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7 Questions with… Thomas Turgoose: My upbringing was tough: I know how lucky I am – exclusive
This Is England star Thomas Turgoose speaks exclusively to BT.com about new Sky One drama Intergalactic, becoming a dad and missing out on a role in Line of Duty.
It’s mad to think that Thomas Turgoose is going to be a father.
For many fans, he’ll always be remembered as the kid in the This Is England film – his breakout performance that led to three spin-off TV series.
Thomas was just 13 when he starred in the movie. Now aged 29 and promoting his latest role in Sky One and NOW sci-fi drama Intergalactic, he talks excitedly about his wife Charlotte expecting their first child, how proud he is of his This Is England co-stars and why he’ll never turn down a request for a selfie.
1. Firstly, congratulations! How are you feeling about becoming a father?
Just so excited, super excited. Charlotte’s a nursery nurse – she has been since she left college, so a good 10 years – so she’s been training. She’s been practising.
I know just from being married to her she’s going to be a great mum. She’s been mothering me for the last 11 years. If she can do all right with me, she can do all right with a baby!
We’re super excited. We just know with both of our personalities put into one baby, it’s gonna have a very exciting life. So we are super excited.
I find I’ve taken more of an interest now when people tell me about babies. When they show me baby photos or scan photos, before I’d be like "It’s just a black and white blob, all babies look the same". Whereas now I’m like "Oh God, when are you due?!" It’s turned me all mushy.
2. Tell us about Intergalactic - how does your character fit in?
Intergalactic follows a Commonworld sky cop called Ash Harper, who’s played by the great Savannah [Steyn], who’s done an incredible job at carrying this whole series. It’s huge. It’s so fast-paced and it’s so energetic and she had so much pressure on her shoulders, I guess in the sense that she has to carry the whole show. She’s carried it and she’s done press-ups with it. She’s just nailed it, as has everybody else.
It’s a heavily female-led cast which is great to see. It’s a breath of fresh air to see people like Sharon Duncan-Brewster, who’s very much in control of the whole gang.
She terrified the living daylights out of me when we were on set, but in such a way that she’s so believable and strong and powerful. All of the girls are, and the men as well. Everyone is so into it and passionate about it.
Ash Harper has been wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and she has been transported to an outer-space prison. During that journey she meets a guy called Drew Buchanan, who’s the character who I play, who’s very day-to-day and bored-of-his-job: he’s just there for the money. Maybe he wants to go off and have a career in something else but he just gets paid quite well from this. He’s happy-go-lucky, he just gets on with his job.
Little does he know that on this particular day his life is about to be turned upside-down. He’s very much not as in control as he thought he was because the prisoners break out and they take over this ship. It’s a journey about these people learning about themselves.
Drew learns so much about himself in the sense that the people he’s been working for aren’t necessarily the people they say they have been. Every episode delves into everybody’s character. You learn so much about who they are as people, why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s just a very fast-paced and energetic show.
I don’t want it to be tagged as a sci-fi. It’s not a sci-fi as such – it’s very much a drama/comedy/romance set in outer space, it just so happens we’re on spaceships. It’s hard to explain what it’s about because so much, it’s just huge, so much going on. It’s exciting and adrenaline-filled.
3. Did the diverse casting appeal to you?
I didn’t necessarily know how diverse it was going to be. It’s obviously a great thing.
When you watch big TV shows or big films, it’s normally a man that’s in charge. We’ve not really seen anything to this extent.
Sharon, who plays Tula, is very much in charge of this whole gang of people. She’s done such a great job.
I just think it’s so important that strong females are getting the opportunity to go out there and show what they can do.
Again with diversity, it’s so important to modern television and modern film. As an industry, I like to think that we are working hard in giving the opportunity to everybody, rightfully so. It’s very, very exciting to see everybody blossom in the way that they have with this show.
4. What was it like to film in Manchester and Spain?
We filmed it in Space Studios in Manchester. When I arrived there for my costume fitting and I got my guns and my handcuffs and all these futuristic things, it just felt good. It just felt real.
I went and spoke to Kieron Hawkes, who directed and produced the show. He took me through the sets and we got to the corner of the Space Studios, and it was just the most mindblowing thing.
A lot of the time when I find myself on great jobs like this, I do say to myself "How have you managed to get here?!", and I guess that’s just me appreciating where I am and the opportunities that I’ve been given.
The set designs and the props and everybody, producers, everybody worked so hard to create this different world. The Commonworld stuff in particular, the stuff with Craig Parkinson and Parminder, that whole world that they’ve got is just amazing.
And it’s obviously a real treat when you get told you’re going over to Spain to film. We had a lot of fun over there. I wasn’t there for all of the Spain journey but I got a little taste of it – I think I was out there for maybe 10 days or something. I had some great fun.
When you’re there and you’re filming it, you know it looks incredible, but then you need to multiply that by 10 when SFX have got their hands on it. You’re pointing your guns at imaginary things that aren’t there because special effects are going to put that in. You’re always thinking "What’s this going to look like?", and you watch it back and you’re like "Oh my God, they’ve nailed that!". They’ve really done a good job in making it all just look incredible.
5. How grateful do you feel to be in demand given the current situation?
There isn’t a day go by where I don’t think about how lucky I am.
I’ll always remember… I was talking to a friend of mine and someone came over and asked me for a photo and I got chatting. The person had said they watched This Is England, all the series, and my dad worked it out and said "How long do you think they’ve sat and watched your work? They’ve done maybe 10 hours of their life watching your work. So you can give them 30 seconds of your life. You can give that back to them."
That always stays with me. There’ll never ever be a time when I get fed up of people coming up to me in the street, speaking to me about my work because without the people watching and caring, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I’m so, so fortunate and I’ve got a great bunch of family and friends around me that remind me every day of how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing.
Every job that I do, everyone who’s worked with me, will know how appreciative that I am for the opportunities that I’ve been given because my upbringing when I was a kid was very, it was tough. I was brought up around tough people in tough areas of Grimsby.
To be given the opportunities that I’ve been given, it’s my job to grab it by the cojones and work hard and enjoy it. As soon as I stop appreciating it, then maybe it’s time to stop. But until then I’m just so happy in life and I know how lucky I am.
6. Do you feel lucky that it was filmed before the first lockdown?
It’s been incredibly tough for a lot of people. I’ve not done a day’s work since March last year. This is the longest I’ve been without work since I was a 13-year-old boy.
It’s tough, but there’s more important things going on in the world than me being on a set. We really need to work together as a human race to make sure we can beat this virus and make sure it’s safe for everyone to be working.
And particularly with what we do because we’re in such close contact. If you’re doing a location shoot you can have 100 people in a tiny little house. With a virus, that’s just not safe. You’ve got to wait it out and see what happens.
I’m just so very fortunate that I had a few things coming out over the last year to keep me busy, speaking to you, speaking to other people. I kind of guess that I’m very fortunate that I’ve got things to look forward to. But I’ve ridden a wave and this is the last thing I’ve got coming out so I need more work!
But the next chapter of my life is about to begin and there’s nothing more exciting than that. If I’m not working I’m going to be at home with my baby and my wife so it’s a win-win.
7. Your This Is England co-stars are both in the latest series of Line of Duty – do you talk to them about it?
I Facetimed Perry Fitzpatrick to tell him how proud I was of him. Perry’s worked so hard and I think he’s really struggled a bit. I think when most people think about This Is England and particularly the series, the ‘ginger chips’ thing, his whole character for me is one of the standout characters and for him to get away from that, I think he’s found it incredibly difficult.
I remember when he told me he was going to be in Line of Duty, he never really told me how big the part was. He really played it down. So when I watched it with my wife the other night, I was like "wow". He’s done so well and he looks so comfortable and he’s carrying it, he’s running away with it and I’m super proud of Perry.
Vicky McClure’s career speaks for itself. She’s just incredible. She’s so believable in everything that she does. Vicky’s doing really well.
I did audition for Line of Duty for a smaller part which I never got. Until now, I was always like "maybe they don’t want to put me and Vicky together because of This is England". And then Stephen Graham pops up and Perry Fitzpatrick and now I’m like: "Oh well, it wasn’t that reason I didn’t get it!".
I love to see my friends doing well and I speak to them a lot about it. There was a particular word that was getting thrown around in police language on the show, I can’t remember what the word was but I texted Perry saying "What does this word mean? I don’t know what it means" and he texted me back and told me so it’s nice to have little insights on it. It’s a great show, I’m a big fan of it.
But he won’t tell me what happens. I’m a bit impatient, I wanna know what happens. I’m a bit gutted that we’re going to have to wait every week to see more.
Every episode of Intergalactic will be available on Sky One with NOW from Friday, April 30.