Nottingham born and bred, Vicky McClure is a BAFTA award-winning actress, best known for her role as Lol Jenkins in Shane Meadows’ This Is England. We got down to this year’s Industry Week at Confetti to hear her story, and to reminisce about the times we interviewed her in the past...
Growing up in Wollaton, Vicky joined the Central Television Workshop – now The Television Workshop – aged eleven. “Being in Workshop for ten years was the best training I ever could have had,” she says. And when a young Shane Meadows turned up, our Vicky bagged herself the role of Ladine in A Room for Romeo Brass in 1999; her big break, so to speak. “I was so nervous,” she says, “but [Shane] saw something in me and gave me the job, and it was amazing.”
Mr Meadows was clearly impressed by Vicky’s performance, as he went on to cast her as Lol, one of the central characters of his cult-classic film, This Is England, and to say she’s come a long way since then would be an understatement. “This Is England basically put me where I am,” Vicky states.
Back in March 2007, LeftLion caught up with Vicky on the eve of the film’s release, and she spoke about the panic she felt when she first realised she’d have to shave her hair off to play Lol: “We were in this pub when Shane said to me ‘This character I’m thinking of for you is a real rough, skinhead type of girl,’ and I just thought, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ I didn’t think anything of it, and then it clicked that I’d have to actually shave it. The night before, I woke up in a cold sweat, panicking.”
Largely improvised, This Is England is loved not only for its gritty storyline and relatable characters, but for the realistic dialogue that drives the story. “Because we did so much improvisation at Workshop, it’s just something I was used to,” Vicky reveals. “It’s like pretending as a kid, you know; we all did it, but you just get to do it with a really incredible group of people around you.”
Following the success of This Is England, Vicky went on to star in all three Channel 4 mini-series: This Is England '86, This Is England '88, and This Is England '90. Not one to shy away from hard work, she grafted to deliver a truthful performance as the beloved character. “I had to take myself and Lol into a separate place to make it feel as real as it possibly could, to do it justice,” she explains. And it paid off. “We made something special, and I’m really proud of it.”
The Notts lass has been majorly successful, winning both the Royal Television Society Award and BAFTA Television Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Lol in This is England '86. It was a proud moment for Nottingham, and of course, for Vicky herself. “What I loved about winning that BAFTA is that no one knew me at all,” she says. “I never expected it, I just felt really proud that I’d even been considered.”
Despite the awards, and regular television appearances in shows like Line of Duty and Broadchurch, Vicky remains as humble as ever, surprising herself with her success: “It’s just these pinch-yourself moments when you’re at work, and you think ‘This is my job now.’ I’m so lucky that’s the case.”
Passionate about her city and the people in it, the Wollaton-born lass is determined to make the industry more accessible to all, herself having to forego a place at the Italia Conti Academy when her family couldn’t afford the required tuition fees. “I know that we’ll be losing a lot of great talent because some people haven’t got the funds to be able to join certain drama schools or get to certain auditions,” says Vicky. “It’s not fair. Here in Notts, we’re surrounded by brilliant, talented people and a great city that supports them. I really want to encourage people from Nottingham to get into the acting industry.”
Regardless of the fancy red carpet events, the BAFTA awards and her regular spot on prime-time telly, our Vicky has stayed true to her roots. She’s a Notts girl through and through, and can still be spotted with her partner, Jonny Owen, at Notts County games. “I live in Nottingham, and I live the same way I did before I had a career because I thrive off reality. I thrive off nipping to the shops and going to a friend’s. I thrive off all those things because that’s what makes me me, and it keeps me grounded.”