I’ve never directed a sequel, or revisited a previous TV show. That is: until now.
Last year I directed the second half of a new Sky One TV series called Brassic starring Joe Gilgun, who a lot of you will know as Woody from This Is England, or Cassidy-the-vampire from Preacher, or Rudy from Misfits.
Joe is, I discovered, a brilliant actor. Not just pretty-good brilliant — I mean really brilliant. Absolutely, categorically the real thing. He’s also very funny, an instinctive comedian, although that comedy always comes from a truthful, dramatic place.
I really enjoyed working with Joe.
Brassic also features Dominic West, who as it turns out is very funny, too — you’ll see a whole different side to Dominic — and Michelle Keegan, who I directed in Our Girl and think is one of the UK’s best actresses. Don’t be deceived by Michelle’s high-street-glamorous, Instagram-famous image — she’s a top drawer actress and can do it all. I love working with Michelle, too.
The show was written by Danny Brocklehurst, whose scripts I directed when we made Ordinary Lies for BBC One. Danny is the real thing, too — an excellent writer. Unlike a lot of his peers, he doesn’t care if you notice that he’s really clever… but his scripts are perfectly crafted, with believable, playable characters. Heartfelt and funny. And he’s a likeable bloke, too, fun to have a pint and curry with. Which helps.
Here’s Sky’s pitch for Brassic:
“Brassic, with its distinct northern flavour, is about a group of working-class friends finding unconventional ways to win at life in northern suburbia.
Vinnie, a Lancashire lad with bipolar disorder, and Dylan, his razor-smart best mate, are inseparable and utterly co-dependant. They’ve hardly spent a day apart since birth. But Dylan’s girlfriend Erin might just shake things up for good with her plans to leave town and start a new life for herself and her kid, Tyler.”
The story is loosely — very loosely — based on Joe’s life after he left Emmerdale aged 13 and went off the rails. He’s very open and honest in the story about his struggles with mental health and I think that’s what gives the show an edge, a ring of authenticity. It goes to some dark places, but it’s never depressing or maudlin, which for me is a big plus. I hate depressing.
And Brassic… is back. Jon Montague at Sky TV liked it so much he’s recommissioned it before it goes on air — a very rare event. Series one broadcasts in August, at which point I’ll be shooting the second half of series two. Because I’m back on Brassic — I had so much fun I’m going back for second helpings.
I can’t wait. The Brassic set was one of the most creative, expressive sets I’ve had the pleasure of standing on. And because this is the golden era of “Peak TV” it felt like we were making a movie — one of those madcap, seventies-style character driven movies. We had the best anamorphic lenses, an expensive camera (and a brilliant Director of Photography wielding it, Richard Stoddard). We built big sets, crashed cars, exploded things. Well, thinking back, we never actually exploded anything… but there’s always series two.