There are a handful of men on television that prompt fans to threaten bodily harm should something bad befall them. We humbly present a new entrant into this pantheon: James from Derry Girls.
Premium cable examples of these particular dramatis personae are the Euphoria drug dealer with a heart of gold, Fez, and Game of Thrones’s resident male ally, Tormund Giantsbane. For these characters, masculinity (and all the usual trappings that go along with it) are never a main motivator. Like a leveled-up Seth Cohen, their tenderness isn’t overwrought but earned. And, thusly, they must be protected at any and all costs.
Derry Girls, the Channel 4 series from Lisa McGee follows a group of friends—Erin, Orla, Claire and Michelle—as they traverse between the teenaged touchstones of horniness and angst, all the while Northern Ireland negotiates the roiling political unrest of the late ‘90s, known as The Troubles. Introduced as the “wee English fella,” James is sent from London to live with his cousin Michelle, enrolled in the local all-girls Catholic school, reluctantly taken in by the girls and systemically lobbed increasingly creative insults.
But, by the end of the second season, James is shouting from the rooftops, proudly, “I am a Derry Girl!” It’s the type of impossibly heartfelt tableau that has viewers clutching their chests and offering their undying fealty.
With the second season of Derry Girls now streaming on Netflix and a third season renewal secured, GQ made a long-distance call to Dylan Llewellyn, the actor behind James, to talk about the cast group chat, Irish slang, and being “bit of a listener.”
GQ: How did you find out you got your part on Derry Girls?
Dylan Llewellyn: I was doing part time work in a little coffee shop—actor’s life, I guess—and my manager was rooting for me to do well. So, I got the call during work and told him it was my agent and he goes, “Go!” I nicked outside and got the green light. Ever since watching The Inbetweeners I had always wanted to get into a comedy series and that dream came true then. Everyone in the cafe was quite happy for me, and they also said I would always have a place there.
It sounds like a lovely fallback.
How would describe James?
He is similar to me, actually. He is quite awkward—not quite, he is very awkward. He wants to please, but he is very scared and gets confused but “Derry things.” He is petrified from the get-go, and then the girls give him tough love and all that. I just wish he would be a bit more happy.
What would make James happy?
I think he needs to be a bit more cheeky. Once Michelle has taught him to be more cheeky through that tough love, I think he will be happy.
James doesn’t bring the traditional masculine energy we typically see on television into the group. Why do you think that is?
It is his surroundings. He is hanging out with a girl group, so he is getting in touch with his femine side and slightly loving it. He is putting on eyeliner and doing all of these other things, and the girls haven’t taken the piss out of him for doing it, so he figures maybe he will just keep doing it. He is adjusting to new surroundings, and he is thinking that it is okay to be more vulnerable and sensitive.
You are English and shooting in Ireland with an Irish cast, kinda like James. Was there a learning curve for you, as well, in terms of Irish culture?
Oh, loads. I had to learn it all. The girls say I am an honorary Irishman now, which I’ll take. Recently, me and the girls were invited to the Irish Embassy in England, and I was the only English guy there. It was me, the girls and quite a few Irish actors, and then Rugby stars. It was Irish everywhere, except me. But I am an honorary one now, so I blended in.
And how much did you know about The Troubles prior to the show?
I didn’t know too much because they didn’t teach it in English schools, so it was all quite new to me.
What was it like meeting the girls for the very first time?
The girls were cast a bit before me—I was the last piece—and they already had a group chat going. And then I joined like, “Woah, hello!” At first, it was overwhelming because they are such big personalities—in a great way!
Then when we met in person for the first time. We went out for dinner, and the girls were just chatting, chatting, chatting and I was listening—I’m a bit of a listener—but the girls kept feeling bad and going, “Dylan, what do you think?” They were trying to get me into the convo, but I was just like, “I don’t know! I don’t know what you guys are saying.” I couldn’t understand some of them, at first. But Irish people probably don’t understand English people, at first.
What is your favorite piece of Irish slang that you learned?
Wain. They say wain for a kid. Like, “I’ll look after the wains.” And whenever they said that I would always yell, “Wain's world!” [Laughs.] I don’t know why I keep doing it.
Where do you guys shoot?
In Belfast and Derry. Belfast is where they shoot Game of Thrones, so they have the massive studios and infrastructure there.
Did you overlap at all with Game of Thrones?
We didn’t, sadly. We were praying we would be. Well, I was. I don’t know about the girls. I was thinking, “Oh god, I want to meet Jon Snow.” But we had quite a lot of the same crew from Game of Thrones. Quite a few of them had shirts that said, “I Survived The Night’s Watch Shoot” or something funny like that. It’s even funnier that Grandad Joe, Ian McElhinney, is in both shows.
What do you guys do when you aren’t filming?
We just hang out. I went shopping quite a lot with the girls, which was nice. During Season One shooting, no one knew who the hell we were, but when season two happened as soon as we stepped out of the apartments there were eyes on us.
So people in Derry know you guys pretty well?
Hell yeah. They painted a mural of us.
Outside of Derry Girls, do you have a dream project?
I’d love to get into the whole superhero stuff.
If you could play any comic book character, which would it be?
I kind of always wanted to play Spider-Man. I just feel like it is because I am a skinny, awkward, white boy. But I would also love to do an American series, because my accent is quite good. [Laughs.] That sounds up myself—it’s alright.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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Originally Appeared on GQ