Two child actors who play mischievous twins with secret super powers in a hit TV show are getting used to “pop star status” with their legion of fans across Wales.
Gwern Jones,11, from Llanrug, near Caernarfon and Lowri Jarman,10, from Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, have taken on the title roles in the new series of Deian a Loli.
Extra screenings had to be put on to accommodate the huge demand for tickets for premieres of the programme made by Caernarfon-based television production company Cwmni Da for S4C’s children’s platform, Cyw.
They were forced to put on a fourth showing at the Pontio Centre in Bangor after the first three sold out in just 10 minutes. Packed-out preview shows were also held in Bethesda, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Cardiff.
Producer Angharad Elen was thrilled with the “overwhelmingly positive response” at all the venues.
She revealed the show is also proving popular with TV critics across the UK and is a shortlisted finalist in the category for the Best Pre-School Children’s Programme at the prestigious Broadcast Awards.
It is going for glory against three of the biggest names in children’s television, Disney Junior, CBeebies and Nick Jr.
The programme was also honoured with an award at the Welsh BAFAs last year.
By saying the magic word, Ribidirew!, Deian and Loli are able to freeze their parents while they go off on fantastic adventures.
The first two series had already established Deian and Loli as a firm favourite with Welsh youngsters and their parents.
As the original Deian a Loli, played by Erin Gwilym and Moi Hallam, were growing up, it was decided to recast the roles for the show’s latest outing.
Meanwhile, real-life husband and wife Rhian Blythe and Simon Watts were drafted in as the new mum and dad.
Gwern and Lowri were chosen from an original 600 children who tried for the roles of Deian a Loli.
Lowri, a pupil of Ysgol O.M. Edwards, in Llanuwchllyn, said:
“I was really happy when I heard I had got the part. Part of me was nervous but I was very excited.
“The filming was hard work but I really enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.”
Gwern, a pupil of Ysgol Llanrug, said:
“I was very nervous to start with because I hadn’t done anything like that before but once I did it I enjoyed every minute.
“It’s a lot of fun because I go to places in the world that I thought I would never visit.”
Gwern’s mum, Saran Jones, said: “This is the first professional acting that he has done and he’s had a wonderful time. The crew at Cwmni Da have been brilliant and he’s had fun every day he filmed with them. He’s taken to it like a duck to water.”
Angharad Elen revealed she was inspired to create the Deian a Loli series by her own children, Cain, seven, and Syfi, five.
“I hadn’t done anything with children’s shows before I had children myself, and I felt a little bit guilty leaving them every day to go to work so I wanted to create something for them.
“I think my generation is prone to wrapping our children in cotton wool, telling them not to climb trees, so the programme is based to some extent on my own childhood. I was brought up in Llandwrog where we film the series.
“The programme also popular with parents as well because I put in some in-jokes sometimes as well.
“Deian and Loli are mischievous and they can be quite naughty at times but they do learn something in each episode, although I try not to make it too worthy.
“I wouldn’t have created the show if it wasn’t for Cain and Syfi . When I think up ideas, I try them out with them to see if they work. They’re almost like script editors.
“You have to get into children’s minds. There are things that make children laugh that don’t make adults laugh. They like toilet humour!
“The popularity of the premieres has been staggering – Deian a Loli mania has been sweeping across Wales.
“Things just went crazy because Pontio sold out three showings in just 10 minutes, so they put a fourth show.
“Then Neuadd Ogwen in Bethesda heard that the four showings Pontio had sold out so they put one on and then went on to sell two more.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Deian and Loli are like pop stars to our audience.”
Actress Rhian Blythe, a Welsh BAFTA winner who has also appeared in critically acclaimed stage roles in New York, London and Edinburgh, was delighted by the reaction of the young Deian a Loli fans at the premiere.
Rhian said: “The response was lovely because the children obviously really enjoyed it.
“I’m also a fan myself and before taking the role in this series I’ve been watching it as a real-life mum.
“It’s also nice to work with my husband, Simon. It gives us a little bit of a head start, just getting the relationship right.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by Simon who hails originally from the Aman Valley and is best known for his role as series regular Gethin Thomas in the long-running Welsh TV series Pobol y Cwm.
He said: “We did worry initially about stepping into the shoes of Sian Beca and Carwyn Jones who played the parents in the first two series, especially as it was already so popular.
“It was also a little bit odd because we were pretending to be the parents of other people’s children while our own children were being looked after by somebody else.
“We have two children, Lewsyn, who’s three and Mati is nine months and, like every child in Wales, they love Deian a Loli as well.
“The magical world obviously appeals to children because their imaginations allow them to escape real life.”
Delyth Robyns, from Llangefni, attended the premiere with her daughter Lowri Mair, eight.
She said: “The characters and the stories have caught people’s imaginations, and the books, the episodes, the DVDs are on all the time in our house. Lowri loves the fact that they can freeze mum and dad the fact that they’re mischievous.
Deian a Loli can be seen on S4C’s Cyw platform at 7.45am every Wednesday.