Shane Meadows eagerly awaited four-part television drama, This Is England ’86, exploded onto our screens on the 7th of September. The series was set three years after the original film and many of the cast came back to reprise their roles.
Johnny Harris at the Daylight Robbery Premiere
This time the emphasis is not so much on the Character Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) but the focus is on character Lol, played by Vicky McClure, and follows the turbulent times with boyfriend Woody and volatile relationship with her father Mick (Johnny Harris).
Johnny Harris’ portrayal of Mick has, in my opinion, got to be one of the best performances I’ve seen on British TV in years. So much so that I wanted to talk to the man behind the character, as everyone is on twitter that was going to be my first port of call and Lo and behold, Johnny Harris is on Twitter, @mrjohnnyharris, and he graciously answered a few questions for me.
You played new character Mick in This Is England ’86, what was it like joining the cast who had worked on the previous film? Did you hit it off with all of them from the get go?
I wanted to keep a bit of distance to be honest, as it was important for the part but to be honest it’s impossible not to fall in love with them as they’re the most genuine and generous bunch of actors you’re ever likely to meet! A gorgeous group made up of some amazing individuals! I’ve just returned home from a night out in London with them actually and consider each and every one of them friends! I knew I was in special company from the moment we all first sat in the rehearsal room together!
How did you go about getting the character of Mick, did you have to audition for the part or was it something that was written with you in mind?
I went to Nottingham and auditioned for Shane. He introduced me to Vicky McClure and Chanel Cresswell and set up some improvisations between us. The girls gave 100% in the casting and I really appreciated that and felt a connection with them. Shane was also everything I’d imagined and more. I remember it was raining and I had to run to Nottingham station as my train ticket to London was non-transferable and I couldn’t afford another if I missed the train. As I was running, and getting soaked, my phone rang and it was Shane. He said he knew it was a long journey home and he thought he’d make it a bit easier for me and that I’d got the part! The journey home was a beautiful one!
Before getting the part of Mick had you watched This Is England before? Would you liked to have had a role in the film?
‘This is England’ was and still is one of my favourite films of all time! The direction is sublime and I think Stephen Graham’s performance as Combo is one of the most powerful and nuanced performances I’ve ever seen on camera, just stunning! How he was overlooked for the awards for that performance is shameful. Also Thomas Turgoose of course was just an absolute revelation and it’s lovely to see him blossom into such a free and unique young actor. I was at the BIFA awards that same year with ‘London to Brighton’ and remember meeting Shane and thinking something exciting was happening in British film.
How old were you in 1986 and what are your memories of 1986? Were you like any of the This Is England’86 characters?
I was 13 in 1986 and was doing quite well by that point as an amateur boxer. Believe it or not I dropped out of school at 13 and got a job as an apprentice locksmith so it was all quite exciting and scary I guess? I remember I was into ‘The Smiths’ in a big way and was just starting to hone and perfect my angry young man persona! I got a genuine lump when young Shaun argued with Cynthia and ran away from home. I remember that phase of my life well…the fear dressed up as anger, the confusion…I think Tommo portrayed that so well.
(Left-Right) Milky, Trev, Lol, Woody, Chanel during a scene of This Is England ’86
In episode 3 we really get to know what your character is about, from reading the script did you know just how intense the darker scenes were going to be?
I knew from the first read that the subject matter was as serious and delicate a subject as I was ever going to be trusted with as an actor and that I had the right Director and team to be tackling it with. Shane then spent plenty of rehearsal/preparation time with us and it was during this really that we all slowly started working towards finding the truth of the scenes and the intensity and dark tones required.
Did you have some hesitations in playing the character?
How did it feel to be Mick in the darker scenes? Did it feel like just ‘another day at the office’? or was there a more sombre mood on set?
Shane made sure we had the perfect conditions to work in. The energy we needed to create in the scenes needed to be present and respected at all times on set and the crew were amazing. They couldn’t have been more respectful and it was very quiet and extremely focussed. I think it’s fair to say a few tears were shed on those days.
Do you worry about getting any backlash or negative responses from playing Mick?
The response has been overwhelming. People aren’t stupid and I think we underestimate the public.
What can we look forward to seeing you in next?
‘Black Death’ Starring Sean Bean is out now in selected Blockbusters and on nationwide DVD release from October 13th 2010. Then ‘HUGE’ a new film directed by Ben Miller and starring Noel Clarke and myself as two failed comedians and co-starring Thandie Newton is due for release at the end of the year TBC
Thanks very much to Johnny Harris for answering the questions. Go ahead and follow @mrjohnnyharris on Twitter.
All Images take from the This Is England ’86 Facebook page.