vicky mcclure on life, love and lol
Known as a lead of This is England, to most, Vicky McClure has been a dark, challenging force in her past work; but her latest role in Svengali is playful, cheeky and tomboy-ish. Ms McClure talks Kate Moss, Shane Meadows and falling in love with a co...
Vicky McClure by George Harvey
Vicky McClure's first acting role was her big break. She was still a teenager when Shane Meadows cast her as Lol - the spiky mod with the shaved head and massive fringe - in his groundbreaking This Is England. She played Lol again in This is England '86, exploring - with total honesty - the darkest recesses of the character as she tries to move on from a brutal domestic rape. McClure has since starred in two of the UK's most successful TV-series; in Line of Duty, which pulled in 3 million viewers each week and has just been commissioned for a third series, she plays the steely-eyed detective investigating police corruption. In Broadchurch, she's a tabloid journalist with a big scoop in her sights.
Her new film Svengali might change some perceptions. If previous roles were dark and challenging, here she is playful and cheeky and tomboy-ish. Svengali started life in 2009 as a bunch of Youtube webispodes about a naive Welsh Valleys Britpop fan trying to make it big on the London music scene. They went viral, director/producer/writer/star Jonny Owen found the funding for a feature, cast McClure as his on-screen girlfriend and, on Westminster Bridge, the pair fell in love in real life. They lived together in London for a few months, before returning back to Nottingham. Their relationship burns off the screen in Svengali, which is out today.
How would you describe Svengali in a sentence?
Ultimately it's about the fact that the people you love are more important than anything, and that's what I live by. So I could relate to it.
You shot the film on the fly in London - was it a struggle to shoot scenes with everyone going about their day around you?
We had a great crew of people working on the film, and there was a can-do, guerilla-style way to it. We'd all walk down the street carrying the kit, we'd pile on a minivan, pull up and shoot the scene. There wasn't interminable amounts of planning; there was a lot of freedom to the film. If you live in London and you're around the industry, you will recognize the city. But it's not shots of Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament. It's very much a film about London today.
You lived in London while making Svengali before returning to Nottingham. How did you find the capital?
We had a flat on Edgeware Road, and then we moved to Shoreditch. I did a year. I had a great time and I love London, but I missed my Mum's Sunday roasts and the normality of Nottingham. My rent isn't extortionate up there. And I like to have a community so I came home.
Most people know you for Lol in This Is England and Kate Fleming in Line of Duty. How did you find working on a comedy in comparison?
I did a lot of comedy when I was training from the age of 11 through to 21. No-one will ever see any of it, thank God. But that was all about embracing your own stupidity, and taking it as far as you want to take it. So I wasn't scared by the prospect that no-one would find me funny. But it wasn't about me providing the comedy performance of the year; it was about me playing Shell; she's a sweet character, and she can't really tell a joke, which I can't either.
So you related to her?
Yeah, very much. She's probably the character I've played that's closest to who I really am. I've played some darker characters; This is England was an emotional journey that was ridiculously hard, and which I'll probably never go through again. Line of Duty was a completely different challenge. And then Svengali asked me to be comfortable and free enough to give it a go, and if it wasn't funny then we'd laugh that it wasn't funny.
Kate Moss once called you a style icon. How did you respond to that?
With disbelief. It blew my mind. But when she told me that, I knew she was talking about Lol (from This is England). Lol is one hell of a sharp dresser. I think I can put an outfit together, but that's who Lol is. Fashion wasn't really in my life, and I didn't really have to worry about it. Now I know what suits me and what designers I like, and I follow them. And I know if I get a lot of clothes sent for an event, I'll know what I want to wear. But I'm a jeans girl; I've always been pretty casual, and that's not going to change I don't think.
Your character has a great look. How did you create that?
I created that, I'm pleased to say. I was in my room messing around with my hair and make-up, trying to imagine what she would wear. And before I know it I had a massive bow in my hair, red lipstick and a leather jacket. And that was different from what I usually go for, but it made her feel cute, a bit rockabilly, she was hard. And the director loved it.
This Is England '86 was a really big event for Channel 4. Broadchurch really took off. Line of Duty has millions of people watching it every week. How do you pick your parts?
If you want to work pretty much every day of every year, you can do that. But I don't want people to get sick of me or not believe me because I'm in so many different shows all the time, playing different roles. I don't get involved in a project unless I believe in it, and I get to work every day feeling passionate about the character. Sometimes you can go for a couple of months without earning money, but you just haven't found anything interesting. But then when you do find something, you don't really stop; you work every day and get really consumed it. So I let life happen when I'm not working.
There are rumours another This Is England is going to happen. Can you shed any light on that?
I can absolutely guarantee there'll be another one. Shane told me that we're doing This Is England '90 and that'll be it then; the last one.
You were contacted by women who had been victims of domestic abuse after This Is England '86 screened. How did you handle that?
Those scenes took a lot out of me. They're special scenes. We worked very hard on them, and a lot of people got in touch to say we'd portrayed those moments in a real way. It's one of the most difficult things you can try and do, because it's so real to people who have been affected by it. I was just acting it, so I don't know what it's like to really be the victim of abuse like that, and I can't say I understand what's it like to get through something like that. But the comments I got from people meant a lot to me.
Text Tom Seymour
Photography George Harvey