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Interview with Stephen Graham

Tell us about Melon...

What happens in the story causes Melon to question himself and his moral compass. There is a big revelation though and this is the crux of the story for him. It’s an integral twist of the plot and it leads my character to be a suspect.

What drew you to the role?

Lennie is a close friend and a great writer. I loved his piece Storm Damage. He sent me this and I thought it was a great story. It’s brilliantly written and the plot is fantastic but it’s also a real character piece. I felt that taking Melon on the journey he goes on was going to be a big task –it’s a very heavy and emotive part – but it was something that I was really looking forward to.

What has it been like working with Lennie?

It’s been an absolute joy. I love to watch Lennie – I think he is such a beautiful actor. He’s such a great craftsman, a lovely man and a generous character. You can see the cogs working in his head and when you are in a scene with him it feels real. Also, Alice [Feetham] who plays my wife Bernie has been a joy to work with. She is so pure and honest with her portrayal of the character. She’s one of those actresses who really gets it.

Will you be doing a south-east London accent in this series?

No, I was asked to play Scouse, which was great. I think it’s because London is a melting pot, a mixture of different people from all over the country and the world. Melon and his wife Bernie have moved around quite a bit. They’re from a similar place but they’re not from that area He is an outsider, which adds a little bit of spike to it.

You are good at accents though, aren’t you? You’ve played cockneys, Scotsmen, Irish gang members, Brooklyn mobsters, Texans. Are there any accents you can’t do?

I’ve got a good ear for accents. If I spend a bit of time with someone from there, I tend to mimic it quite well. Obviously, I couldn’t suddenly speak like I was from Papua New Guinea but I would have a go at it. There’s nothing I would be afraid to have a go at.

You mentioned it’s a heavy and emotive part. Do roles like this take a lot out of you?

Slightly, yes. But once they say cut you shake it off and get rid of it. And then I come home to my beautiful wife and my two gorgeous kids. I don’t tend to take it all home with me but when I am there, I dive right in.

You’ve starred in everything from big franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean to Playhouse Presents series. How do you pick your roles?

For me the most important thing is the script or the story. Whether it’s a big character or a small character, it doesn’t really bother me –it’s what I can bring to the table to help tell that story.

And you’ve appeared in music videos too, including one for the Arctic Monkeys. Is that something you enjoy doing?

I haven’t done any for ages but I recently did two on the bounce – one for Goldie and one for Kasabian. They’re always for mates – you aren’t going to see me in the next Puff Daddy music video. Again, they tell a story. I really admire that medium. To get a story across in two-and-a-half or three minutes is a craft.

We checked out your Twitter feed. It’s very entertaining. You don’t take yourself too seriously do you?

Not at all. I am not a politician. I am an actor and a family man and I love my job and have a lot of fun. I just hope my posts are entertaining. That’s why I do it – just to give people a little snippet of me. Have your children seen any of your films yet? They’ve watched Pirates of the Caribbean and Get Santa and we let them watch some of my scenes from Taboo. When they are about 15 or 16 they are going to have a whole back catalogue of dad’s work to watch if they want to.

Do they find it strange?

They are really used to it. They have been around film and TV sets since they were young. I try not to be away for longer than three weeks but if I am working for a long stint, they always visit. With the two Pirates of the Caribbean movies they were on set quite a bit. We were lucky enough to all live in Hawaii when we filmed the fourth one and we lived in a really nice house in Australia for the last one. They’ve got used to it – they are very rounded and well-grounded kids really.

What do your fans say when they come up to you in the street?

It’s kind of a cross section now, which I have found strange over the past couple of years. People are always very nice and I am lucky that it’s been stuff that’s stuck in their heads. A lot of people can relate to This Is England. I found out students are studying it at A-level at the moment so there is a younger generation that’s starting to really appreciate it and like it. It’s not why you make it but it’s always an honour and a privilege to be part of something that holds a little mirror up to society and causes us to question ourselves a bit.

You’ve been directed by Martin Scorsese and nattered over tea with John Hurt. What’s been your career highlight?

I think it is This Is England. That’s when I grew up as an actor and when I really understood what it was all about. It was pivotal and it changed the trajectory of my career in many ways.

By BBC Australia