• Lindsey Bowden

Conversations...with actor, Jim Howick

Updated: Apr 24


Jim Howick

Jim Howick is the very definition of a character actor. The roles he has played over the years have varied from geeky stomach acid sufferer Gerard in Peep Show, multiple characters in The Armstrong and Miller Show and Horrible Histories, to a convicted sex offender in Broadchurch. He’s currently starring in the smash hit Netflix series Sex Education as well as co-writing, co-producing and co-starring in the comedy spooky series Ghostson BBC1.

When I decided to do this series, my old college and drama school pal Jim was one person I knew would be super interesting to chat to. He’s funny, insightful and to be frank, just a really good bloke.


Lindsey Bowden (LB).

Hey Jim, thanks so much for taking the time to chat about your career. You and I, of course, go way back to our college days, but at what age did you know you wanted to get into acting?

Jim Howick (JH)

We do! I have a vivid memory of you waving at me through the window during my audition for John Dryden at Chichester College.

LB

Really? How distracting of me!

JH

It was probably around then that my interest really got started actually. I was 17 and all of a sudden surrounded by young actors who shared a common goal. When I was auditioning for Drama School, that was when I got serious. As serious as I could be, I’m not a very serious person!

LB

So we all went onto Mountview Academy, how did you find the process of drama school? Did you feel you got the discipline and training you needed?

JH

Certainly the discipline yes. Turning up on time and being prepared specially. Parts of the training, obvious things such as sight-reading and voice work, have been the most valuable since graduating. Other parts of the training I enjoyed at the time but haven’t really utilised yet. Who knows if I’ll ever be needed to a demi plie!* At least I’ll have it in my wheelhouse! I loved my time at Drama School, but at that time, late 90’s, there wasn’t really enough TV technique in the curriculum, and since I’ve mostly done TV work, I’ve learned a lot about the medium from doing the work itself.



Jim Howick as Gerard in Peep Show

LB

Blimey, I forgot all about the demi plie, I don’t think I ever used it either. So working steadily as you have, do you feel the business has changed a lot in the last 20 years, especially with the introduction of social media?

JH

Yes. It’s changed in many ways. The work itself hasn’t changed much, the process of it, but now we operate almost exclusively digitally. There’s more content these days, more channels, multiple streaming services, and social media platforms to showcase work. Certainly from a comedy point of view, it’s much easier to showcase your writing and performing. When we left drama school, there were 5 terrestrial channels and also Sky, but they weren’t really making original material then. The most positive change is the determination to balance diversity across casts and crews, to give everybody the same chance.

LB

Yes I remember Sky starting and everyone being enthralled by this dish on the side of the your house! So who were your inspirations to be an actor?


Rik Mayall

JH

Comics mostly. Rik Mayall, Rowan Atkinson, John Candy, Chevy Chase, all those comic actors. I always enjoyed drama, but I was especially attracted to comedy performances.

LB

Oh, I still miss Rik Mayall, they’ll never be another like him. Did you know that they have placed the bench back at Hammersmith Broadway which is where they filmed the credits for Bottom!

JH

I did know that!

LB

Yep, it’s a nice tribute. Now, of course, you are well known for being one of the main cast of Horrible Histories, and with other cast members from that show, you also wrote and developed the TV shows Yonderland and Ghosts, which you also produced. Can you talk a little about how you all came together to continue working together, and how you keep the chemistry going to enable the best work?

JH

Yeah, It’s a genuine love affair. Working on Horrible Histories was enormous fun, but really

Jim Howick in Horrible Histories

hard work, and I believe our collective experience on the show has made our bond extra strong. We respect and trust each other and can still make each other cry with laughter.

LB

Which is so important when you work so closely together.

JH

Definitely.

LB

So how did you find the producing for TV experience with Ghosts, and wearing 3 hats, being co-writer and co-star as well? It’s quite a challenge!


Jim Howick and Charlotte Ritchie in Ghosts (Button Hall Productions)

JH

I feel like it’s one massive hat, to be honest. Or a hat with three horns! We don’t assemble a crew and spin production plates as it were, but we get a say. We are producers in a creative capacity, so we really get to exercise that at the beginning of the process with the story and again at the end when we come to the edit.

LB

It’s not often writers get given a voice in the final edit so it’s great you were supported in that. So, in 2013 I worked with The Jim Henson Company and I became obsessed with puppets and the skills of the puppeteers. How did you find working with puppets in Yonderland?


Jim Howick in Yonderland

JH

I loved it, and I’m so pleased we decided to make it part of Yonderland. It was a really early decision when we were devising the show that quickly became concrete. The Storyteller was a huge part of our childhoods and we wanted our show to evoke that. The invention of the puppet makers and the dexterity of the puppeteers, often contorting themselves for hours to serve the frame, just amazed me!

LB

Yep, what they do is incredible, it’s such a skill to have. Some of the puppeteers I worked with tried to teach me and it’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks, especially while watching a monitor to make sure you’ve got your angles right and the puppeteer isn’t in the shot! So moving away from the jollier characters, you played a very different character in Broadchurch. How was the experience of playing someone more sinister?

JH

Well, I was aware that the story matter was very sensitive and very serious indeed, but as an acting exercise, I really enjoyed a rare day out in evil town. It’s fun to do something different and people seemed a bit freaked out by it which was extra satisfying.


Jim Howick and David Tennant in Broadchurch

LB

And Broadchurch was the second time you had worked with Olivia Colman yes?

JH

Yes, I’ve been very fortunate to work with Olivia. We did four years on Peep Show together, and then a week on Broadchurch. She’s just super lovely and brilliant.

LB

You’re currently starring in the Netflix hit Sex Education as the lovable teacher Mr. Hendricks. I binged both seasons the other day and was crying in laughter. It’s so brilliantly written and acted. I can only imagine this was a complete joy to a part of? Especially as you enjoy a romance in this new 2nd season? Can we look forward to a season 3?


Jim Howick and Ncuti Gatwa in Sex Education

JH

I’m so proud to be part of Sex Education. It’s a special show. It manages to handle a multitude of difficult themes so deftly. We were supposed to start filming Season 3 at the end of April this year, but it’s been pushed back a few months. I haven’t seen the scripts yet, so I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, but I’m sure there’ll be lots of dicking about!

LB

I seriously can’t wait, I’m addicted! So, Jim, every actor has a role they would have loved to have played. Mine is The Bride from Kill Bill...and also Venkman from Ghostbusters. What’s yours?

JH

Are we doing two then? Ok. Quint in Jaws. The Dude in The Big Lebowski.

LB

Nice choices! So do you have any actors or directors you would love to work with?

JH

In the same vein, Stephen Spielberg and Joel Cohen!

LB

Makes sense! So with all your experience to date, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone reading this who wants to be an actor?

JH

We are all individuals. Walking talking fingerprints. So, find out what makes you different and work at that. Try to find your own niche. That and be on time. And be nice.

LB

Always be nice. Jim, thanks so much for joining me in this chat.

JH

No worries Lins, it was good to talk!

Follow Jim Howick on Twitter @JimHowick

Follow Lindsey Bowden on Instagram @lindseybowden76 and Twitter @lindseybowden76


*Demi Plie - dance move, or squat, that no-one who isn't a dancer uses...

© 2020 Lindsey Bowden.