Interview extra

Vicky McClure, This Is England '86August 27, 2010

Shane Meadows’ movie This Is England about a troubled lad accepted into a skinhead gang won a BAFTA after its release in 1986. Now Shane catches up with Shaun, Woody, and the rest of the gang in the four-part TV series This Is England ’86, set three years after the film. Vicky McClure, who plays gang leader Woody’s girlfriend Lol, reveals more.

How did it feel getting back into character as Lol and seeing the rest of the This Is England gang?
It was just the best thing in the world. I can remember Shane Meadows broaching it to me and I thought, ‘This will never happen. It’s too good to be true.’ And low and behold it did and it’s just been great bringing Lol back to life with a much bigger story and a lot more going on.

Had you all been in touch since the film?
We weren’t in touch every week but as soon as we all entered the room together it was like time hadn’t passed. We did some workshops before we started filming and had to go around the room and say what we had been up to and revisiting the characters.
Also, it was like we were all practically living together on the shoot. We lived in flats, nobody locked their doors, so we would be in and out of each others’ flats all the time. The relationships we have are Shane Meadows’ doing really and he has managed to cast this gang that are a gang outside the shoot. We all get on and we all have similar traits to our characters. Shane typecasts people because he knows they are going to be able to deliver the goods, because it is in them somewhere.

The series This Is England '86 is set three years after the film. How do they all get back in contact?
The gang have not really lost each other in that period. They are all still quite close. It’s only Shaun that has to revisit the group. What happened between Milky and Combo at the end of the film affected him quite a lot, and he felt he couldn’t really be part of the gang. Being the sort of gang that they are, they are like, ‘Bloody hell, shut up, get back in here!’ as if we are ever going to disown him, because he didn’t do anything. Before we know it, Shaun is back with the gang and it’s kind of happy families again.

Do you identify with Lol?
In the film I remember thinking that me and Lol aren’t a million miles apart, whereas this time around because there is a lot more for Lol to discover and a much bigger story for her, it became apparent to me that we are not as similar as I thought. We are very different. I’m not as hard as Lol and she has had certain things happen to her that have never happened to me, and I’ve never experienced. I have had to really take myself into a certain place to try and get that across.

Was that difficult?
Yeah massively, a real challenge, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I remember there were a few times when I’d finish a scene and feel absolutely drained and quite emotional.

In the film This Is England, Shane Meadows persuaded you to shave your head, and now he’s persuaded you to go blonde for This Is England ’86, hasn’t he? What did you think when you first looked in the mirror?
It was a big shock because you never know if it is going to suit you or not. It’s all right somebody saying, ‘I want you to have blonde hair’ but are you going to be able to live with it day in and day out? I just embraced it straight away.

And what do your family think of the new hair do?
When I had my hair shaved my mum said, ‘I don’t like it,’ because I used to have hair down to my bum and she nurtured that hair, bless her, for all my life. When I used to go dancing, she put it in a pretty nice neat bun for me and all of a sudden I had shaved it all off! Then when I had it bleached she said she liked the cut but wasn’t too keen on the colour, but my dad loved it. They have all got used to it. I think it was just getting used to it more than anything, but my mum has now had her hair cut short. I don’t know if she is following suit but she’s not bleached it yet. I don’t think I will be able to persuade her to either!

Is there scope to go beyond 1986 with these characters?
I honestly don’t know. It all depends on how the series is seen by the public. Shane Meadows is not very conventional in the way that he does things, so we will just have to wait and see. I’m happy whichever way it goes. I’m happy to have just been a part of it more than anything else and the fact that we have done it is such a massive deal.

How did This Is England change your life?
When I did Shane Meadows’ A Room For Romeo Brass I was 15 and at school and I thought I was going to be the next Julia Roberts, and that wasn’t the case. Then I did This Is England and I thought, ‘Oh God this is big.’ It won a BAFTA and did really well. But nothing massive really came from it. I did the film Filth And Wisdom with Madonna, which was a massive deal, and a real pleasure to do, but things have been quite steady for me over my career. For what reason I don’t know. It’s just the way it has gone. But this is without doubt the job that I have had the most passion about.

What was it like working with Madonna on Filth And Widsom?
Madonna directed it and co-wrote it. It was weird. I didn’t get an audition – she was quite clear on who she was after because she is a really big fan of Shane Meadows and This Is England and A Room For Romeo Brass. The film was based on three characters who were like a part of her – different aspects of her life. It was absolutely mental and great and I have no bad stories. It was an experience I never thought I would have and we had a laugh. Madonna has got a great sense of humour, she’s a perfectionist and she knows what she wants, and she will get it.

By Nick Fiaca

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