Describe the journey Andrew and Claire go through?
Andrew and Claire are the characters the audience will identify with the most. They are a middle aged couple with a teenage daughter, a mortgage and then something terrible happens in the town and their story is how they react to it.
How was it filming some of the more traumatic scenes?
The scene in the morgue was the most traumatic scene for me to film, as you really feel for Andrew at that point. It’s so raw and heartbreaking and you really see a man truly come apart at the seams. The climax of Andrew and Claire’s story was also deeply touching. It’s was a very emotionally exhausting film to make but also very rewarding.
How did you leave the trauma behind on set?
When you watch a sad film you cry, it’s the same kind of thing with an actor. You use your emotions and imagine it. You don’t carry the feelings with you, it’s actually quite cathartic.
What did you take away from the whole experience? Did it make you reflect on your own life?
I am a dad of four so playing a father who goes through such a terrible thing can be tough, it was easy to imagine how Andrew would feel.
It must have been refreshing going from filming Southcliffe to the comedy The World’s End?
They are both just as hard as one another. Southcliffe was a very emotional production and The World’s End was more technical and effects laden. I never had time to let one dwell on the other, I just did the job.
What else do you have coming up at the moment?
I’ve been in LA shooting Ray Donovan for Showtime. I have The World’s End coming out. Also, a film I did called Still Life has been shown in film festivals and finally there’s Southcliffe. Everyone’s going to be sick of the sight of me!
You have a Twitter profile, are you a prolific tweeter?
I got lonely in L.A. so I started to tweet other actors. Being away from home I got a bit angry about some of the steps the government was making so I started to tweet a few political musings.
Did you find yourself meeting up with the expat community in LA?
I formed a surrogate family with the people filming Ray Donovan. We all had weekends off and had barbeques together. I stayed with an American actor who I was working with at the time so I always had friends out there.
What is the background to Andrew and Claire’s story?
Claire and Andrew are married and have a daughter who wants to travel the world. Andrew wants Claire to have another baby through IVF but she’s not sure. He is very happy with his life but she is subtly discontent from the start. Then this awful tragedy happens and they have to deal with the aftermath and try to move on. I think before tragedy strikes the people of Southcliffe, Claire was on the road to a breakdown and this brought it all to the surface. They both deal with it separately and very differently.
How do they deal with it separately?
Claire gradually starts to lose grip of reality and becomes increasingly troubled as everything she sees or hears becomes distorted in her mind. She had a slightly strange relationship with her daughter; it wasn’t love/hate but they certainly butted heads. She wasn’t particularly close to Anna who was more of a Daddy’s girl but as a result of the event whether through guilt or sorrow she starts to completely unravel. Meanwhile Andrew is more grounded and in tune with the best way to cope with it. However, Claire leaves Andrew feeling ostracised. She pushes him away as her own problems start to take hold.
Do you enjoy working with Eddie?
He’s fantastic. I feel like we’re brother and sister on set. We have been brought up differently but we are so similar when we’re on set together. We approach things the same way and he makes me laugh and talks about things that interest me over a nice cup of tea. He’s much chattier than I ever imagined because I always had the impression he was really intense from a lot of the roles I’ve seen him in.
Have you found it hard to switch off after filming something as intense as this?
I’ve let past roles stay with me before and you have to find a way to leave it all on set otherwise you can’t sleep. I used to overwork things in my mind and would be so tired by the next morning. When you are filming you have to let it go because you have so much to do the next day, there is an anxiety that comes with this kind of work.
How did you work up to those emotional scenes with Eddie?
We allow each other time. You are often guided about being technically ready rather than us being emotionally ready. For the big stuff you never know it’s going to be big, the scene that happens by the marshes, we didn’t know how big it was going to be until it happened. Some things you just can’t plan for, you just have to be brave and let it go.
Is there a role you have never played but would like to?
Not specifically, secret stories interest me and I would quite like to do a musical at some point, let’s see what happens.
How is Chris affected by the shooting?
There were various stages to Chris’s journey. He is a young soldier on leave from Afghanistan. The first episode is primarily about the emotions that brings. The initial euphoria of seeing familiar faces, surroundings and the luxuries of home. That quickly gives way to restlessness; he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He finds it hard to plunge back in to a normal life after the stress of a warzone and he struggles to re-adjust. During that time he meets Stephen, who offers a way out of his boredom. Certain events take place with Stephen which leads to Chris retaliating and then having to deal with the ensuing guilt. It’s an interesting journey about a young man who arrives back to his hometown fairly troubled, who is then comprehensively broken down.
How do you think Chris deals with his grief in comparison to the other characters in Southcliffe?
He doesn’t deal with it at all well. Something happens to him and at that point he blames it all on himself not realising that a great deal of Southcliffe’s residents also feel responsible. I don’t think Chris sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast and Director Sean Durkin?
Fantastic, I learned so much. All of the cast were so different. Sean Harris has a certain way of working; he’s very much in the moment. You never quite knew what he was going to do in a take; he kept me on my toes. I find that process really exciting and I love doing scenes with actors like that. My favourite actors to watch are unpredictable and Sean is definitely one of them, so to finally work with him was brilliant.
I’m also a big fan of Sean Durkin. Working with him was such a great experience. If you are a fan of someone’s work it can always cause slight apprehension because you want to do a good job for them but he put me at ease straight away. The atmosphere on set was really relaxed considering we were shooting such heavy material.
How did you prepare for the role? Was there any research you carried out beforehand?
I played a solider with Post Traumatic Stress last year and I did some research back then and followed it up this time by talking to some servicemen. Everything post Stephen’s killing spree though I had to rely on instinct. You just have to imagine how you would feel personally in that situation.
Game of Thrones has been a huge hit, especially this year. How’s that been for you?
I have noticed the interest in Game of Thrones this year more than any other season; its visibility has increased massively. Everyone seems to be talking about it now and it’s so exciting to be a part of it. Ever since it started I notice more and more people reading the books on the tube. I think it is a special thing, no matter how small you are in this huge machine it’s great to be a part of something that has a huge buzz around it. I love making it because it’s on a scale that I have never experienced before and there are so many actors and so many people to learn from while you work.
The final series of Skins has just hit TV screens. Is that making you nostalgic at all?
Yes it is. We went to watch a screening of the first episode and there were loads of old faces there. It will be interesting to see how Skins is remembered in a few years from now. I think these final episodes are a good way to send it off. The characters are older now and the story lines can be more grown up.
I always think ‘Skins’ became a byword for these slightly spoiled middleclass brats, over exaggerating their problems, getting drunk, doing drugs and having sex. The whole point of the show was to go about dismantling this premise and show at the heart of it, these individuals were actually really genuine people. They had problems and were just trying to cope with being an adolescent and they were all friends that would do anything for each other. I think that message was sometimes missed by people that would dismiss the programme as some angsty coming of age drama solely intended for teenagers.
Would you have liked to come back and done the finale series of Skins?
There’s a part of me that is glad I didn’t have to make that choice because Skins was such an amazing period of all of our lives and we had such a great time doing it. If my character was still alive and they were asking me to reprise my role it would have been really tough to say no.