Brassic season 2: From nights out with Michelle Keegan the ‘karaoke queen’ to joint gym sessions - secrets from the set revealed

Michelle Keegan, Joe Gilgun and the rest of the Brassic cast filmed series 2 in Manchester - but ever wondered what went on behind the scenes? Find out as it returns to NOW TV.

By Sophia Moir Published: 7 May 2020 - 6.15pm
Instagram / Michelle Keegan / Ryan Sampson / Aaron Heffernan

You can’t watch Brassic without wanting to be part of Vinnie’s gang. But if you thought the on-screen antics were fun, it’s safe to say that the cast had as much fun off-set as they did filming season 2 of the Sky One mega hit series. 

Joseph ‘Joe’ Gilgun, Michelle Keegan, Damien Molony and the rest of the cast filmed the second series in Manchester at the end of summer 2019 - along with a cheeky filming trip across the channel.

But what went on behind the scenes? Who hit the gym hardest, and who dominated the gang’s karaoke night? Who had the paparazzi to deal with while the others were approached by the show’s army of fans?

Here, the cast reveal the secrets from the set of Brassic season 2 ahead of its return to Sky One with NOW TV...

Dealing with fans and paps: ‘It’s the Brassic guys!’

The cast and crew were filming the second series of Brassic just after the first series landed as a full box set on Sky One and NOW TV in August 2019.

They were also filming on location in Manchester - a short 30-minute drive from the Lancashire town of Chorley where Joe grew up and got the inspiration for Brassic - the town’s fictional name in the show is Hawley.

The Manchester residents were very excited indeed to see the cast of Brassic filming on their streets. Irish actor Damien Molony, who plays Dylan - the reluctant member of Vinnie's gang - says lots of people would stop to tell them they loved the show.

“We were wandering around on our days off with our characters’ haircuts, going out to buy milk, and you’d often hear someone shout ‘Hey, Dylan!’, or ‘It’s the Brassic guys!’”

Aaron Heffernan, who plays Irish traveller Ash, called it ‘surreal’ meeting fans who’d watched the show while they were out and about in the city. The Irish native - who brought his fiancée Mairéad and dog Pip along to Manchester for the filming - admits he used to get quite the response from fans on his daily dog walks.

“When I was walking my dog in the Northern corner of Manchester, I heard ‘Oh my God, that’s him off Brassic!’,” he says.

Parth Thakerar, who plays car mechanic JJ, calls the response from fans on the streets ‘overwhelming’, and reveals that they'd often be told that Brassic truly represented working class northern life.

“People obviously love the show, it’s about them, it’s about their town, it’s about their people, and I think they really appreciate how authentic it is," he says.

"And then obviously with Joe leading it, and Danny and Michelle involved [who are all from northern England], I just think they feel like it’s a true representation of fun, Northern life.” 

Joe Gilgun and Michelle Keegan, who play Vinnie and Erin in the show, were also stopped on the streets by Brassic fans.

Joe says: “I think a lot of people warmed to the sad moments, the moment of genuine emotion. I feel like those moments are really important, I think it grounds the madness of what we’re doing.

"So, a lot of the feedback, especially towards the mental health side of things, was about us being honest.”

Fans stopped Michelle to say they wanted to be part of the Brassic gang.

“When people have stopped me to talk about the show it’s always the same thing, they absolutely love the characters and find the show really relatable,” she says.

“People keep saying they want to be part of the gang too and that’s the best thing, it’s such a varied group of mates, everyone can see themselves in at least one of the characters.”

But one unexpected result of having someone like Michelle Keegan on set is the amount of paparazzi photographers, who returned to take photos of her like they did on series 1. The former soap star was "always followed", says Joanna Higson, who plays Erin’s on-screen BFF, Sugar.

“It was so weird, as soon as she was on set, they’d pop up out of nowhere. I felt for her because all she’s doing is trying to work and she’s followed everywhere,” she says.

“I think it does sometimes make her feel a bit more self-conscious than she should. But she deals with it like she’s an absolute pro.”

Gym workouts with Manchester City players

In a case of life definitely not imitating art, the cast of Brassic spent more time in the gym during filming for series 2 than on boozy nights out (although they did do a bit of that - more of that later).

And you may also be surprised to learn that the gang’s health conscious mindset was led by actor Tom Hanson - who plays kebab-chomping Cardi in the show.

Speaking about the cast's off-screen fitness regimes, Aaron Heffernan (Ash) says that it helped that they were all living in the same building, so they’d all hit the same gym.

“There was a lot of gym action this year! Mostly led by Mr Tom Hanson, who’s really into his fitness at the moment,” says Aaron.

“It was great because we all lived in the same building, so we’d all go together and work out. Everyone’s very fitness conscious and very food conscious, but that’s not to say there was a lack of the odd unit of alcohol!”

Hanson concurs that the cast were "pretty boring" this series and became quite the gym rats - especially Michelle Keegan (Erin), who he calls "so disciplined" this year.

“Michelle drank us under the table last year but now she’s absolutely not a party animal at all, she’s so disciplined, she eats so well, she goes to the gym so much," Tom confesses.

"But then, that’s why she can afford to go out and have fun, you know?,” he adds.

Another reason why the Brassic gang were so health-conscious this series was, according to Damien Molony (Dylan), because they were trying to keep up with Aaron, who had to get his kit off during filming.

“Aaron had a huge striptease scene this series and he wanted to get into really good shape for that, so the rest of us [were] just trying to keep up with him,” Damien explains.

That includes Ryan Sampson (Tommo), who Aaron tried to help with his health and fitness. Looking back, Ryan realises that probably wasn’t the best idea...

“Aaron was like, 'Do all this sh*t and eat all this food', which is fine for someone like him, but if you’re like me and five-foot-five, you end up looking like you’re a complete sphere.

"I was like an egg of muscle and fat. You look absolutely terrible. So if you notice this series I’ve got no neck, that’s the reason why!”

“I walked in once and Tom was there doing weights, Parth was doing lunges, Ryan [was] running. It was a proper Brassic work out!”
- Michelle Keegan

Fitness fanatic Michelle says they used to workout all at the same time, which made for some funny scenes.

“The lads worked out a bit more than me but we had a lot of training sessions together… I walked in once and Tom was there doing weights, Parth was doing lunges, Ryan [was] running. It was a proper Brassic workout!” she laughs.

Damien adds: “Can you imagine if we brought out a Brassic workout video? An aerobics video for Brassic would be so cool. We need to mention that to Joe!”

Fans would have spotted more celebrities than just the cast of Brassic should they have poked their head round the gym corner - because they shared the space with a certain Premier League football team.

As Tom Hanson (Cardi) recalls: “It was funny because there were a few Manchester City players staying in the same building as us so they would come and use the gym and find all the Brassic cast working out together. It was so random!”

Michelle Keegan the karaoke queen

Despite being disciplined with their health and fitness during the filming schedule, there was still time in their packed schedules to let their hair down after a long day’s work.

The gang spent much of the first series getting to know each other, but with many of them having moved to Manchester to film series 2, they got to hang out together off-screen as proper mates too.

Parth Thakerar (JJ) explains: “During the first series we were all trying to get to know each other, the characters and also make a good show.

"This time around we were already mates, we know our characters well so it meant any down time we had was really chilled out.”

Irish actress Bronagh Gallagher - who has a bigger role as Carol in series 2 - says the gang went on some rowdy nights out that Vinnie would be proud of.

“You’re working pretty crazy hours and it’s very challenging given the temperature we were filming in. You bond quickly," she explains.

"We went for nice meals which Manchester’s such a great city for. We were the ultimate, nasty, cheesy hen party and we had an absolute crack. We end up in a strip club, so the normal Brassic madness."

But the maddest night of all sounds like the one they went on after they’d finished filming the series. The gang all went for dinner at Dishoom before a chaotic night at a karaoke bar - where Michelle impressed everyone with her surprise vocal abilities.

Speaking about how they celebrated the last day of filming, Aaron (Ash) says proudly: “I spearheaded a karaoke session! We hit the karaoke hard. It was a crack. Michelle is a bit of a karaoke queen, she’s actually a brilliant singer. Is there anything she cannot do? It was my first time meeting her husband Mark [Wright], he’s a top bloke. We had so much fun!”

Parth Thakerar (JJ) says that Michelle tried to pretend that she had a phobia of singing before getting up on stage and absolutely smashing her rendition of Cher’s Walking In Memphis.

“Michelle is like the biggest lad of all of us! She can drink you under the table and get up the next morning looking absolutely fresh.”
- Ryan Sampson

He recalls: “I will hands down tell you Michelle Keegan has a few karaoke numbers in her back pocket, she can sing! The whole time I was like, ‘Michelle, I don’t want to sing, I really don’t want to sing, I actually have a phobia of singing,’ she was like, ‘Yeah, me too, me too, I don’t like singing either’.

“Then she just went up and did these huge numbers and I was like, ‘You liar!’ She’s a karaoke queen! She was belting out Cher’s Walking In Memphis like it was her own song!”

Michelle says, in her defence, that that happens to be the only track she can sing. “Parth was right up on the mic, I couldn’t get him off it! I do a mean Cher! That’s it, that’s all I can do. Cher is my peak!”

Ryan Sampson praises Michelle’s ability to keep up with the lads’ drinking.

“Michelle is like the biggest lad of all of us. She’s the most down to earth person… it’s ridiculous that she can drink you under the table, eat twice as much as you, and then get up the next morning looking absolutely fresh.”

One person who didn’t join the gang on their nights out was the show’s co-creator Joe Gilgun, who once didn’t go out for dinner because he had to feed his new friend - Steven the Seagull.

Tom Hanson (Cardi) recalls: “You’ll never believe what this guy gets up to, he lives in like a magic realism. He lived in this flat throughout filming and we’d try and get him to come out for dinner, and he’d go, ‘No, no, no. I can’t do it tonight. I can’t do it’. We’d say ‘Why?'

“It transpired that he’d made friends with a seagull, which he called Steven Seagull, and he felt bad going out because he’d feed it every night!

"So, he’s like, ‘No, I’ve got to go back!’ And later on, we found out he was having an illicit affair with a seagull. I mean, I’ve seen pictures! He really loves that seagull, it’s quite touching, it became his Brassic pet!”

France in the torrential rain: ‘It was miserable!’

While most of the filming for Brassic took place in the UK, some of the cast and crew got a bit of a treat by filming across the channel, although it sounds like they wished they’d stayed in Manchester!

In the show, some of the Brassic gang go on a booze run to Calais, although things don’t work out as they’d planned - on and off screen.

Bronagh says: “[In the show], the girls decide to go off on the booze cruise to France and that all goes pretty pear-shaped when we get there. Let’s just say one person who starts the trip with us isn’t breathing by the end of it! It’s madness!”

The cast hoped they’d get a bit of sun on location in France, but the bad weather followed them from Manchester and they ended up having to film in freezing conditions.

What's more, in what sounds like a storyline from the show, one of the cast members who was pretty hungover soon realised after arriving in France that he hadn't packed any essentials for his week filming abroad.

It transpires that the said guilty party was Ryan Sampson (Tommo), who decided to have a house party the night before the cast and crew set off for France.

"I was promised that [filming in France] was going to be absolutely worth it compared to filming in England," he recalls.

"We all thought it would be like a little holiday in the sunshine. For that one week it was just torrential rain, we were so disappointed! That whole week was absolutely miserable! 

“The mental thing was that the night before I had to leave for France, I had a massive house party at mine.

"By the time I get to France, I’ve sobered up a little bit and realise that all I’ve packed is two pairs of shorts and three tops. No toothbrush, no underwear, nothing! No pyjamas. So that was a pretty intense week for me. Drunk packing is not great!”

That being said, the cast do hope that the scriptwriters send them off to a sunnier destination next series. In a desperate plea to show writers Joe Gilgun and Danny Brocklehurst, Damien Molony (Dylan) is eyeing up a trip to Benidorm.

“When it’s three o’clock in the morning and we’re on top of a hill, in the middle of a thunderstorm, it’s lashing rain and it’s freezing, we all say to Joe, ‘Please, please write us an episode where we go to Marbella or even Benidorm, can we just have a little bit of sunshine?’ 

“We love Manchester and we love filming there, but a little bit of warm sunshine would be amazing, right? It would be pretty epic if they all went on a gang holiday and it all went wrong. The possibilities are endless. So can we have a little holiday in series three, Joe? Please?!”

Green screen car chases and stately home stunts

Fans of the gang’s mad escapades in season 1 will be relieved to know there’s more crazy car chases, robberies, road trips and even a treasure hunt coming up in season 2.

Some of those high-speed car chase scenes were filmed slightly differently the second time round. During season 1, none of the actors in the scenes could actually drive, so the car would either be on a trailer being pulled along by another vehicle - or there was a stunt driver on the roof controlling the car.

But for series 2, the cast filmed in a green screen studio instead. “They just stuck us in a green-screen studio; a couple of guys shook the van from the outside and we would throw ourselves from side to side inside," Damien Molony explains.

"We felt ridiculous. But we watched it on camera afterwards, and with the right sound effects, it really works! So we got to shoot an amazing car chase in series 2 without leaving the building!”

Elsewhere this series, Tommo becomes obsessed with erotic furniture, and plans to turn the strip club into a very classy establishment. In order to furnish the club with said kinky furniture, he ends up stealing items from a museum.

For these scenes, Ryan had to take part in some rather daring stunts at a stately home in the middle of the night.

“[We’re filming and] there’s a huge, sheer drop at the end of the garden that we all just sort of lob ourselves over. We were doing actual stunts in a stately home at three o’clock in the morning - I felt like a sort of sh*t Tom Cruise!” he jokes.

One person who sees himself as quite the amauteur stunt man is Aaron, who’s known on set as the person who’ll always put himself forward for any vague stunt.

“There’s an ongoing joke that any scene with stunts in it, I’m available for and will put myself forward because I do love doing stunts," he says.

"It’s actually my nickname on set, ‘Oh, here comes stunts!’ 

“The guys kind of joke with me about it, but honestly the more stunts the better, I’m OK with that. Coming out of a moving vehicle, dangle me from a tree, let’s do it. I’ll break my ankle if I need to, Tom Cruise-style!”

Brassic seasons 1 & 2 Box Sets are streaming on Sky One with NOW TV.