking it -- honestly, I fanboyed a little bit," said Zack Pearlman (who plays "self-proclaimed leader of the group" and pathological liar, Jay Cartwright). "My friend was in college abroad and he sent me 'The IT Crowd' and 'Inbetweeners' ... and I was like, 'Oh my God, these are so good. And then I saw the 'IT Crowd' pilot for the US [which sucked] ..."
The cast's trepidation quickly melted away when they learned about Copeland's involvement, knowing they were in good hands with the man who had written and produced "Arrested Development" and "My Name Is Earl."
"That was a game-changer," admitted Bubba Lewis, who plays Simon Cooper, the "hopeless romantic" of the group. "It was so crazy because I fell in love with Simon first, because that’s who I related with the most. I’m such a huge fan of the original. That’s why when I found out, I was instantly like, 'I have to read for this somehow.'"
Joey Pollari -- who stars as Will McKenzie, the hapless everyman at the center of the show -- said that the whole cast was anxious to see how heavily they would rely on the original after shooting the pilot. "I was not only surprised, I was blown away," he told HuffPost TV. "Overall we’ve really made them our own and sort of spun off and made it its own thing. I was amazed at how quickly it gets there within the first season and becomes its own show so quick."
The only member of the main cast who hadn't seen the British version was Alex Frnka, who plays Carly D'Amato, the object of Simon's affections. "Once I got the audition my manager was like, 'Oh, it’s a remake of this great, famous UK series,'" she explained. "I was like, 'I don’t want to watch it now. I want to wait until after.' So after we filmed our season, I sat down and watched them all and got to see the movie with Iain [Morris, who created the British show]. I loved it. I was able to appreciate them both on two different levels."
For those who are unfamiliar with the UK series, Pollari provided some background on his character, whose arrival provides the catalyst for much of the action: "Will moves from a private school to a public school and he is just too over-prepared from private school. He gets here and he realizes that [Simon, Jay and Neil (played by Mark L. Young)] are the only guys who are really going to hang out with him. He’s got to make the best of it. But he’s anxious and type A and ready to go to Harvard and ready to get his life on track, but right now he’s stuck in high school. It’s very troublesome."
The guys' main objective for the season is to get laid. "I think that's the plan of every boy that age," Lewis joked, before revealing that most of them fail in the quest.
"One of us gets some," Pearlman teased. "But we all fail miserably in our own way."
"Will gets close at one point," Pollari previewed. "That’s what makes it so great when he fails, is that he got so close -- it's just the worst to see that."
"Simon’s just … he’s ready. He’s there," Lewis laughed, describing his character's will they/won't they flirtation with Carly. "She clearly is not having it at all. I don’t know what she sees in him. Maybe it’s that little eight-year-old boy she used to play with that keeps her always having a soft spot for him. But I think Simon’s thankful for it because he gets chance after chance and he always fails."
"Carly is dating someone this season, but every time her boyfriend messes up, Simon tries to swoop in," Frnka said. "Maybe she starts to notice how nice this guy is, I don't know..."
The actors aren't afraid to bare it all for their art, since the season features a number of cringe-inducing situations for our heroes -- most of them requiring various states of nudity. "I get naked a lot, which is one of my favorite things to do," Lewis joked.
"Every single one of us has our shirt off at least once. It’s a little disturbing," Pearlman said. "I will say that the most embarrassing thing, it’s a little bit of a spoiler, but my manhood gets stuck in something. Man, that’s a fun episode."
Despite the compromising positions, the cast's enthusiasm for the project was obvious during our conversation, and the actors were already finishing each other's sentences. "This is honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life," Pearlman admitted. "It wasn’t work at a certain point. I remember we would get two hours of sleep and we’d still be jacked to do more every single day."
When asked whether they had some advice for any real-life inbetweeners (kids who are neither in the popular crowd nor on the bottom rung) out there, the cast had plenty of wisdom to impart:
Pearlman: Stick it out.
Pollari: Keep living and failing and learning and experiencing.
Lewis: Yeah, failure is the best learning.
Pearlman: If anyone tells you not to do something, you might want to do that.
Lewis: You might want to check it out. Not drugs, but ...
Pearlman: Not most drugs ...
Pollari: Tylenol's great.
Lewis: Ibuprofen, Advil PM ...
Pearlman: Not Nyquil, Nyquil is a part of meth.
Lewis: That's true.
Frnka: I think just find a good group of friends that will be there for you and maybe get you out of those sticky situations that you’re finding yourself in.
Pollari: Ultimately, that’s what you have. Ultimately, at the end of every episode, after each one of us has failed miserably in our own way in that episode, we still have each other.
Lewis: Even if we’re making fun of each other we’ve still got each other. That’s the point, there’s someone who’s there to give and take.
Pollari: That's why it's heartwarming.
"The Inbetweeners" premieres Mon., Aug 20 at 10.30 p.m. ET on MTV.
Are you a fan of the UK "Inbetweeners"? Do you plan to check out the new version? Weigh in below!
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