Jack Rooke on the 2022 BAFTA Breakthroughs: ‘From the Big Boys pilot onward, I started having faith in myself’

BAFTA Breakthrough 2022 Jack Rooke talks about Big Boys, what he’s looking to do next, and more

Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)
Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)

BAFTA Breakthrough is the arts charity’s flagship talent initiative, providing a springboard to creatives working in film, games, and TV. Participants receive unique professional development support from BAFTA, from coaching and mentoring to networking opportunities with BAFTA’s global membership of key industry figures.

NationalWorld’s Alex Moreland spoke to a selection of this year’s BAFTA Breakthrough talents, including actors Ambika Mod (This Is Going to Hurt) and Leon Harrop (Ralph & Katie), writer Jack Rooke (Big Boys), cinematographer Diana Olifirova (Heartstopper), and director Runyararo Mapfumo (Sex Education).

Below, Jack Rooke explains how he felt on learning he’d been selected for the 2022 BAFTA Breakthrough initiative, discusses what he learned on Big Boys, and reveals a little about what to expect from Big Boys Series 2 and his other upcoming projects.

Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)
Jack Rooke, Writer/Producer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23 (Credit: BAFTA/Sophia Spring)

How did you feel when you got this BAFTA Breakthrough selection?

I mean, I was stoked, I was fairly chuffed. I felt like it’s been a whirlwind, really, since the show came out at the end of May. [Big Boys] kicked off the summer for me – I think it’s the first summer without being too worried about COVID and all the impending doom, so I had a real party summer, and then landed at the end of the summer having to come back into the rain. To start that and then find out this was so nice. It’s such a lovely confidence boost to have BAFTA’s support and encouragement.

Obviously, Big Boys was quite a personal show – what was the response to it like from the people around you?

It was so sweet. Big Boys Series 1 took so long to come to fruition, you know, it’s based on my Edinburgh Fringe Shows that I did in 2015 and 2017. So, for such a long time, it just felt like a project I was saying, you know? There’s nothing to materially show to say ‘this is it, these are who these characters are’ – for so long, Big Boys existed in my head.

It’s quite a solitary experience when you’re writing, so your friends and family are the only people that you can tell about the show – the fact that it finally then came out, and they got to see what the vision was was really nice. Everyone was just really lovely about it! My mom, my mom in particular, just will send me Big Boys-related things that she sees.

When you look back on your writing career – on Big Boys, in your standup – has there ever been a moment where you’ve felt like things have really clicked? That kind of “this is it, this is for me, things are going right” moment?

I think when we shot the pilot for Big Boys, stepping on set for the first day, I felt like I belonged. I was like, God, I can do this. My brain sometimes fires at like 100 miles an hour, and I can be really indecisive, and really frustrate myself – and yet somehow on Big Boys, I just know what I want. I know what I want the costumes to be, I know which sort of lighting I want in a scene, why I want the snacks on that plate in the background of that shot to be custard creams, or why I want this or that.

All of a sudden, I suppose the truthfulness behind the show and what I know that to be suddenly informs quite a broad range of decision-making. I’ve really felt that, from the pilot onwards, I just started having faith in myself, knowing I could make a TV show and work with all the different types of crew. On Big Boys, we’ve got the most fantastic director, a guy called Jim Archer, who just is my favourite person to work with, because he’s so incisive, and thoughtful, and really funny, and just elevates my writing. And also he’s really supportive – I think you need, for a show like this, you need everyone to really care about those characters and the stuff that we’re tackling.

Was there anything in particular you feel like you learned, working on Big Boys, that you’ll take with you to future projects?

Yeah, I mean, there’s loads of stuff that I feel like will probably be in my other projects. And also, since [Big Boys] is my first thing, it’s so nice that it was seen by BAFTA as a breakthrough project, because I think it very much is, you know, me learning on the job. Like, I don’t have a drama degree, or even filmmaking degree. You know, I’ve never been particularly… I’m a self-starter, in the sense that I’d done stuff, but I felt like it’s just nice to learn those lessons firmly on the job – and I’ve managed to come out the other end of it with people still enjoying the show and wanting to work with me!

Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re working on at the moment? Or, if that’s all top secret, any just sort of general forward aspirations?

I mean, I’m mainly just working on Series 2 of Big Boys! Over the summer, I shot a film, which ws my first proper acting role. That was great; it was only like a week or so of work, but I really loved it, and therefore, I’d like to do more acting. And performing as well – me and Jon Pointing did a week at the Fringe that sold out and moved into bigger venues, which was so nice, because me and John really bonded at the Edinburgh Fringe, and Big Boys was born out of that.

I’d love to do more bits of everything, really. I think with BAFTA’s support, I’d like to meet more people in the industry – for me, it’s just all really about learning on the job. I learned from other people and learned from chatting to other people, and I’ve been really lucky in my career that people have been able to advise me and dive me that wisdom. I’m excited through BAFTA to try and give some of mine back to other people. It’s definitely an industry of people sharing experience, and that’s what makes the work better, that’s what makes TV better.

This year’s BAFTA UK selection include director Alex Thomas (Yorkshire Cop: Police, Racism and Me), dialogue editor Alyx Jones (Elden Ring), actor Ambika Mod (This is Going to Hurt), director Chloë Fairweather (Dying to Divorce), cinematographer Diana Olifirova (Heartstopper), lead designer Emily Brown (Alba: a Wildlife Adventure), writer/executive producer Jack Rooke (Big Boys), composer Jamal Green (TOEM), producer Joanna Boateng (Uprising), actor Leon Harrop (Ralph & Katie), and writer/director Marley Morrison (Sweetheart).

They’re joined by principal technical artist Morag Taylor (Total War: Warhammer 3), actor Nell Barlow (Sweetheart), writer, executive producer, and actor Nicôle Lecky (MOOD), director Paul Sng (Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché), actor Rose Ayling-Ellis (Eastenders), director Runyararo Mapfumo (Sex Education), director Sophie Cunningham (Look Away), director Theo Williams (Terms & Conditions: Deeper than Drill), and co-founders, creative director, and artistic director Zachary Soares & Luciana Nascimento (Moonglow Bay).

The US cohort, meanwhile, includes director Alex Pritz (The Territory), actor Amrit Kaur (The Sex Lives of College Girls), actor Brandon Perea (NOPE), cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby (MASTER), director Clare Knight (Back to the Outback), cinematographer Daphne Qin Wu (The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster), director/writer Ellie Foumbi (Our Father, the Devil), games programmer Megan Fox (SkateBIRD), producer Melissa Adeyemo (Eyimofe), director Rebeca Huntt (Beba), composer Robert Ouyang Rusli (Test Pattern), and director So Yun Um (Liquor Store Dreams).