Buffering Interview: Steve Bugeja

Buffering Interview Steve Bugeja

Buffering which returns to ITV2 and ITVX later this months is a comedy following the lives of kids’ TV presenter Iain (Iain Stirling) and his housemates. Steve Bugeja, co-created the series and plays Finn in the show and here he tells us who’s the naughtiest on set and why making the second season was easier than the first.

Mem TV: What was it like seeing the reaction to series one?
A: It was really cool. I think that it was such a long wait though, you know. So we started making it in 2019 and obviously mid-21, and there was a pandemic in the middle, so actually it put things in perspective, to be honest. But it was a nice feeling, and the best thing about it was getting messages from people who particularly connected with the story in some way. They’d never seen someone represent that journey, that particular emotional journey, in that way. And that was really lovely because you sort of just think no one’s going to care and you forget that actually loads of people watch TV. And it’s a nice feeling when people remember stuff that you’ve written and quote it back to you.

Mem TV: When you then sit down to do series two, is it easier for you because you can visualise the characters?
A: So it was so much easier, to be honest. We obviously knew who the characters were. We knew the actors and we knew what made them more funny because we’d seen them do it. It really made it quicker and it meant we could get through ideas quicker because we weren’t wasting time going, “Oh maybe the show’s a bit like this.” We already know what the show is and we know how an episode looks.

The show really is about where I’m at in my life, sadly. Iain’s beyond it. It’s that bit where you should have sorted your life out, you should be an adult and yet you’re still waking up three minutes before a Zoom call that you’ve got to be one. Once we really focused in on that idea and that every episode needs to show them being in this stage of delayed adulthood, it just opens up so many story options and it makes everything tie together really well. So I think series two is a development of series one. It’s definitely better, it has much more of a clear identity, I think.

This is a show for all those people who don’t feel like grown ups yet but should. Our characters are caught between crashing their neighbours house party and asking them to turn it down. They should be saving for a house deposit, but instead they spunk money on Deliveroo while doom scrolling Rightmove. I’ve basically written characters who are struggling to be adult to make me feel better about my own life.

Mem TV: What can fans expect from series two in terms of storylines and what the gang are getting up to?
So Iain and Olivia are still in a will they, won’t they, love relationship and infuriatingly unable to communicate with each other. Ashley and Greg have to deal with the fact that Ashley cheated at the end of the last series with the very handsome Robbie, and that all kind of blows up in the first episode. I won’t tell you what happens, but it’s not good, and there’s some karaoke! Thalia continues to be blunt and uncompromising, Rosie resumes her role as the self-appointed, unqualified mother of the group and Finn remains as naive and bumbling as ever, all while desperately trying to be part of the gang. Oh there’s going to be something! The dynamic with Thalia plays out throughout the series and I think they’re quite a good pair. I think he balances her out and she makes him more confident. They’re funny together. They do funny stuff.

Mem TV: How did you establish the chemistry you all have together?
Well we were friends from series one, but series one was tricky because it was filmed during Covid so we had to eat lunch separately and things like that, and that makes a real difference to the team morale. Series two was amazing because we can all just hang out all the time, we would all sometimes sit there and honestly be like, “Isn’t it amazing we could just chat at lunch?” which just shows how bad the world got. But that helps, having lunch together every day and laughing.

We have had nights out in between the two series, so yeah, I guess that helps. But everyone’s reasonably restrained. I think everyone’s getting quite adult and mature. Iain’s got a baby, he can’t go out. So it’s always usually me! We did the wrap party and it was me and Rosa who were the last ones dancing, which is really embarrassing actually because there were members of the crew at that wrap party who are in their early twenties, they definitely should have been the ones partying but me and Rosa, who are like early thirties, are still there on a Tuesday night at 3am in Soho. I don’t know what it says about our lives! But yeah, we all do get on really well. We’re so lucky. Everyone’s just really lovely.

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Mem TV: Who’s the naughtiest on set?
A: Who is the naughtiest? That’s a good question. I would say that everyone’s reasonably well behaved because we’ve got such a tight schedule. But Iain is probably the most likely to do something daft to mess someone up. And I’d say Rosa’s the best behaved on set. She’s a very, very professional actor.

Me and Iain are really bad for corpsing. We’re really bad. I’m really bad for it. I’ve got better. But we did one scene in episode six with an actor called Tony Way, who’s in Afterlife, and he’s just so funny and he’s so used to messing around with Ricky Gervais on set, they always making each other corpse. So he was doing it to us and me and Iain just couldn’t handle it! The director was getting so annoyed. I had to feed Tony some beef jerky at one point and he just kept making these scuffling noises every time he ate the jerky and he’d changed the noise every time. It wasn’t even that funny, but it’d be the anticipation that he was going to do it, that the laughter would build up and I had to keep a straight face. It was awful. I’ll tell you actually who is the naughtiest, Larry the Lizard is the worst behaved. The puppeteer, Phil Fletcher, he is the most likely to throw in a line that is not in the script deliberately to mess someone up because he’s pretty mischievous, I would say. It’s just funnier when a lizard says it. I still don’t know if it fully comes across on screen, but when you’ve got a lizard right there chatting to you, you do just chat to the lizard. You just get so used to talking to a lizard and actually miss him. It was nice to see him again.

Mem TV: Iain’s wife Laura is on the show this year, what was that like?
A: It was actually really nice having her on set. She was great. She was so good for that role and she really thought about it and brought loads of great ideas and those two on screen were really funny because all she had to do was slag him off! And I don’t know whether that helped, whether just subconsciously she wanted to do that, but it came across great, that she was able to say some things about Iain looking disgusting. She performed it brilliantly. I don’t know whether she was acting or not! When we were writing the script, I was sort of saying to Iain, “Oh is Laura going to be okay with this, being on screen, slagging you off?” And then when she read it she’s like, “I could say worse than that if you want.” I was like, “Oh okay!” She plays a very different character to herself, which is really nice. I mean, she’s a really great actress. She really can do it, so we were very lucky to have her.

Mem TV: Emily Atack is in this series too, what do you think she brings to the show?
A: Emily was great. The day we filmed with Emily, it was the Just Stop Oil protest, you know when they closed down the bridge. That was right by our studio. And poor Emily had to walk. All the cars were gridlocked and she had to walk from her car, like half an hour or something, to get to the studio. So it was a really weird start. And then everything was delayed by three hours because everyone couldn’t get in, so it was a really weird day. But she is just such a pro. She’s so naturally funny. We never had any issues with her corpsing or not knowing her lines. She was so good, and it was really cool to have her. She was really lovely, so happy to be there and almost instantly she was just one of the gang.

Mem TV: If you came back for series three which celebs would you like to make a cameo?
I mean, that is one of my favourite things about the show that we can have guest stars and they can either come in and play themselves, like a version of themselves, which Emily did. It was obviously a heightened role and she was able to really lean into that. I love watching people play heightened versions of themselves, really blurring the line between what is real and what isn’t. She kind of encapsulate that world that we are trying to tap into, that bit of delayed adulthood, I guess. But then sometimes you have someone like Joel Dommet in series one, and he comes in, doesn’t play himself, he plays some mad fitness freak, which actually he is, ironically. But he plays a different character. So it’s nice that we can play around with that with different people. But yeah, who do I want? I’d like Stormzy. I’d like Stormy, Harry Styles and Tom Holland. They’re the three I want. We don’t even reference who they are. We don’t even say it. No one’s like, “Oh it’s Harry Styles.” He’s just there. He’s just in the room being Harry Styles. And I think probably him and Finn would create a lovely friendship. Harry and Finn would be good friends.

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Mem TV: Has there been a moment where you’ve felt like you’re buffering between two eras in your life?
A: It’s constant. It’s never ending. I want it to end! I don’t know why it’s not ending yet. Yes, I regularly feel like I’m in those periods. Me and Iain will sit down to chat ideas through and he’ll be like, “So what is it like because I’m not really sure I remember what it was like?” For him, it was only a few years ago, basically pre-Laura. And then I’d just be like, “Oh I did this thing last night.” And he’d be like, “Oh that’s great. Let’s do that.” Because I just live it constantly. I guess it’s the feeling of renting, that’s a big part of it, that sort of impermanence of renting. So many of my friends are having babies and getting married.

Every week I get sent a scan of a new baby and I’m sick of it! I’m so sick of it, and I’m not happy for them. I have to pretend I’m happy for them. I’m not. It’s ruining my life and they’re ruining theirs as well! The whole thing is pointless. No, it is nice, but I’m losing my friends, that is the problem, and I have to go to so many weddings and there’s only so many you can enjoy. My policy now, I don’t go on stag dos anymore. That’s my new policy, unless I really want to, but that almost never happens. So I just don’t go. I just say I’ve got a gig or something and it never happens. I just say I’m filming. People don’t know. I’m just like, “Oh I’m filming that day.” They don’t know why I’m filming. I just say that.

Mem TV: Have you ever called the police on your own party like Iain does this series?
A: No, I haven’t done that. I’m not really cool enough to have a party. That’s the thing. So I had a birthday party in June and I’ve got a reasonably big garden and I just didn’t have enough friends to fill it. It was embarrassing. I had to cordon off bits of the garden like a nightclub that shuts down rooms. I had to do that in my own house! The previous year loads of people had come, so I don’t know what happened since then. It’s been a bad year for my social life!

Mem TV: So you’ve said Iain’s already hit the next stage of life, what is it you are looking for?
A: I need to find love. That’s what I need to find. No, I’m actually very happy. But, I guess, I need a house, actually. That’s what I need. So if anyone wants to give me a house, that’d be great. If house prices could just crash, that would really help me out. I think that’s probably the next step. Some sort of adult owning a house. Decorating a house. I live with my friend at the moment and this is his flat and it’s very nice, but I’ve got no say over the things on the walls and I just want to be able to put something on the wall and be like, “ah, I chose that”. That’s the next stage. It’s actually quite a low bar. I just want to be able to frame photos. That’s the next stage.

Mem TV: Have you got lots of plans for series three if you get the green light?
A: We’ll have to wait for ITV to decide afterwards. But we have got load of ideas, yeah. We’re always talking about it. And actually when you’re making it, you can’t help but think, “oh it’d be really funny if Thalia got into this situation or if Rosie made this”. So yeah, I’ve got a whole list on my phone of Buffering ideas, more than enough for series three and four. And obviously now we’ve developed this whole Harry Styles, Stormzy story. That’s probably a series in itself. So yeah, there’s loads of ideas and luckily my life isn’t progressing very quickly, so there’s a constant feed of new experiences that I can tap into. And honestly, I reckon we could do this chat this time next year and I’ll still be like, “Yeah, I just want to find love. I just want to frame a photo.” You’ll be like, “Steve, you’ve had a year now, it’s getting a bit ridiculous.”

But I don’t think anyone feels like an adult, do they? No one realises that. You just constantly go, “why do I not feel like an adult?” And no one does. And actually I think it’s funnier the older we get, the cast, because they’re sort of turning 30, that kind of stage. But actually I’m 32. It’s funnier now. When I tell stories now that’s way funnier because it’s like, oh, it’s more tragic. And actually the older you get, the more your other friends will go and do even more adult stuff, well stuff you perceive as being adult, and the more you feel left behind. And actually the thing our characters need to learn, and I guess I need to learn, is that really you’re never that far away.

Buffering Season 2 premieres on ITV2 and ITVX later this month.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.