"There are things that Lindon does that I as Vincent would never check for."
Earlier this month, Waterloo Road returned to BBC One for the first time since 2015 with seven brand new episodes, welcoming back old favourites and introducing us to a host of new characters including new co-Deputy Head Lindon King, played by television newcomer Vincent Jerome.
Riots, scandals, fractured families and challenging kids are all in a day's work for Headteacher Kim Campbell, played by returning cast member Angela Griffin, and for her team, fire-fighting is a way of life.
Across the term, Waterloo Road’s teachers and parents have to learn on their feet as they try to navigate the ever-changing social landscape, from teen homelessness to the cost of living, being LGBTQ+, racism, sexism, mental health and everything else facing young teens today.
Amongst the chaos, the students, faculty and parents still make time for friendships, fun, and a few romances. The pupils have a lot to contend with this term, but they will learn to lean on one another to survive the year and try to stay out of detention as much as possible.
With the new series already a firm favourite amongst fans, I recently caught up with Vincent Jerome to talk about the reaction to the series so far, what people are making of Deputy Head Lindon King, what he thinks of some of the criticism aimed at this new series and why he believes not having watched the original series of Waterloo Road has been to his benefit.
He also talks at great length about the way he sees Lindon King, the relationship Lindon has with troubled pupil Danny, working with Angela Griffin and so much more!
Waterloo Road returned with a lot of hype and noise around it. Were you nervous about joining the show considering its history and popularity?
If I'm being completely transparent, and I've said this before, so I'm not going to be contradicting myself. I wasn't really aware of the show. I'd heard the name. But I never watched the old series. Maybe - and I'm showing my age here - but maybe it skipped me, age-wise. I was probably a little bit out of the demographic as it were.
I'd heard of it obviously as you hear of Doctors and EastEnders obvious, Casualty, Holby, all those massive ones, so when I got the audition, saw Waterloo Road and went "Ah. OK. That sounds familiar."
At the time, I didn't really know much beyond the name of the character and his background. I walked into it relatively blind, which was actually to my benefit. I didn't have the weight on me. It meant that I could curate a character that didn't need to match anything else. If I knew the show inside out and back to front, I might subconsciously steal things from other actors who had done it before. Or from characters who fit a similar archetype as Lindon.
What has the reaction been like so far to the series and your character?
As a rule, I don't tend to do deep dives into social media, because people's opinions are their opinions and sometimes you take things personally. I do. I'll admit it. So I've kept it at arm's length. I will obviously promote the show, but the things that I have seen have been positive.
They talk about how Lindon looks a lot, and how he carries himself. There's a lot of that.
How do you feel about that specific reaction to Lindon? Were you expecting it?
That's a very interesting question. On the page, I knew what Lindon was. Lindon was always going to be the slick, adult heartthrob kind of thing - and these aren't my words, this is the character breakdown. So I knew what Lindon had to be. And who he was within the show and why he needed to be like that. I just did the character. I didn't think about him being smooth or sexy or any of these things, I just tried to find the heart of the character.
In the producers casting me, that was out of my hands. The director, Jesse Quinones, the producers and the people higher up at the BBC, decided that I as Vincent Jerome and my interpretation of Lindon is enough to do the character justice.
It's not something that I ever wanted for myself. For me, it's always been about being a good actor. I'm not trying to be a Black Matthew McConaughey out here. It is very flattering and when I think about it does mean I've done a good job with Lindon. That's what that means to me.
I'm human like everybody else. I have insecurities. I have things that I'm not particularly confident about and that's one of the reasons why I never tried to chase being a heartthrob or being a romantic lead. With that, comes weight, and a level of upkeep that I personally, aS Vincent, have no interest in.
Yeah, I like to work out. But that's because I'd like to be able to touch my toes when I'm 70! I like to keep myself together, but that's it.
What type of person is Lindon King?
He's a complicated man. The way I see it is that Lindon is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Throughout his life, he's had to know how to code-switch, which means you have to know how to navigate certain places.
Lindon is from an estate in North West London. He's working class. The way he grew up has a bit of a rep. It's known for being rough. But he was always academic as a kid and his mum was very much - and these are things you don't really know about him, it's all backstory - but his mum very much pushed him in that way.
Already, because of his interest in science and being an athlete, there was already a juxtaposition there, because you don't normally think about people who are athletes being the same people who are into science.
If we fast-forward to now, there aren't a lot of high-level people of colour in academia. So, in order to navigate that, Lindon has had to present certain sides of himself whilst keeping other sides of him, repressed or hidden. And you very much see that in the show.
At the start of the series, in episode one, he wakes up in his car and you're like "Who's this guy?" - he's in his hoody, and he's a little bit dishevelled. Then the next time you see him, he's transforming into Lindon. You meet him halfway.
So already, you've seen Lindon vulnerable, twice. In a very private thing and then getting caught not being together. And when you see him step out into the playground, with Joe, when everything is kicking off in the first episode, he's wearing that armour. That's Lindon King. When he's Lindon King the teacher and Lindon King the man, he presents himself in a particular way.
The good thing about that first episode, is you see that he's one way with his family. He's one way with his daughter, you see that immediately, and later you see how he is with his wife. You see that things aren't great. Then, a beat after that, you see how he is with Kim. In that one scene, you see three different Lindons - the father, the husband and the academic professional. The only thing you don't see is Lindon the teacher and the other elusive thing, Lindon the man.
Because he's had to navigate different waters, there is the question of "Who is the man?" but ultimately, the things that are important to him are being a husband, being a father, being a good teacher, and Deputy Head. Those are the hats he wears and because of that, maybe Lindon the man gets neglected more than he should.
He does really care about certain students, doesn't he? In particular, I'm talking about the way he is with Danny.
Adam Abbou who plays Danny is amazing and I'm glad you picked up on that because the thing with Danny and Lindon is that Danny could have been Lindon. Danny could have been any of Lindon's friends. He's seen Danny's story many times over and it's deeply personal to him.
In the second episode, they go into the BU (Behavioural Unit) and it's only the second episode in which you've seen Danny, but you've already seen him be in fights because he has to in order to survive. That's how Danny sees life. Life is a fight.
Danny says "I don't even know what I'm doing here" and Lindon says "Because you've been solving your problems with your fists like you always do." Before Covid and before Danny became homeless, Danny used to be the captain of the basketball team and Lindon is the basketball coach, he has a history of playing basketball.
Also, Danny comes from a certain place. He's known for being a bit troublesome. If Lindon knows him to be using his fists "as he always does" then he knows the boy that's a little bit rough around the edges. Lindon pushes him because he wants to see how much Danny wants it. He does go to some extremes.
There are things that Lindon does that I as Vincent would never check for. The way he scares the kid, I was like, that could have gone really bad. That could have gone one of two ways. The fact of the matter is, Lindon knows that Danny is tough. He knows that if Danny doesn't get checked if all you give him is this nicey nicey stuff, he could literally go down a path that Lindon has seen with his friends and family time and time again.
Danny needs that strict father figure. Even if Danny doesn't realise it. And that's what Lindon is. When he says to him "I'm not trying to be your mate. I'm trying to get the best out of you." it's true. It comes from a real place. The kid has it. He's able to push past barriers. He has to fight a lot, but at the same time is able to achieve great things. That's the thing I think Lindon sees in him.
Just to close on this point, I think a good juxtaposition is how Lindon is with Preston and how he is with Danny. I don't think the way he is with Danny would work with Preston and vice versa. That's how Lindon thinks at least.
We're using very obvious examples, but he is a father figure to a lot of these kids. Preston doesn't have a dad around and that's why Lindon is the way he is with him. Again, he sees himself in Preston and he sees himself in Danny. It's almost like two sides of the same coin.
Lindon is a tough-love kinda guy because he knows that even if we live in a society now where people want to be more understanding, they want to be more empathetic, a lot of that is in theory. In practice, Lindon knows from his experience that you need to have a little bit of grit about you.
Diversity. Inclusion. Representation. These are words that have just been banded about for a while now but I feel like from these first seven episodes, Waterloo Road does this effortlessly. Was that part of the attraction for you? To be part of a project that really takes that seriously?
Yeah. 100%. Waterloo Road is a reflection of real life and that's important. It's a reflection of working-class Manchester in 2023. Waterloo Road isn't a show where you're going to see an alien invasion, it's very much grounded in reality. So, it's important that we reflect that reality.
At the risk of being controversial, this is why I don't understand when people say - and I haven't read it, but people have told me that's what's being said - "Waterloo Road is too woke". I just want to know what woke means. What does that word mean for that particular individual? Does woke mean that it's showing a representation of people that isn't you? Well, that's fine, because actually - and sorry to disappoint you guys - these people exist in the world and we're just trying to reflect the world.
We're not trying to attack anybody. One of the things that we're trying to do with the show is that even though we all co-exist, people do have different levels of existence. Different experiences.
So if we are doing a realistic show to mirror what's happening in the world, it needs to be diverse. Especially in Manchester. If we're talking about a city in the UK, cities are multicultural places. They just are.
As you say, there has been some criticism of the first episode. How would you respond to that criticism?
I just want to know what they mean by "too woke". I'm not attacking, at all. I'm just trying to understand what that means and why people are fearful of that. What's the pushback? I just want to understand.
People are entitled to their opinion. And this goes bigger than the show, I'm talking about life in general, I just think people shouldn't be afraid of discourse. Just have a conversation with each other, whether you agree or not. I actually think it's more important to have that conversation with people you don't agree with and understand where they're coming from.
We know that Lindon lost out to Kim for the Headteacher job at Waterloo Road. What's their dynamic like in the series?
Yes, Lindon did go up for the job and everybody thought he was going to get it. Him included. Kim included! Me and Angela (Griffin, who plays Kim) have had these conversations time and time again because they do ask the question "Why did Kim get it over Lindon?"
It's like anything, if someone gets a job over you, you always think you would have done this or that better. A professional rivalry could build up. But Lindon does have a point with what he's saying sometimes.
The reason why the Deputy Heads are Lindon and Joe is that they're the two sides that Kim needs to run the school. She needs the strict and she needs the pastoral and we know that Kim has a pastoral background, but her as Head, she needs to be more strict. She's the perfect amalgamation of those two personalities and she needs those two personalities to do her job to the best of her ability.
Lindon's always going to push for what he thinks is best for the school and that may conflict with what Kim wants. I rewatched episode one the other day when it came out on TV, and I got to the end of it and thought it was kind of like Killmonger in Black Panther. You don't get to the end of that film, with T'Challa making the decisions he makes, without Killmonger.
Kim is like "We need to open a behavioural unit" and Lindon gives that look to Val to be like "OK. Alright." and then we have that scene at the end where he goes "I'm glad you're listening to me." That's what makes Kim such a great Headteacher. She is able to see both sides of the coin.
Going forward from that, of course, there's a bit of rivalry there, because we understand that Lindon getting a job is more than just him getting a job. It's promises he's made to his wife. It's bigger than just his pride. As the show goes on, I know Lindon starts seeing things in Kim that make him realise that she's actually good at this. He might be like "I wouldn't do that, but that seems to have worked."
I think over the course of the first seven episodes, Lindon respects Kim as a professional. He wouldn't have brought his daughter to the school if he didn't think that the staff were good. He starts to respect the way she does things. He's starting to see the way that she's manoeuvring.
He might not say this to her explicitly, but he's impressed by Kim, which is why you see them grow closer. And you do, for the most part, in the first seven episodes, see them as a team. They do have each other's back.
There's a hint at the end of episode two that there might be more to their working relationship.
You know what it is, and this actually sums them up perfectly. They keep each other on each other's toes. That is exciting. That can be really fun. And that can manifest in many different ways throughout the series.
What's it like working with Angela Griffin?
I can't say enough good things about Angela. I really can't. I remember the first day I met her and she was all smiles, and she literally is like that all the time. There was a 3 minute or so promotional video that came out a few weeks ago where she's talking about the show and I tweeted it out and said "If you ever want to know what it's like hanging out with Angela Griffin, watch this video."
She's just lovely. She's so warm and generous but at the same time, she's the lead. She's the lead of this show. She sets the tone. She wears that beautifully. She really does. With such grace and dignity. I couldn't have asked for a better dance partner than Angela Griffin. She's wonderful.
Any memorable moments on set?
The first staff room scene. And you see it in the first episode. It's where Coral walks in and officially meets Amy. That was the first staff room scene that we had and I just remember us being like a bunch of kids. Every time we have a staff room scene, there is so much laughter. We all just have a great time. Everyone's got a great sense of humour.
I think that's when James Baxter, who plays Joe Casey, started to do the thing with the cups of tea. When the tea cup first came in. And one of the first things I remember about that is - and he keeps doing it, I love the boy, but he don't learn - if he has an opportunity to eat something in a scene, like a biscuit or some cereal, he will do it for the sake of comedy.
Every time he does, he's always like "Oh, I shouldn't have dbrand-newone that" and in that first staff room scene, you can literally see the sugar taking control of James. By the end of it, he turned into a sugar-riddled, hilarious, really wired, man. Over the course of that scene, we were just looking at the descent of James and the rise of this crazy person. That's one that sticks in my mind.
SPOILER ALERT. IN CASE YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED EPISODE ONE, DON'T READ ON.
The end of episode one was a massive shock for fans. Were you surprised by the reaction? And what did you think when you first read that scene or found out what was going to happen?
When I read that she (Chlo) got hit, I was like "Oh... OK". You're not putting that in for no reason. So when I kept reading, I kept that in my back pocket. Then when it happened I was like "Oh yeah. That's going to upset a lot of people."
Experiencing her death on the page is one thing, for me anyway, you can be a little bit more cerebral, but the way Adam (Thomas) who plays Donte, Katie (Griffiths) who plays Chlo, and Scarlett (Thomas) who plays Izzy, their daughter, the way that scene played out in the kitchen/dining room? It's different.
The way it was masterfully executed by Jesse (Quinones) our director, was amazing and then that hospital scene, showed the bravery of Jesse and the producers to just stay on that moment and slowly pan out. The performance that Adam gives is just heartbreaking. That moment, on screen, and this is no disrespect to the writer, had so much more weight to it.
When you're reading something and when you're watching something, they're two different mediums. I don't want to say I loved that moment, but it's a testament to the level of sophistication and integrity that we expect from the audience.
We're not trying to sugarcoat anything because viewing habits have changed over the years and I feel that TV is more sophisticated. Doing the episode the way it was done, speaks to that.
Prior to Waterloo Road, you’ve worked more in film than you have television. As an actor, what are the main differences? And is there one discipline you prefer over the other?
That's a good question, because there are differences. There's a level of sophistication to modern TV that maybe wasn't there thirty or forty years ago. The way I see it, is they are very different.
With something like Waterloo Road, it's very fluid. You have an idea of where the character is going, but then everything can change based on how the story evolves because you are telling a continuing story. Things will come up and you'll learn things about your character that you didn't know before.
You have to be flexible. Initially, that was something I had to get my head around, because in film it's like doing a piece of theatre. There's a beginning, a middle and an end. It's finite. It's contained. So the approach is different.
With TV, it's just about being open and able to work with the writers, the producers, your fellow actors, to establish relationships that haven't been there before. Establish character traits that maybe haven't been explored before.
I've always been a film guy. I always will be a film guy. I'm not just talking about what I like to do, I'm talking as a fan of the art form. But, I love doing TV as well. One of the joys of doing both is collaboration. Working with directors. Working with actors. Working with actors. Working with the crew. How the camera moves. Where the lights are gonna be. As much as there's an artistic element, there's also a technical element to it and I like that juxtaposition.
Waterloo Road continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC One and all episodes are available now on BBC iPlayer