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Interview: Vicky McClure on This Is England 86

22 October 10 words: Jared Wilson

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 Vicky McClure (Lol) for a natter…

Tell us about your first audition for Shane Meadows.
It was about 11 years ago now and was for A Room For Romeo Brass. There were loads of us at the audition. I can't really remember what exercises we did but I thought there was no way I was going to get it. Paddy Considine was there and we were just messing about with props - I remember there being an oar for a boat and that came into play at some point. When I got the part, I was just like “how on earth has that happened?”

You were cast as the love interest for Paddy in that film. What was it like working with him?
Shane and him together are just hilarious. They were college mates and they'd created this together so it was great for them. I remember filming the scene where Morell has a hard-on in the lounge. Shane said to me, “Just go with it, Vic. Whatever happens, we're just going to keep rolling.” So when Paddy comes in with that and I laugh, that is completely natural. I had no idea what to do!

Do you keep in touch with Paddy? He’s all over Hollywood now…
We don’t phone or text each other, but if there's ever an event or Shane's getting people together I see him. It's always nice to catch up. I went to the Empire awards a couple of years ago and he introduced me to Matt Damon which I'll be forever grateful to him for!

Do you ever get star-struck?
Yeah, I do! I worked with Madonna on Filth and Wisdom and she's off the scale celebrity-wise. I remember when I first met her, I tried to act as cool as possible but inside I'm like, “Oh my God; there's Madonna!” You can't help it.

How did you refer to her? Did you call her Madonna?
No, we called her M. I don't know why - I never asked. That's what I could hear around me so I Just followed everyone else’s lead. But I tried to avoid calling her anything to be honest.

The part of Lol in This Is England was written with you in mind…
Yes. We were in Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem a long time ago and Shane was saying he was thinking about making this film. He had some rough ideas on characters and storylines and mentioned he wanted me to play this character with a shaved head. I was like, “I'm gonna just ignore whatever you said about the shaved head and carry on listening...”.

Was shaving your hair off a big deal?
My hair was to my arse! My mum had nurtured it, putting it up in a bun and all that sort of stuff. It was a massive deal. But eventually I thought “it's only hair”. Cutting it off was liberating and helped bring the character to life.

Lol was put through the wringer in the TV series, wasn’t she?
Yeah. It was very emotional, I had a few tears here and there, Sometimes because I had to, but I was so involved in my character that I was a bit emotionally destroyed at times. It’s not like you could turn off as soon as the cameras did.

We all saw what happened to her at the end of the last episode. How did you feel after the scenes with her Dad were in the can?
Well, me and Johnny Harris, who played my Dad – and who, by the way, is the best actor I’ve ever worked with - had already started the scene before the cameras started shooting, so we were already in character long before, to beef it up a bit. So trying to come down from that afterwards was a very big deal. Funnily enough, that was the first scene I shot on my first day on set – we shot the last two episodes first and the first two episodes last, which was a big challenge. But it got the dark scenes out of the way first.

The rape scene in episode three was one of the darkest on British television for a long while.
I’d agree. I was on location on the day they shot that, but obviously not on set. Shane was aware that it was going to be a massive challenge for Johnny and Danielle Watson, and to do a million angles wasn’t going to be the right thing. In fact, the reason it’s had such an impact on people is because it looks so real and totally unglamourous. Because it was taken from one steady angle, it kind of made you feel like you were looking through the window. Shane always goes for realism, and that’s what makes it hard to watch.

As an obviously tight cast who have known each other for a long time, how do scenes like that affect the group?
We’re were all supportive of each other and proud of what we’re doing. Everyone knew what under pressure we were all under; even people like Andrew Ellis (Gadget) who wasn’t as involved with the darker scenes had to get his kit off and do sex scenes. We all knew this was probably the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced – it was definitely mine.

You had a few nude scenes too. Did you feel nervous about that?
Well, yes. And it was a decision I made myself. I wanted the character to stay real, and having sex with your clothes on doesn’t strike me as being that real.

Was it horribly awkward - particularly as it was with Andrew Shim, who you’ve known for ages?
You just laugh it off, to be honest. There are cameras everywhere, someone holding a boom, someone doing your make-up…and it was far easier with Shimmy than it would have been with someone I’d never worked with before. I had far more difficult moments when I was filming with clothes on and not having sex.

What’s life been like for you after being on telly every week?
Walking round Nottingham has definitely got more bizarre, put it that way. I’m getting recognised quite a lot; but everyone’s being dead lovely and encouraging. It’s very different to the reaction I got when the film came out, which is understandable as we’re in people’s living rooms once a week. It’s quite daunting to realise that while we’re watching ourselves at home, two to three million are doing the same.

You were also in Plan B’s music video for She Said recently.
Yeah, it’s a great song isn’t it? I'm doing his next music video next week actually. We're quite good mates now actually; he got me free tickets for V Festival. I feel quite cool having him as a friend.

If you rent a film, what do you go for?
I'm not very good with decisions. What I tend to do is buy a load. Last time I went DVD shopping I spent £60. I just picked up a bit of cheese, a bit of action… a bit of everything really.

What have you got coming up next?
At the moment I'm working with a make-up brand called Illamasqua. It's quite high end for stage and screen, but you can also buy it in shops. They've written three short films that should be going on the internet shortly. I'm no model that's for sure, but that's what I loved about them is that they don’t want that.

Is there anything you'd like say to LeftLion readers?
I love Nottingham and I'm very proud of my roots. Whenever people ask “Where are you from?” I answer “Nottingham, born and bred.” It rolls off the tongue.

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