IT would be fair to say you either love or hate the Inbetweeners. The same however, cannot be said of the man that created the sitcom.
Thurrock’s best loved comedian is Russell Brand, who heralds from Grays, but not many people are aware that amicable writer and producer Damon Beesley grew up in Stanford-le-Hope.
Damon, along with his long-term project partner Iain Morris, created one of the most-successful British comedy series in recent times, with the Inbetweeners growing into a worldwide franchise after its movie launch in 2011.
The story about the four Sixth Form misfits hit a note with millions of people with aspects of many of us represented in the sensible Will, the caring and lost-in-love Simon, the outrageous Jay and dim nice-guy Neil.
Extremely likeable and very open about his early years in Stanford, Damon told the Gazette he went to St Clere’s School and Stanford-le-Hope Primary before moving to Kent at the age of 12.
He said: “My primary school years were quite unremarkable. I remember I was third fastest runner in the playground and that carried a lot of weight back then.
“I lived on a council estate with my group of friends and even then I think I was hopeless.
“I was very much Simon from the show and indeed the character is based on me.
“I lived in a pretty idyllic world and just got on with it. I remember Stanford was quite a new town when I was growing up so I was changing with it.”
Damon didn’t get into comedy until he was made redundant aged 25.
He saw this as an opportunity and looked to force his way into the industry. He said: “My first exposure to TV was the Big Breakfast on Channel 4 with Zig and Zag. I just wanted to get my foot in the door and it was after that I started writing.
“I did the 11 O’Clock Show before Iain and I decided to write the Inbetweeners and launch Bwark Productions.
“We drew from so many of our school experiences. Iain can relate to Will’s woes with Charlotte in the bedroom and I even had a fish jump in our boat on a school trip.
“As for the T-shirts in the film – that idea came after I saw lads in holiday pictures with my sister Lydia with unspeakable slogans on them.
“When we showed people the script they absolutely loved it, but they weren’t sure if it would fit in the market. We rewrote it with the characters slightly older but it didn’t quite feel right.
“It was only when E4 decided to go bigger on comedy we got the break and it was broadcast.”
Eighteen episodes and one film later the characters are amongst the most recognised on television and the show has won a host of awards.
It is no wonder a second film is set to be released, although Damon was tightlipped about the project.
He said: “We have been sworn to secrecy although I will say it it should be out in the first two weeks of August. We are very excited about it.”
Damon says he visits his family, who live in Grays, whenever he can and is as proud of his family as they are of him.
His 17-year-old brother Alix has just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
He added: “At 17 I was fantasising over what car I wanted and blushing when a girl spoke to me, let alone climbing a mountain. I am incredibly proud although I’ve said he should cross the line at trying to climb Everest.
“When you climb past dead bodies I think you know that is the stopping point!”
Damon has most recently been working on E4 comedy Drifters, to be released at the end of October. It is about a group of young women who are looking for their way in life.
Sounds similar to the Inbetweeners? Why change a winning formula? Bring on the new movie!