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Interview: Rosamund Hanson on This Is England '86

21 October 10 interview: Jessica Troughton
photos: Philip Jackson

Taking the original film cast - most of whom come from Notts - and plunging them deep into the mire of mid-eighties Britain, Shane Meadows’ Channel 4 series This Is England ‘86 was a runaway success on it's TV run and has just been released on DVD. We collared Rosamund Hanson (Smell) for a natter…

Whereabouts in Nottingham are you from?
I’m from the city centre, not a long way from town. Being accessible to the city is exciting; I think people from the city are opportunists. But I see most of my castings and agent in London, so I suppose my acting life is a separate entity.

When did you first decide you want to be an actress?
It was when my Year 6 teacher, handed me the part of Kaa in the Jungle Book school play and then gave me a form for the Television workshop. I wasn’t initially that interested but then when I got there I got very excited by it. I thrived off the attention from an early age. My parents have never pushed me into anything, they’ve always let me find my own way in life and I’ve always been quite a role player with quite a strong imagination. I find getting into a character very exciting, its new experience every time.

Tell us about the auditioning process for This Is England.
I went for an audition at the Broadway for Shane. It was a session of improvisation for a new project that was on the horizon. I wasn’t told anything about the part at all there was no real storyboard. But I got told ‘we really like you’ and asked back for another session. So did that and they said I had the part. I went off to Austria over the summer, got the script, read it, and was absolutely thrilled by it. I think they were looking for someone raw, who was malleable and open minded. Shane is very specific about the people he works with.

What was it like making the film?
It was my first big break and I was in the middle of my GCSEs. We gelled as group and all got on really well, there was a real synergy in the gang. Shane doesn’t stick to the script, he’s very instinctive and very ballsy with his decisions and choices. Once he’s made a choice and got something set up he’ll go at it with gusto. But everyone’s in there together, it’s very organic and it all comes together like a Jackson Pollock painting.

How much do you feel you got to make the part of Smell your own?
It was based on a character Shane met when he was growing up and so I had that to go on. She was the village bicycle and every one has to have a ride. Now that she’s developed and grown up a bit I feel I own her more, but there’ll always be a bit of the character that belongs to Shane. She is that girl that he got off with in the shed!

Did you expect that film to quite as big a hit as it was?
No, I didn’t at all. Shane’s got a massive following in Britain but it’s an underground film still and he’s a very cult director. I didn’t expect the amount of global attention it’s attracted. But everyone that I’ve spoken to has said ‘I can identify with one of those characters.’ There’s a gang and people relate to relationships and dynamics in a certain group and people can always identify with that.

There seems to be a strong friendship bond within the TIE cast...
When we sit down and we all come together we are the most unusual lot. We are always chirpy, but very unusual you don’t really see many characters of that nature together in one room. Everyone is diverse, there’s a really nice friendship bond and when we get together we really are thoroughly pleased to see each other.

What other actors do you admire?
Juliette Lewis. I like the way she’s a fearless actress and she’s very fierce in her performances. I just think she’s an incredible, strong, gifted woman. I like looking up to role models like that because I find them inspirational. I can tell she’s creative. She’s not just an actress, she’s a creative being. That’s what I strive to be.

What do you want to do next?
I want to do character acting. Because I want to do very strong characters and feel like I’m being challenged.

What else have you done that we might not have seen?
I’ve done a pilot with Ricky Gervais, which may get turned into a film. I’m also working on feature film with Mario Kirkpatrick which is in development at the moment.

I hear you’re a keen tap dancer?
Well I did Irish dancing! And I went to Miss Morrison School of dance.

And a member of the cleft palate charity Smile Train UK…
Yeah, which I’m very proud of because people should be allowed to go out there and have the confidence regardless of issues and prejudices. They should always feel confident and have the ability to speak out and just really go for it. It’s something I went through when I was a child and I was so determined to be good at English and read out loud in class and do work with my speech therapist on my speech impediment. It all made me more determined. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel beautiful.

If you’re renting a film, do you go for the thriller or the rom-com section?
I go for what appeals to me which could be anything. It could be any genre. As long as I like the look of something then I’ll pick it up.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?
Jo Hartley (who play’s Shaun’s mum in This Is England) got some chocolate mousse, wiped it on her leg and pretended it was poo, then wiped it off with a hankie.

What was the last thing that made you cry?
We were watching Saving Private Ryan this morning and this woman found out that her husband was dead and she collapsed on the floor. She knew they were coming and they were bringing bad news.

What’s your ideal night out in Nottingham?
Meeting good, creative people, enjoying good music, looking good and just having a laugh and enjoying people’s company.

Anything else you want to say to LeftLion readers?
Remember that your friends make you who you are and they’re really important. It’s really important to have a good group around you. If you don’t feel like you’re around a good group of people maybe try and retrace your steps a bit and find out who those people are.


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