David Walliams and Sheridan Smith on TV special Jack and The Beanstalk After Ever After

As Sky Original Jack And The Beanstalk After Ever After arrives this Christmas, Danielle de Wolfe speaks to stars David Walliams and Sheridan Smith to discover more.

Sheridan Smith in character for her role. Photo: PA Photo/ ©Sky UKLtd

A fairytale dating back over three centuries, Jack And The Beanstalk continues to capture the imagination of children and adults alike.

Whether it’s the whimsical plotline, notions of overbearing giants or simply the enchanting concept of a gravity-defying beanstalk, the classic tale of good prevailing over evil is one that has stood the test of time.

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However, it’s not often we spare a thought for what happens to these larger-than-life characters after the book has been closed.

Eddie Karanja as Jack, David Walliams as the Giant, and Sheridan Smith as The Woman in Jack and the Beanstalk After Ever After. Picture: PA Photo/ ©Sky UKLtd

It’s precisely the premise upon which writer, children’s author and comedian David Walliams’ latest Sky original, Jack And The Beanstalk After Ever After, is built.

Centred around the realisation that the giant was simply knocked unconscious following his dramatic fall from the sky, the 60-minute special sees him trapped on earth with Jack, and facing the wrath of the angry villagers.

“It felt of the time because it’s basically about the idea of humans and giants getting on, so it felt timely, as a metaphor,” says Walliams, 49, of the tale.

“I’ve always loved this story, it’s a British fairy tale, so it appealed to me because it’s one that I really grew up with.”

In addition to co-writing the project, Walliams also takes on the role of the concussed giant, alongside Cilla actress Sheridan Smith, 39, who plays The Woman With No Name, and Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison, 35, as Dodgy Dave.

“I think most things for kids genuinely work for grown-ups too,” notes Walliams.

“You’ve got to remember grown-ups choose most of the time what their children watch or read, so normally they like to choose things that they’re going to enjoy too. We’re all kids.

“There’s not rude jokes but there are things like, ‘There’s a giant on the loose, we’ve got to go into lockdown’ and, ‘Yeah, course parks are still open’ – jokes which are probably going to be more appreciated by the grown-ups.”

There were, however, a few alterations to the initial script in order to keep things family friendly.

“At the end, instead of a beanstalk we were going to have a sausage grow,” remarks Walliams innocently.

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“But that was considered too rude, so we then had to change it to a sausage roll. I don’t know why a sausage would be rude.

“I don’t know what people would be reading into that, but we had to change it. And that meant we could do a joke about a vegan sausage roll – and the bakers is called Gregg’s in the story, which is a very 2020 thing.”

Despite most productions facing greater restrictions as a result of the global pandemic, on this occasion, it was a factor that eventually played into Walliams’ hands.

“We were actually meant to go to Bulgaria,” he notes of the filming schedule.

“We were meant to go at the end of the summer, but I don’t know if you’ve heard of Covid-19?

“It meant all our plans had to change, but suddenly we could film in the UK and luckily every actor in Britain had been out of work since March and so we could put together this brilliant cast.

“Sometimes you get lucky and you get your first choice and sometimes you don’t.”

Newcomer Eddie Karanja takes up the reins as a young Jack as part of the unconventional tale.

In his first major on-screen role, Karanja was “a delight”, Walliams say, with the comedian noting “he really wanted to learn as well, he wanted to know how to get it right”.

“The problem is that you see a child give a brilliant performance in something – I’ve just watched The Witches and there’s a couple of brilliant kids in that, and then you go, ‘Let’s get them’ and then you find out they’re now 38.

“Of course, by the time the film is out, the kids have grown up. So you generally have to find people who are not necessarily hugely experienced.”

When it comes to Walliams’ description of co-star Smith, who was born in the small town of Epworth, just over the Yorkshire border into Lincolnshire, the comedian wastes no time in declaring her “the most popular” and “talented” actress in the country.

However, the pleasantries didn’t last long, as Smith goes on to explain.

“When I messaged David saying, ‘Thank you so much for thinking of me’, he texted me back saying, ‘Su Pollard wasn’t available’.”

“Actually, I love Su Pollard,” retorts Walliams in a deadpan manner.

Having starred in a number of Walliams’ recent projects, alongside the pair’s joint on-stage appearance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Smith and Walliams are clearly at ease in each other’s company.

“David has always been like my big brother really,” declares Smith, with fondness.

“Through everything I’ve been through, he’s amazing, and we’ve had such a laugh on everything from Mr Stink to Ratburger, and I think he’s a genius. I think he’s the modern Roald Dahl.”

With Jack And The Beanstalk After Ever After featuring a host of unconventional figures absent in the original tale, the cast were encouraged to use artistic licence when it came to shaping their characters.

Taking on the role of The Woman With No Name, complete with glass eye and a pirate-esque eye patch just for good measure, Smith, who cut her teeth in entertainment, singing and playing in all sorts of clubs and venues in South Yorkshire, particularly in Doncaster, looks every inch the mysterious baddie.

“When I read David’s stories, they’re so brilliant and it’s funny on the page, so you don’t have to do much work with it really,” explains Smith.

“I love getting to dress up and be daft and David’s stories are always brilliant and have got a lot of heart.

“I don’t know why – I kinda regretted it afterwards – but I said to David, ‘Can I do a West Country accent?’

“And David said, ‘Trust your instincts’, so he let me do what I wanted basically.”

It’s a role that saw Smith embrace method acting, declaring that at one point the show’s crew began shouting: “Stop eating the mud, we’ve made chocolate.”

“I was just getting all into it,” chuckles Smith. "I thought, ‘Well, I’ve gotta commit now’ and it was basically just straw and mud, so I just ate it. I’d committed.”

“She’s method, she’s like Daniel Day-Lewis,” concludes Walliams. “Her autobiography is going to be called Eating Mud.”

Jack And The Beanstalk After Ever After airs on Sky One and NOW TV on Wednesday, December 23.

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