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Jamie Demetriou: ‘When I won the awards, I almost felt sheepish to have good news’

Kathryn Bromwich
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer</span>
Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

The British-Cypriot actor, comedian and screenwriter Jamie Demetriou is the star and creator of Channel 4 comedy Stath Lets Flats. At last July’s Bafta TV awards the show won best scripted comedy, and Demetriou won best male comedy performance and best comedy writer.

When Jamie Demetriou won the 2020 British Academy Television Craft award for best comedy writer, he was eating takeaway dumplings with his flatmate. Because of the way his living room is laid out, he was facing away from the screen, when his flatmate said to him: “Jamie, look.” He turned around to see his pre-recorded acceptance speech playing on the TV. “It definitely felt surreal,” he recalls now. To celebrate, they went up to the roof of their building, something they had never done before. “We were like, ‘Is there a roof here? It would be quite nice to go on a roof and have a glass of champagne.’”

Two weeks later, for the Bafta TV awards proper, he was better prepared. His excellent comedy series Stath Lets Flats, about a Greek-Cypriot letting agent, was nominated for best scripted comedy and best male comedy performance. For the night they were joined by his sister and co-star Natasia, his girlfriend, and fellow cast member Al Roberts and his girlfriend (everyone had been tested in advance). “It was a double celebration: seeing people for the first time in months and months. And to have what happened happen.” What happened, it turned out, was two more Baftas. “I just can’t even begin to explain how surprised I was,” says Demetriou. He remembers worrying about having repeated himself in the speeches, which he had recorded in a rush assuming no one would ever see them. “I just felt incredibly lucky to have any good news last year. I almost felt sheepish to have it. But I was thrilled.”

Demetriou had attended plenty of awards ceremonies in the past, which he saw as a chance to catch up with people he’d worked with over the years doing one-line or one-episode parts. “There’s definitely been an absence of that this year. But I’ve never won an award so it’s often, you know, me doing my smiley clappy face.” Last year’s Baftas were “incomparable, really – I could have done with a few more reality-TV stars knocking about my living room”.

The past year has been mixed for Demetriou: “It’s difficult to summarise, isn’t it? You’re still constantly learning how it’s been in retrospect.” While he feels fortunate to have escaped the worst of the pandemic, his father caught Covid and “it affected him pretty badly – the outcome of that keeps rolling.” In terms of work, Demetriou has kept busy: he had roles both in the Eurovision Song Contest Netflix film and in Channel 4’s historical comedy-drama The Great. Earlier this year he flew to LA to film a new series, The Afterparty, a murder mystery starring comedy royalty including John Early, Tiffany Haddish, Sam Richardson and Ilana Glazer.

The most difficult thing to do has been writing: after last May’s cringingly funny Stath Zoom special, all the usual sparks of inspiration were gone. “I’m trying to manufacture slapstick in my own flat by leaving things out to trip up over, on the off-chance I can be inspired by that.” There sometimes seems to be an assumption, he says, “that the creation of comedy is easy – and it so isn’t.” If nothing else, the pandemic has shown the importance of light entertainment. “The things I watched during lockdown, I watched in a way I’ve never watched things before: they are a sort of comfort blanket, like a safety net for the day. Like, ‘Oh, I’ve got an episode of X to watch, therefore this day might go a bit quicker.’”

So perhaps it’s not surprising that comedies are being garlanded with awards this year. “It’s literally important for a show like Stath to get awards, because it validates a recommission,” he reflects. “And it does mean a lot to me, as someone who didn’t have a great education, and didn’t ever expect to get into this world, it’s surreal and amazing to think that actually happened.” But ultimately, he says, it’s important to not get hung up on critical reception or accolades. “You have to focus on doing the best job you can do. Because without the hard work, that stuff doesn’t come anyway.”

Best award you’ve ever won?
I think best comedy writer was useful for what I deem to be a very stupid brain to bolster some self-confidence. That one made me feel like a grown-up, which I need.

Favourite awards ceremony anecdote?
I don’t get selfies so often, but I met JB from JLS – I’m way more excited by meeting pop stars than anyone. Weirdly, that’s the first thing that sprang to mind.

What do you look for in an awards outfit?
A high-waisted trouser and some mild drama.

Where do you keep your awards?
In Stath Lets Flats there’s an awards ceremony where everyone gets given a crappy key on top of a rubbish plastic plinth. So I’ve got it next to that, on top of a chest of drawers.

Stath Lets Flats is available to stream on All 4