You are starring in ITV’s The Trouble With Maggie Cole, what was it like to be a part of such an incredible cast?
It was pretty incredible, if not slightly daunting. I remember turning up to the read through before we started shooting and looking around like whhhhaaaaattt. Oh look, there’s Mark Heap… The actual Mark Heap that I regularly watch in Green Wing clips on YouTube. And wow, Julie Hesmondhalgh… The actual Julie Hesmondhalgh whom I used to watch on Coronation Street at my grandparent’s house when I was a kid. And Vicki Pepperdine… The actual Vicki Pepperdine one of my favourite comedy actors of all time. And then there was Dawn French, the actual Dawn French, you know, Dawn French. As in living legend Dawn French. Have you heard of her? Dawn French Dawn French. Anyway, I was nervous (read throughs are the most nerve wracking thing in an actors list of jobs – apart from doing their own stunts…) and I remember Dawn coming up to me and introducing herself, ‘Hello Arthur’ she said. She knew my name. The actual Dawn French knew my name. Well, that instantly set me at ease. Not only are these people complete experts at their craft, they are also all incredibly down to earth, kind, and learn people’s names (a skill that I want to become an ace at). It turned out thereafter that every single person in the entire team was lovely. I had a great time getting to know everyone.
Tell us a bit about your character?
I play a character called Alex Myer. He’s a local coastguard. When he’s not zipping around on his speed boat, he’s often found in his old Land Rover Defender. Seriously, there is a lot of that Land Rover Defender featured in the series. Driving it was a challenge, it had a very clunky old gearbox. And yes, I did all my own driving – which almost means I did my own stunts. I’m essentially a curly haired Tom Cruise, but with less of the culty thing going on. Anyway, Alex has a couple of dark secrets which are revealed throughout the series. All is not as cushty as it may at first seem (considering the first time you see him, he’s mid-snog).
Do you have any funny stories from set you can share with us?
Apart from the you had to be there kind of stories, nothing springs to mind. Although whilst filming Friday On My Mind in Sydney, we told my good friend and director of the show Matthew Saville that he wasn’t a proper serious director unless he came to set in a three piece suit like one of the olden day legends. He did it. And spent the day dripping with sweat. We were filming in a garage that was beyond hot. He looked sharp though. And I’m certain that the suit actually made him direct even better than usual. (Isn’t that right Matthew?)
You are also a published children’s author. What inspired you to write this book and can we expect more?
Yes! You can expect more. I’ve already got the next book ready to go! I love writing. I spend most of my time writing. I write all sorts of things, but I have by far the most fun writing for kids. It’s great because you can treat quite serious things with a lot of silliness. I started writing kid’s rhymes for my little cousin, but she’s almost a teenager now so I’m not sure she finds it cool anymore. She’s got a smart phone, and my silly rhymes can’t compete with TikTok. Luckily though I signed with a great literary agent who saw some potential in my work and after some hard graft, Little Hare books published one (with thanks to our remarkable commissioning editor, Alyson O’Brien and a kid’s author called Hilary Rogers)! They are such a great publisher of children’s books, so all has not been in vain. We will defeat the brain-melting lure of TikTok. In The Dead Of The Night is one of my absolute proudest achievements. The illustrations by Tom Knight are stunning and I’m so in awe of how he made my story come to life. It is currently only out in Australia, so you can tell all of your Australian friends and relatives to go out and buy loads of copies (seriously, that’d be really great; the price of rent in London keeps going up). In fact, if anyone buys a copy of my book as a result of this article, send me a message on Instagram and I’ll send you a photo of my signature to glue into the front of the book; that way you can have an official signed copy. And no, my author signature is not the same as the signature on my bank account… The book is also about to be released in Korea. That’s cool isn’t it. The signature offer also stands for any Korean friends or relatives…
You are in the band ‘Midnight Mouth’ – a man of many talents. What type of music did you listen to growing up and did your parents have any influence on you becoming a musician?
What type of music did I listen to growing up… Okay. Here goes. I’m going public with this. I became a goth at the age of eight. A proper black-lipstick, heavy eyeliner and big boots type of goth. I looked like a pre-pubescent Edward Scissorhands. I was obsessed with Marilyn Manson. To me he was like Tom Waits or David Bowie (who I now also love), using music and imagery as a means to deliver his exceptional poetry and storytelling. Looking back, my mum was pretty cool to let me have (and facilitate) that phase so young. I had got it over and done with by the time I was twelve. I’m still a huge admirer of Marilyn Manson, although not so much anything he released after Golden Age of Grotesque. I grew up with a single mum, and she loves music. She got me into Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and Kate Bush among others. She always encouraged me to take up an instrument that wasn’t guitar, so I picked the double bass. I don’t thank the young me for that decision – whilst the instrument is beyond cool, it’s almost to impossible to store and transport. Anyway, mum told my grandfather that I was asking to play the double bass. He replied ‘my dad was a double bassist’. None of us had any idea. Turns out my great grandfather was a bloke called Charlie McBain, a double bassist and avid jazzer from sixties Liverpool. He booked The Beatles/The Quarrymen for many of their early gigs. Can you believe it! Anyway, yes, I play guitar now for Midnight Mouth. I love it. It’s so much fun. Do take a listen if you’re inclined. We are in all the usual online places!
When did you realise you wanted to become an actor?
I don’t think I ever decided to become an actor. It just seemed pretty obvious. It was never a big decision. When the time came to apply for university, all my friends were writing personal statements and I was finding monologues for drama school auditions. As a very young child, I used to make up plays and force my mum and her friends to watch them. It’s something that most young children do… But unlike most people I never grew out of it.
What is your favourite film of all time and why? Do you think you would ever like to be behind the camera in the future?
Why do people ask this question? Is it even answerable? Can anyone answer this? Here is a list of films that have popped into my head. I don’t know whether they’re favourites or not, but they must be in my head for a reason… The Matrix, Bill and Ted, Ghostbusters 1, The Blues Brothers, The Princess Bride… Okay, I knew I’d get there… I think The Princess Bride is my favourite film. It’s a masterpiece. No wait, Withnail and I has now turned up in my brain… Perhaps it’s Withnail and I… But then I’ve got The Trip (all film versions), Ghandi was good, as was The Elephant Man. I liked Jojo Rabbit a lot… And The Two Popes – two current choices. True Romance is great. I love A Ghost Story by David Lowery. Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. Funny Games by Michael Haneke. IN BRUGES! Actually, maybe In Bruges is my favourite film. Are you regretting asking me this? Oh wait… Hang on… I know it’s not particularly highbrow, but The Lego Movie is one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever made… But in contrast, I also love Lost In Translation. And The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Nah, Lost In Translation is my favourite film… But is it? And to answer the second part of your question. Yes. I love being behind the camera. I would like to direct something proper. I’ve always painted and done drawings, so to me film making would be a moving version of that. I love films that are shot beautifully and I take a lot of joy from watching actors work. Also, I am currently in development on a stop motion animation. I can’t really say anything else at this stage, but I’m very, very excited!
If you were stranded on a desert island and could ask for three objects, what they be?
A sewing machine. I’m currently learning to make clothes with Chris Winter, who’s an expert costume maker. She worked on The Trouble With Maggie Cole and I managed to convince her to teach me everything she knows. I’ve decided that making his own clothes is one of the manliest things a bloke can do. So, on the island I’d like to be able to make myself some nifty beach wear. Second, I’d take a copy of Darkmans by Nicola Barker. I think it’s my favourite book (but let’s not start that because I’ll change my mind another hundred times…) and I’d like to read it over and over to try and work out exactly what is going on. Lastly, I’d take my brown inhaler because I’m asthmatic. It’s not exciting, but I’ve suddenly decided to take this question seriously.
Aside from taking over the world, what is next for you?
Aside from taking over the world?! What makes you think I’ve got time for anything else? Taking over the world is a full time commitment. Next stop is releasing In The Dead Of The Night in Korea, I’m so excited to see the translation.
What advice would you give to any aspiring actors, musicians or writers out there?
My advice would be to surround yourself with good people. Supportive people. People who bring out the best in you and inspire you. Hang around with people who make you excited to do what you’re doing, who help you keep your resolve when times are tough and who share your successes as if they are their own. Enjoy healthy competitiveness that’s only ever done with a glint in the eye and always share your information if your friends need it. Everyone is a critic, there are people out there who want to revel in your failures, and would get some kind of warped pleasure if you never worked again. So the only way you’ll dodge the quick sands is if you dexterously hop over and around them with the help of a great bunch of friends. Oh, and, don’t ‘network’, never ‘network’; make friends… It’s a much better way of going about things.
The Trouble with Maggie Cole will air Wednesdays on ITV at 9PM.
Interview by Lorenza Calamandrei
Photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Eoin Whelan