A Friendly Chat with Mark Baldwin of Ends Meet

Mark Baldwin is the creator and star of Ends Meet, a seven-part series of animated shorts on the RTÉ Player which will be made into a full half-hour series on RTÉ 2 in the autumn. Rebecca Keane had a friendly chat with him about the series, fridgets, Coronation Street, and plenty more. You can watch all seven episodes of Ends Meet, which is excellent by the way, right HERE

Mark Baldwin! Luuully to meet you. May I ask if there is any relation to one of Coronation Street’s best-known dzaddies Mike Baldwin?

Pleasure to me ya too. Now this is a question I’ve been asked since I was a kid and the answer is the same as it was then: Yes. Yes I am related to a character from Corrie. I was written into existence by Tony Warren many years ago like a little Pinocchio boy.

Mark Baldwin, if you were in the expensive Italian loafers belonging to the feet of business mogul and hard Scotch-drinking Mike Baldwin, would you rather take as a wife: A) Deirdre Barlow or B) Alma Halliwell?

Alma can eat a rotten egg as far as I’m concerned. I’m our Deirdre all the way. She’s a slab of sass next to a block of glam. I’ve a pal that sells zines based on her and the other super soap mots at krissomarko.com so I’m well versed in the top bird.

While we chit-chat of moguls, you seem to be something of an animation mogul considering your new fantastic and brilliant series of cartoon shots, Ends Meet on the RTÉ player. Speaking of meets, are you a fridget?

I’m in the toon game to build an empire. And that’s what I’m going to do. Notwithstanding exhaustion, ennui, depression, anxiety, external forces and non-committal commissioners.

I was born a fridget and I’ll die a fridget. One time I kissed a girl but that was just to stop this giant bee from flying into her mouth.

Speaking of fridgets, will you meet my friend?

Why not. As they say: Never look a gift horse in the mouth. Or if you’re meeting someone it’s a faux pas to inspect their mouth first to make sure they’re not concealing a mouse trap or thorns or something. Ya gotta just go for it.

I want to do an event called the Ends Meet Super Neat Meet and Greet where all the hotbods from the show will shake hands with fans who have cleaned beforehand. I suppose we could do a full blown kissing booth too. I’m not allergic to making fans happy.    

The three main characters from Ends Meet in a diner
A scene from episode 1 of Ends Meet via RTÉ

In Ends Meet, the main character, Sean Óg is a real cute, endearing lil fella. If you had Ends Meet brought to life in a series, which actor would you have play him?

One of the reasons we did it as a cartoon was so we wouldn’t have to cast the characters. If we’d had to find a kid actor they’d have to have a chaperone, do shorter days, have an on set tutor, try not to age, parents would have to be briefed on all the bad language and deal with my creative frustration on a daily basis. So it was much easier and fairer if we just drew the little lad and just locked me in a sound booth for 2 weeks doing the voices. Simples.

But if I had to pick… it’d be an unknown actor. No stage school Billie Barry bullshit like ya see them little scuts on ads and Toy Show mouthing away. That really bugs me. Where the fuck does a 6 year old get that confidence and entitlement?  I was riddled with self doubt and insecurity as a kid like a normal person.

There seems to be bigger cult followings for comedic cartoons these days – Family Guy (sigh) but also fresher ‘toons like Rick & Morty and Bojack Horseman. Do you think cartoons will overtake comedy drama series in the very scary future full of robots?

Rick and Morty and Bojack are proper brilliant shows. I love them to bits. It’s sorta like the generation that watched The Simpsons growing up has reached maturity and are now starting to create great things that build on that and are seen as possible because we’ve had a lifetime of The Simpsons. Which has been one of the biggest constants and biggest form of joy and inspiration through my childhood and beyond.

I used to be one of the last defenders of post-golden age Simpsons. If there was a single smart or funny moment in an otherwise drite and shite episode I’d be championing the whole thing and going “hey look if they were off the air we’d never hear that gem”. I always hoped it’d stay on the air until I had a chance to write for it but fucking hell the standard has prolapsed out of it. It’s about time they took them to the back of a shed and shot them all in the head. They’re sullying everything good about what the simpsons were. And that for me and any other 90s kids really hurts. The Simpsons taught me more about the world than any other person or artwork has or will. And now they’re lobbing off-character and off-world “gags” at us just to stay on the air. And I hate that there’s a generation now that have the new episodes as “their” Simpsons. It’s probably how baby boomers felt about Bugs Bunny when Space Jam came out.

There’s a saying that’s become very important in this internet age where the divide between “professional” or “establishment” and “fan” or “amateur” made content has never been fainter. Say you type into google for an image of Kevin Dundon but he’s a Gungan from Star Wars and in the rare chance it’s not there then “The onus is on you to make it”. If you search YouTube for a best bits compilation of that Shell character from Garfield and Friends and it ain’t there “the onus is on you to make it”. All the tools and training and materials are out there on internet for us all now. And that’s really exciting. And since I was allowed to watch The Simpsons as a kid I’ve wanted to watch a show like that but was set in the Dublin that I knew. I’ve been searching for that for over 20 years and nothing so I had to take the onus and make it myself. And it’s going to be airing the first full season in Autumn on RTÉ2. I still can even fucking believe that to be honest. And when the bots and cyber-animators mosey in and put me out of a job and force all us humans to live in bunkers underground at least I can think of that and smile.

Still from Episode 6 of Ends Meet via RTE.ie
Still from Episode 6 of Ends Meet via RTE.ie

If you could have anybody make a cameo in series 2 of Ends Meet, who would you choose?

That’s a tough one and I’ve kinda taken the later South Park stance that if you have someone famous in your show then that takes away your independence as a piss taker. So I’d be very hesitant about allowing anyone into the fold I have now of piss takers who do all the voices.

But from a pure hypothetical glam mag sense where you just want me to name famous people I admire I’d say Naomi Watts. Sure why not.

I really appreciate the more than regular usage of the word ‘gaff’ in Ends Meet – what’s your fav piece of Dublin slang? Personally, my favourite expression is “he ripped me a new arsehole”.

I like “Scut”. For anyone who never heard the phrase growing up they’d assume it’s a fierce strong swear. But like parents and grown ups would always be calling kids “little scuts”. Think it’s short for scutters or some sorta diarrhea reference. We tried with the Ends Meet long running series to not second guess ourselves with whether people would get the slang or not.  There’s probably a few that snuck in that aren’t said outside the road I grew up on let alone the whole country. But sure the audience is smart enough now to get what we’re trying to say.

Another one was “playing Silly Beggars”. Which I was always accused of doing. And I set up my first website as SillyBeggar.com it’s had a lot of reincarnations and now it’s just to direct to me youtube page. I’m kinda starting to think it might be insensitive with the whole making light of the homelessness crisis so don’t know if it might be time to re-brand.

Seán Óg seems to have quite the talent for singing a lil tune to himself every now and again. Could we possibly see an Ends Meet: The Musical in the future?

It’d not be a bad idea at some point. The cast are all independently making music and it’d be a smart man that took advantage of that. Luke Farrell who does the soundtrack of the show is a great composer and Sean Fitzgerald, an actor on the show, has recently released his debut song “I don’t wanna ride yer auld one anymore” which is the sound of the summer.

So yeah there’s a lot of talent there just’d have to figure how to get that into the show.

Seán Óg’s da has a lot of responsibility no doubt looking after his da and little Seán Óg and I’m sure the nights get long and lonely all on his tod. Could we see him on First Dates any time soon? He’s clearly a very quick-witted chap – what would his best chat-up line be dya reckon?

I reckon he’d have a fair amount to say on the first dates show. Oh boy oh boy. Chat up lines though? He’s more the sort that’d not be arsed with that bull shit. He’d rather just tell a girl “You hot. Cans?” The danger is setting the bar too high with like dinner in the bleeding Gibson and then how do you top that every date? Start small and work up. That my advice. I mean his advice. The character Beezer in the show. Not me. Beezer. The cartoon man.

If there were any young wans reading this hoping to make their own bleedin’ deadly cartoon in the future, what would be the number one piece of advice you’d give to ‘em?

I’d say enter competitions or commissioning rounds not for the wild idea that you’ll get picked up or win. But that it gives you a deadline and deadlines are the best way to get shit done. And forget about winning. Just get something finished and submit and you’ll have learned making it. And then do it again.  Move on to the next thing and just keep submitting stuff and you’re learning every time.  Don’t bother with polishing the one thing and living and dying by that. Do something new each time. The work you’ve done on the other projects still stands and will be invaluable in the future. But use the time you have now to learn and explore as much as you can. Get stuff done and move on. And when you get to the level where the industry starts to take an interest in you then you’ll have a back catalogue ya can draw from.

Or if you’re making stuff for the internet don’t upload a thing until you’ve made at least four or five of them. Be it articles, shorts, podcasts, comics, whatever. Avoid the temptation of sticking them up the moment you finish it. Wait till you’re four or five ahead and put out number one. When the internet doesn’t come to a stop from that it doesn’t matter because you’ve three or four ready to go and you’ve learned more from them and are happy that they’re better. And keep that up. Keep a good distance between yourself and your uploads. So then if you’re having bad days you still have breathing room. And the internet can be a shitty place for people starting out so let them pick at stuff you’ve already put behind you. Keep moving forward and keep creating and keep getting better.  And something will happen. That bit is out of your control. So just focus on what you can do.

All images via RTÉ