Misfits has finished now. What have you been up to?
Since Misfits, I have been sat on my arse. But I needed a rest.
Is filming on the show tough, then?
Yeah, it’s great cos you’re with your mates, but it is really hard work. I was a plasterer for five years and that is a physically demanding job. When I started getting TV work, I thought it was going to be easier, but it is not. I was massively wrong. But now nobody will have me plastering their house, because I look like a mincing actor!
Why did you start acting and then give up it up, only to come back to it?
I did Corrie as a child, but I went down the road of being a total arse for a bit. It is important you go and have those experiences, being a total retard. A good actor has to have life experience, you know? It exposes you to things.
What sort of things?
I buried my cat the other day and I thought to remember every feeling, to take it all in and not avoid it.
Do you do that every day?
Not from an actor’s point of view, but I generally get really analytical. I make myself ill with it.
In what way?
I think too much, I worry too much, I worry about worrying.
Is Woody in This Is England ‘88 a version of you, then?
Yeah, there are certainly parts of me in him. A lot of that is improvised, though.
Is improvising a [This Is England creator] Shane Meadows way of working?
Totally. And Misfits is different – it’s more stylised, and England is a bit more gritty.
Is it tough balancing This Is England ‘88’s comedy and emotional moments?
Yeah, there are bits that are really sad, but you can’t help but piss yourself. One of my favourite scenes of all time is that one in The Full Monty where Mark Addy’s eating a Mars bar in the shed and wrapping himself in cling film so he doesn’t get fat. It’s funny but heartbreaking, too.
Is music as important to you as it is to Woody?
Yeah, I listened to a lot of the same sorts of stuff, a lot of reggae. Music is a massive deal and has got more so for me as I have got older.
Are you a bit of a collector then?
No. I go and see my mate Griff once or twice a year and he sorts me. He catalogues his music, but with me it is like someone has given a gibbon a Mac. I am so shit on it, I have drawn all over it, cos I couldn’t make it work.
Has success been a surprise?
I never had any money and that’s a problem. Going from being a lad on a plasterer’s wage to then getting loads of money, you spend and spend and spend, see nice things and go to nice shops. You help everybody out, and then you’re left with none. It’s alright sorting Nigel out a van but then you’ve got tax to pay! If there are any young actors out there not putting money aside for their tax, they’re an arsehole. That’s why at the age of 27, when I should be pretty minted, all I’ve got is four dogs and a hairy carpet.
What have been the highpoints so far?
Far too many, I am so lucky. This will sound really American, but I am really blessed, because I am
a twat and I should probably be in rehab or prison.
You worked with Michael Caine on Harry Browne – did he have any advice?
It was a bloody honour working with Michael, but I learnt more from Shaun Harris [who plays Gielgun’s drug buddie Stretch in the film]. He’s extraordinary – he can transform. What I learnt is you are not there to make friends but to do a job. It was weird: I called him Sean once and he said ‘I’m not Sean. I’m Stretch, you cunt!’.
Do you worry about typecasting?
I don’t worry about things like that. If people keep giving me these roles, I’ll keep doing them.
So who do you play in sci-fi prison flick Lockout?
That was done before This Is England ‘88, in Serbia, and yeah, my character is unsavoury – I play a Glaswegian space rapist.
Will there be a This Is England in the Nineties?
I am pretty sure Shane Meadows will do one in the Nineties. But he keeps having kids, so unless you chop his dick off, then he won’t write it.
This Is England ‘88 is out on DVD on March 12 through Channel 4 DVD.