The Perfect Misfit
Published 28/10/2011 | 09:06
Joe Gilgun has starred in Coronation Street, Emmerdale and This Is England. As he joins the cast of Misfits, he tells why he's happy with his lot
Joe Gilgun is possibly the only actor who could join Misfits after the departure of its lead actor Robert Sheehan.
Irish Sheehan stole hearts as joker Nathan in the Bafta-winning show about teens with superpowers and, although it was inevitable his star would rise, his departure still came as a shock.
But while Sheehan's off pursuing new projects - he's currently on stage in an acclaimed production of The Playboy Of The Western World - 27-year-old Gilgun has stepped into the young offender orange jumpsuit to play Misfits' new recruit Rudy.
And, as anyone who's seen him as long-haired Eli Dingle or skinhead Woody in This Is England will know, he's got just as much spark as Sheehan.
"I think it was Bob Monkhouse who said, 'Growing old's compulsory, growing up is optional'. I like to live my life by that," he grins.
But the Lancashire-born actor, who's now styled his hair into a rocker's quiff to play Rudy, admits he did feel nervous about replacing Sheehan.
"Robert did such a good job as immortal Irish gobshite Nathan, it put an awful lot of pressure on me," he says. "I just wanted to do well."
He credits the "really sweet" cast for helping him settle in to the new job, but adds with a wink: "We all bully each other a bit, just to keep morale up on set. Fun and games, though, nothing serious. They're like siblings."
Fun and games are promised for the third series, too, which sees the gang of offenders get to grips with all-new superpowers, having met a superpower dealer during last year's Christmas special.
Gilgun, of course, is sworn to secrecy when it comes to Rudy's special powers.
"You're going to ask me what superpower I'd have in real life, aren't you?" he says laughing. "I'd like to be able to turn into a cup of tea. A flying cup of tea, with a cape!"
Not surprisingly, Rudy is "a bit of a rough diamond", much like Eli and Woody - but there's a crucial difference, he explains: "I think Rudy is actually slightly sociopathic. He's rude, obnoxious and arrogant, but he's also quite sweet. He doesn't go out of his way to hurt people, he just doesn't seem to gauge thoughts or feelings very well."
What he could get up to in this series is anybody's guess because, as with all science fiction, anything can happen. So far in the first two series, we've gone back and forward in time, brought characters back to life and seen others turn into animals.
It was quite a lot for Gilgun, who'd never seen the series before he was cast, to take in - but he loved it all the same.
"I'd have been a moron to come in and not watch any of it. And I got completely addicted. It was like The Sopranos. It sort of ruins your life a little bit. You don't leave the house, you just have to keep watching the episodes," he says.
This made a change for Gilgun as he doesn't usually watch much television: "You end up watching people you know - and it reminds you how successful everyone else is and you're not," he says, laughing again.
"You see your pals and you're like, 'Brilliant, nice one mate'," he adds, sarcastically.
Gilgun's only joking though, as he's got no need to be jealous. The film This Is England, about a gang of skinhead kids in the Eighties, was incredibly successful, racking up the awards - including the Bafta for Best British Film - and launching the then-unknown cast into the spotlight.
It has since spawned the television follow-ups This Is England 86 - which won a Bafta for Gilgun's co-star Vicky McClure - and the forthcoming This Is England 88, which is expected to be even more captivating than the previous instalments.
There have been shaky moments in his career, though.
He was only eight when he joined Coronation Street to play tearaway Jamie Armstrong, and although he counts himself "very, very lucky" to have landed the job so young, he says it did cause problems.
"When you go on television, other young people are going to recognise you. And kids are cruel. You don't know how to defend yourself or how to deal with it.
"It's completely alien to anything you would ever have experienced as a child. Everybody suddenly knows who you are, and you're suddenly expected to deal with it. You should know that's what's coming, but you don't, when you're a kid. You don't have a clue."
After Corrie he took a break from acting but, apart from the odd stage performance, he found it hard to get back to work.
Gilgun was working as a plasterer when he auditioned for This Is England, directed by Shane Meadows.
"We had this great big kitchen to work on and I had to go to the audition in my plastering gear. I remember being really desperate to get the part because I didn't want to finish the ceiling," he recalls.
"I ended up getting it after four or five auditions. I had really long hair at the time and I think Shane had to convince everyone else I could be a skinhead."
With This Is England, Emmerdale and now Misfits on his CV, you'd think that Gilgun might be vying for a job which'll take him to glamorous locations. Not so, he says.
"I'll take what I'm given. I'm not Guy Pearce," he laughs.
"I'm happy doing gritty work. To get any work at all, to be able to do this every day is a godsend. I don't want for anything, I'm content."
EXTRA TIME - CHILD SOAP ACTORS
:: Natalie Cassidy joined EastEnders at the age of 10 to play trumpet-playing Sonia Jackson and stayed on the soap until 2007. She's since appeared in her own reality show and competed in Strictly Come Dancing.
:: Jennifer Ellison played young teen Emily Shadwick in Brookside for five years. After leaving, she won a series of Hell's Kitchen and has landed various stage roles.
:: Adele Silva starred in The Bill and EastEnders before landing the role of 13-year-old Kelly Windsor in Emmerdale, which she's played on and off ever since.
:: Gemma Bissix played Clare Bates in EastEnders from the age of 10, then in her twenties went on to Hollyoaks to play villainous Clare Devine.
:: Devon Anderson played Billie Jackson in EastEnders between the ages of six and 10. He returned to the role as a 13-year-old and has also played Sonny Valentine in Hollyoaks.
:: Misfits begins on E4 on Sunday, October 30