Last month I attended the launch party for This Is England 90, and was lucky enough to chat to some of the cast who have been working together for ten years.
I caught up with Thomas Turgoose who plays Shaun and Jo Hartley who plays Shaun’s mother Cynthia as well as Joe Dempsie who plays Higgy and Andrew Ellis who plays Gadget.
Here’s what they had to say about the nineties, working with Shane and the things they’ll miss most now that the series is over.
How does this series feel different to the others?
Jo: I guess for us as characters, it doesn’t really. It’s just an evolution of their journey’s and their ages. The backdrop is the nineties, the situations are different, the stories are different, but it doesn’t feel any different for us because once we’re back together again, you just feel like you’re back in this family and you kind of get right back into it.
Joe: With Flip and Higgy, I guess the main difference for them is that they have somehow managed to worm their way into the group. For some reason these guys accept them in, and that’s about it. Nothing much has changed. They’re still a bunch of dickheads really.
Andrew: I think the biggest change for us lot was the change in the gangs dynamics. The fact that it’s sort of split between the younger ones now and the likes of Milky, Lol, Woody, they’re still around, but like you do when you get older, you kind of grow away from certain people. I think that was the biggest difference for me personally, going on set and seeing very minimum of Shim (Andrew), and Joe (Gilgun) and Vicky (McClure) and that.
Jo: We’re all grown ups now. I’m like grandma now aren’t I?! (Laughs) I’m well in with the pensioners.
Thomas: This series you see the gang having the most fun, definitely, but having said that, while there’s good stuff for some people there’s shit going on in other people’s lives.
Joe, what’s it like for you being back and like you say, part of the group?
Joe: Well we did a bit in This Is England 86, and we shot a scene for 88, it was this bizarre improvisation, but because 88 was such a gut wrenching piece, it would have looked so stupid in amongst all the rest. Shane very wisely thought it should live elsewhere.
It was great to be asked back for this. We have so much fun playing these characters because you just get to indulge the most moronic part of your pshyce. It’s the most fun I’ve had on set in ages.
What’s the situation with Shaun and Smel this time around?
Thomas: They’ve kind of drifted a bit, especially after all the shit that happened in 88 with the girl Shaun had sex with, Faye. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say...
What’s it been like going back to the nineties?
Jo: Well I was there in the nineties. Me and Shane are the same age, I think he’s a little bit younger, by a few months! But I’m 43 now, I started raving in 1988, so 1990 was just full on. I went to Spike Island, Shane never made it there, apparently he got a bit drunk and didn’t actually make it but he got to make Made In Stone, which he’s always really happy about because he loved The Roses.
Back then there was The Mondays, The Spirals, The Roses, and I was their age (the cast) and I was having the time of my life. I was friends with Noel Gallagher before he was famous, and it was proper amazing you know. But then in 1994 it all became a bit too much so I went to Japan and became an air hostess! The best time was between 1988 and 1992 I think.
Andrew: Well obviously we weren’t raving in the nineties, but Shane feeds you stories about what him and his friends were doing, and that just helps you get into the scene. It feels real when we’re doing it, in a church hall with people wearing baggy jeans and the Roses blasting out.
Joe: Yeah, and it was great to get that experience, because it’s a period of time that I sort of romanticise in my head a lot, and wish I was around for, so it was nice to experience it to a degree.
Jo: I think This Is England 90 is possibly the best one. That’s my own personal feeling.
Do you still get nervous before the series goes out?
Andrew: Yeah, because it’s quite different this one. The gang dynamics changing is probably a bit risky, because everyone loves to see Woody and everyone sat in an underpass throwing lighters and all that crap. But yeah, I’m always nervous before it goes out, but Shane can always tell an amazing story, so I’ve 100% got the confidence that people will enjoy it as much as the last three.
It must feel like a proper family unit now considering you all started filming together back in 2005?
Andrew: Yeah it does. But we’ve always kind of been like that really. Even with Tommo (Thomas) and Joe (Gilgun), we were always around each others houses, even when we’d finished filming. We always saw a lot of each other.
Jo: Me and Gadget (Andrew Ellis) used to drive up in a van and see him when he was little, but now when he comes down for auditions he’s like - “Have you got a bed?” - but he’s not stayed with me yet. I won’t let him go out and party you see.
Thomas: I need some more auditions. I think my agent needs to pull his fucking finger out!
Jo: It’s weird, because in the ten years we’ve worked together, I don’t think any of us will experience that again. It’s just quite special and unique really, and especially from them being so young at the beginning.
So what are you going to miss now that it’s all over?
Jo: The camaraderie on set I think. We all see each other a lot, and we speak a lot. I think the camaraderie on set, the ability to feel completely at ease because you always feel nervous before getting on set.
You’re always shitting myself, actually... I did shit myself before my very first audition for Shane Meadows. I had to stop and change my clothes. It was for Dead Man’s Shoes, I had a pair of denim hot pants on and I had to get some Calvin Klein pants! (Laughs). I did tell him.
Andrew: If this is the last one, I’m going to miss the way Shane works. You don’t get it with any other director, I know that’s a cliche thing to say, but you literally don’t. Shane gets us all together in a room and makes us all love each other, and it’s hard with some people. Loving Tommo is so hard! (Laughs)
Thomas: Any other job it’s really hard to improvise, but with this one I find it so easy, because of how much we know each other. The amount of time we spend together off set as well, we’ll be in the pub at night ripping the shit out of each other and then we’ll take that on set.
What was it like filming on that final day?
Andrew: It was a hard one really. We can’t say what was going on, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the wrap party, because it’s been ten years for a lot of us, working together and the prospect of it not happening again is a scary one, but we are all going to see each other and keep quite close.
Thomas: It was a bit weird saying goodbye at the end, but who knows whether this really will be the end? You never know. This Is England 88 was meant to be the last one as well, so who knows? He needs to keep going, I’ve got a mortgage I need to pay now!