“Mummy, what’s Ubercorn’s real name?”
My 4 year old and I are eating breakfast and watching Go Jetters. GASP I know – morning screentime whilst munching – back to parenting school for me. But I don’t care – I love CBeebies, and most of all I love Go Jetters, as you may already have read.
“He’s called Tommie.”
“No not the man who does his talking. Ubercorn. That doesn’t sound like a proper name for a unicorn.”
“Ooh ok, let me ask him.”
I’ve been tweeting Tommie Earl Jenkins, the actor who voices Ubercorn – a disco dancing, super ‘funky’ and incredibly well travelled unicorn in a jumpsuit – for a while now, just for a giggle. I love Twitter for this kind of thing – and he’s a good egg with some quick banter and all the best rainbow, disco and unicorn related emojis at his fingertips.
But instead of asking that one burning question from my pre-schooler, (and to avoid getting blocked for stalking him on Twitter), I went the whole unicorn and asked for a proper interview with the actor himself. His agent, CBeebies and Tommie all said yes. Geographic!
For those of you not in the know, Go Jetters is an animated geography-based series where the four excitable main characters and their co-pilot/mentor/unicorn best mate visit a famous landmark in the world each episode, which is in the process of being ‘glitched’ (read: messed about with) by failed Go Jetter and marvellously moustached Grandmaster Glitch.
We sorted a Skype. I was very excited. I decided to ask some sensible questions, and then my four year old made me ask some very not sensible ones at the end…
Me: “When you were approached with the script for Ubercorn, was he already a disco dancing, funky unicorn, or did you shape him into that character?
Tommie: He was a little different. The original version was a bit shaggier, not exactly unkempt, but not as polished as Ubercorn as we know him now. He was described as a funky mentor and Barry White was even batted about a bit. As I went in for the audition, I thought ‘I’m just gonna go in and do what I do…’ there must have been about 20 people in the studio that day. I did my thing with them watching me through the glass, and at the end they literally applauded. I had so much fun with this character. And I thought – whatever happens, they liked it, and this would be right up my street.
Me: I love Ubercorn because his whole character’s kind of out of place!
Tommie: He is! And the disco theme of him doesn’t translate to pre-school does it? But somehow it works. And what a great introduction musically to kids, the rhythm and sounds, its melodies. And also for the parents.
Me: Yep – let’s face it, we are the ones who ultimately decide whether or not they watch a programme – unless they get cunning with the remote control… But I have far less Mum guilt letting them watch telly when it’s a) Cbeebies being educational and engaging, and b) a programme that I also find entertaining and doesn’t drive me mad. So it’s win win, right?
Tommie: Yep – you’re thinking, ‘will it benefit my child? And will it not get on my nerves?’ Haha.
Me: You’re a trained dancer, I think I saw you in Cats in ’96! (I googled you, I’m not a stalker don’t worry) – I reckon you can’t stop moving when you’re voicing Ubercorn…
Tommie: One of the things we always do before our recording sessions – we get them to play the theme tune really loud, and all six of us are in the same booth dancing like crazy before we go into the episode!
Me: It’s a very sticky theme tune, it’s in my head all day – and in our house you have to shout out ‘That’s Me!’ (Ubercorn’s line) at the right place.
Tommie: Oh yeah, I do that too – every time.
Me: And I imagine you are also striking this pose too? (Saturday Night Fever – we’re on Skype so he sees)
Tommie: How did you know?! That’s exactly what I do! Laughs.
Me: Why do you think Go Jetters is doing so well?
Tommie: I think the writing in it is spot on. How they structure it, the landmarks they visit. The kids understand it – the writers choose the words really carefully so they’re not too big, but the kids can get their lips around them and basically match the words with the picture and get it. They’re so clever with it, keeping the child and the parent’s attention from the start. We have some really great characters, Xuli, Kyan, Lars and Foz – Grandmaster Glitch… who really has a heart. He’s mischievous but he has a heart. You’ll be seeing more of that in episodes to come.
Tommie: Totally geographic.
OK, my 4 year old has some questions…
M: Ubercorn, what is your real name? That’s not a proper name!
U: Ubercorn IS my real name. That’s it! Ubercorn!
M: Will there be a new series of Go Jetters?
U: There will most definitely be a new series of Go Jetters.
M: Will you ever have a different voice?
U: No! Ubercorn is Ubercorn! His voice is his voice. He’ll never change it – he’ll always be the coolest unicorn on the planet.
M: Do you eat apples every day?
U: I eat apples when I can, I try and get my five a day. I do like pizza and I do like coffee.
M: Do you have a best friend, Ubercorn?
U: Everybody is my best friend, everybody.
M: Do you like building things?
U: Building things? I love building blocks. People have actually built an Ubercorn out of a well-known brand of building blocks*. (totally googling that now)
M: Where do you get your Funky Facts from?
U: I get my funky facts from my funky brain! I’ve travelled the world, I know everything! I like to learn everything and pass it on.
M: Do you have any friends called Bob or Margaret? (that was his real question, followed by hysterics, sigh).
U: I have friends called Bob, Margaret, Tony, Ashton, Caelan, I’ve got loads of friends! I’m the friendliest unicorn in town!
*You know what he meant, but advertising guidelines blah blah.
Thanks Tommie Earl Jenkins for your super funky time and sportsmanship, and CBeebies for saying why not?!