Meet the Industry: Actress Vicky McClure
By Rosie Togher
15 February 2021
Winner of the Best Actress BAFTA for her mesmerising and heart-breaking performance as ‘Lol’ in This Is England ’86, Vicky McClure is one of the country’s most beloved actors. Vicky has gone on to star in some of British television’s best produced and gripping dramas including the unforgettable smash hit BBC crime thriller Line of Duty and ITV’s Broadchurch.
To kick off the new year, we were thrilled to welcome Vicky McClure for an exclusive Virtual Masterclass hosted by screenwriter and MetFilm School tutor, Fran Poletti. However, it wasn’t a first introduction for the two; Fran was in fact approached last year by Left Bank Pictures to present show ideas for Vicky and fellow This Is England actor, Johnny Harris. She has since pitched a six-part Nottingham-based crime thriller titled Redemption. With a pilot episode written and a commission pending, our fingers are firmly crossed to see the show on our screens in the near future!
Here are some key takeaways and highlights from our conversation with Vicky McClure…
GETTING INTO CHARACTER
On the set of This is England, [Director] Shane Meadows had us go on a night out in Nottingham City Centre dressed as our characters. There were no cameras with us or Shane; it was purely an exercise to help find elements of our character. It sounds bonkers but these exercises do really build a lot of background. He is a very unique director!
It takes a lot of rehearsal time to get into character; this is where you really figure out the psychology of the character. I find music really helpful, it’s a useful tool when channelling emotions, whether that is exhilaration or heartache.
SHOOTING INTIMATE SCENES
When filming intimate scenes in This is England, we had a lot of rehearsal time and myself and Johnny [Harris] (who played Mick Jenkins, Lol’s abusive father) got to know each other, so I knew I could trust him. I’ve never done any intimacy training, but I do think it’s really important. I particularly remember there was a lack of crew in the room; the way the cameras were set up and the minimal lighting, it really felt like there was nobody in the room, which I loved.
Episode 3 of This is England ’90 had a big scene focusing on the revelation of Lol’s father as a rapist, where Lol finally unburdens herself to her family and friends and braces herself for her younger sister’s anger. This particular scene had a very hefty monologue; if I had learnt the script word for word it would have been perfect, just because of how great the script was. However, Shane didn’t want that. He wanted us to be in the moment: reacting, rather than acting, which is so much more natural. I really respond well to any director that encourages me to do something that is not in the script and is open to trying something different.
LINE OF DUTY
Acting on Line of Duty is so different. I always try to make sure what I’m saying is as complicated as possible so it sounds real and natural, but the dialogue is so heavy so it can be quite tricky. Jed Mercurio is a fantastic writer and is able to make Line of Duty unique compared to every other police drama out there. He takes risks with his writing.
The allure of the show comes down to the fact you’re not spoon–fed. It feels like you need a notepad and a pen, and you can’t pause for a cuppa because there’s so much to work out. And yet, the audience love that. It’s that week-on-week, going into the office and chatting by the water-cooler show that gives everyone a bit of a talking point. It’s such a buzz to be involved in something with that kind of hype.
STARTING A PRODUCTION COMPANY
Launching my own production company is daunting as I’m starting completely from scratch and there is so much to learn. It takes a lot of time to understand all the layers from both a business and acting perspective. My core aim is to focus on producing working class productions, made by working class people. We want to ensure the work and talent from people who haven’t had the opportunity to attend a drama school or move to London etc. is being showcased.
ACTING TIPS FOR YOUR NEXT ROLE
- Learning lines – While there’s no quick fix, the app ‘Line Learner’ has been my saving grace recently! My headphones are also with me at all times. I can be on set and have my headphones in and most of the time people are aware that I’m learning lines so don’t bother me.
- Be Honest – Don’t lie trying to impress people in meetings, just be honest and real! And don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask the stupid questions too! You’ll learn so much from it and so will everyone else.
- Dealing with self-doubt – Everyone has a bad day. One thing I’ve learnt over time and through building confidence is that if you want another take, then go for it! Just ask!
- Take time for yourself – Don’t be afraid to take yourself off set for some peace and quiet when you need to. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the industry for a long time or if it’s your first time on set, you are always entitled to say you need five minutes off in order to focus.
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