Q&A: Joe Gilgun talks Brassic

Joe Gilgun

Sky’s hilarious, gritty comedy drama Brassic returns on 6 October for a third season and it’s bigger, braver and more bonkers than ever, it’s a hectic world of bulls, snakes, kidnappings, betrayal, and messing with horses…

Series creator and star, Joe Gilgun, takes time to answer questions and talks (in true Brassic expletive-ridden style) – about what makes working on the show so much fun.

How proud are you of the world you’ve created with Brassic?

For me, it’s everything. It’s loosely stories about my life, it’s my dad, it’s my mental health, it’s the pills I’m on. You know, it means a lot. And the big fear for me always is, are people going to f***ing understand this, or do I just come across as a twat? You can’t control what people think of you. And it’s one of the worst feelings as a human being, It’s that thing of just wanting to be liked. I just want people to like me even though I’m messed up. Do you know what I mean? It’s an ego thing!

Even with your success it seems there’s an element of imposter syndrome?

Oh, f***ing right there is! I mean, it’s bad for me. Really, really bad. Like, I assume that every single person I meet is much, much older and wiser. Miles more experienced. The mad thing is, and I’m going to sound like a right idiot, but I’ve made my money now. I could disappear back to the woods, not do anything, and you know, just go and be homeless again. Which I enjoyed doing, you know. I was happy doing that. But I still feel like an imposter even then. You know, if you’re sat firmly in your comfort zone, you then start panicking that it’s all going to be taken away from you, but then when you’re out of your comfort zone you’re panicking that everyone will think you’re shit, so you can’t win! I think part of being human is just that constant struggle.

The good thing is you’ve got a team on Brassic, both cast and crew, who love it and will do whatever it takes to make it brilliant every series…

Yeah, it’s like, “Where’s that rule book? F*** it, throw it out the window!” We’re a good team, mad, the lot of us, but I love every single one of them. It’s the hard work of every single one of them that gets this show on the road.

I couldn’t do it without them. And I was nervous this time around, having more episodes, there’s pressure in that. I get people want more, but sometimes it’s nice to leave them wanting more. It’s scary trying to meet expectations, but sometimes you just have to say, “F*** it!” and take that leap of faith!

Joe Gilgun behind the camera on the set of Brassic. © Sky UK Limited.
Gilgun

Do you think you’ve upped the ante for series three?

I do, yeah. Some of the criminality I got up to was heavier than just nicking bees, you know. So what do we do? Do we go with it, or do we pull it back? Well, you know, that’s not reality. You have to up the ante a little bit and do something different each year. It has to be a different album by the same band. I sat in a room with the cast and I just said, “Look, we’ll never fail as long as you’re here, every one of you is here, we’ll never fail. Ever.” I swear to God almighty, I will never ever put out a shit episode. I’ll run off before I do that. I can’t stand the idea of being that guy who just does it for the sake of it. It’s almost like, don’t get too big for your boots. Remember where you come from. And remember that the engine we’ve got, it’s not broken. Don’t be fixing it if it isn’t broke. We’re winning races every time. We’ve got a winning formula. Let’s not add extra tools or extra engine parts that just don’t need to be there, you know?

Is it easier to take risks now that everyone on and off camera is so familiar with the world you’ve created?

Totally, it is. I mean, you can underestimate it. The biggest problem with this industry, it’s that ego thing. No one wants to piss on the work, they just want to mark their scent. And before you know it, you’ve got this tree that has been pissed all over by everyone. You’re killing the tree. Because it needs water, not piss, for god’s sake! But this lot, they just get it. Tom Hanson sent me a little 15 minute documentary about something, I won’t say what, but it’s a storyline in the fourth series. Ryan Sampson will send me links to music that’s now in the show. One of the crew was taking the piss out of one of our cameramen joking that he was the human embodiment of gout. That is now in the script for next year, right? This is the thing, Brassic doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to all of us who work on it. I think that’s why it’s so special, I really do. It is not like a dictatorship. Everyone’s considered. No ideas are stupid until they are completely stupid. I don’t want to work on those kind of sets ever again, do you know what I mean? I don’t ever want to go on a set where everyone thinks there’s a hierarchy and the crew are terrified to suggest ideas, it has to be this way. I’d rather just not work. Honestly. Like, I’d rather just not work at all and just f*** it all off and go back to the woods.

Joe Gilgun and Aaron Heffernan.
© Sky UK Limited.
Camaraderie on and off camera is a big part of the success of the series.

How much of the scams the gang get up to are based in truth from your actual life?

They’re all kind of f***ing true, dude! Like, to an extent, they’re all kind of true. Apart from finding body parts. I have never found a body part. But like, a lot of the theft, the stealing of objects, it’s all happened in some shape or form!

They steal bull semen this series, is that true?!

It wasn’t a f***ing bull. It was a horse! Dude, it’s the worst. It was a bad job. We had frozen sperm being passed to different houses for weeks and weeks! I’m not even joking!

What was it like getting naked with the other lads during that episode?

We actually decided to do that on the day, it just felt funnier! I was like, “Look. We all hate our bodies, it wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t, right?” Well, apart from Damian, who’s f***ing ripped! He’s a beautiful man! You know, I look like E.T. now. Like, my body’s gone al E.T. because I’ve put on a f***ing stone over the pandemic. F***ing Corona curves

But anyway, we all did it. Do you know what? There’s something really liberating about having your bits out in public and no one can arrest you for it!

We’ve seen a simmering romance between Vinnie and Erin, would you like to see them together?

I would love to see Vinnie and Erin together. The only reason is, I think they both need each other. And I think for Vin, he’s earned Erin’s love. And I think he’s earned the love of his boy. And you know, as an audience we can see that. I think it’s that thing of, they’re meant to be together but they’re absolutely not meant to be together. It’s a perfect description of what love is.

There is an element for most people that love is suffering. I mean, the intoxication that you feel where you want to have sex all the time, cuddling and watching the same things, and having all the same opinions, it’s wonderful. You know, there’s nothing quite like it. It’s very intoxicating. But from my experience as a little boy, watching endless relationships just splinter apart and affect everything around you, what I’ve realised is real love is the moments where you dislike them terribly, but you’re still there, you’ve got each other’s backs. Love is tough, it’s not a f***ing fairytale like we’re all told it’s supposed to be. Erin knows that Vinnie’s a tw*t, but he’s her tw*t. And actually, she can be a total tw*t as well. So it’s there, simmering, but will they give in to it? Let’s see.

Bronagh Gallagher as Carol & Michelle Keegan as Erin and Joanna Higson as Sugar. © Sky UK Limited.
Bronagh Gallagher as Carol & Michelle Keegan as Erin and Joanna Higson as Sugar

You’ve put that talent at the forefront of the show by giving Michelle, Bronagh and Jo their own episode…

Yeah, we simply weren’t using them enough, frankly. They are powerhouses, all of them, they really are. We were doing them all a disservice by not putting them at the front so as creators, we sat round and were like, “What the f*** are we doing? We’re f***ing up here. Guys, like, these girls are f***ing awesome, let’s use them”.

We’ve always said that we chuck the f***ing rule book out the window on Brassic, but we’d accidentally created a rule which makes the lads the centre of everything, but it shouldn’t be the case all the time. Let’s break the rule whilst we realise we’ve got one. So we just poured everything into a proper all girl episode. And we want to continue to do that, actually. Because I mean, they carried it. The whole f***ing episode, they carried it brilliantly. Like, hilariously funny all the way through. Michelle worked her f***ing arse off because the conditions she had to film in were not nice, I mean, all night shoots, that’s rough. I’m eternally grateful to her for making a prat of herself for this show, right?

Without giving any spoilers, Erin’s got herself in serious trouble, especially where McCann is concerned, how does Vinnie feel about that?

It’s not ideal. And she’s done it to save his skin, really. She’s trying to help. And she knew it was a risk. But the trouble is, if there’s ever a risk-taker, it’s him. And it’s not like he can stand there an innocent man and go, “You shouldn’t have done this”, but he wants her to know that he’s hurt from it. He’s been trying to get away from McCann for ages, and now she’s done something that puts him right back in that whirlwind again. But at the same time, he knows full well that she’s done it for the greater good. She’s not done it because she’s a selfish idiot that wants a load of money. She’s trying to save her skin, his skin and their lives. As a working-class criminal, a lot of the time it’s one foot in front of the other, just trying to get by. And she’s not dissimilar to that. She’s just trying to survive. That’s all anyone’s trying to do. Vinnie gets it, doesn’t mean he’s not totally pissed off with what she’s done though!

It’s when Erin’s back’s against the wall that we see just what the lads are willing to risk to save her. That’s proof of their bond, right?

Totally and that comes from my mates from back in the day, if I told one of them there was a problem, everybody’s on the phone to everybody else. Like, it’s a frightening ordeal if you mess with one of our lot. From the background I came from if someone was mistreated or done dirty on a deal, there would be serious repercussions. That’s what this gang are like, they’d be fully prepared to move a dead body to protect one of their own, regardless of the consequences.

Fans will also see a big stunt on a boat, what was that like to film?

Ryan was saying he felt like a mini–Tom Cruise! I mean, as if Tom Cruise could be any fucking smaller! He was amazing though. We basically went out onto the sea in Wales in the middle of what felt like winter. We fall off the boat and I was so cold; I went into such shock that I swam downwards instead of up. The only reason I went to the surface was because of the buoyancy of the life jacket. The panic of hitting the cold water is like nothing I’ve ever felt, mental! But it was incredible, one of those moments where it’s so chaotic, just crazy but it all comes together. And it was so good to be able to do the stunt ourselves. I’ve filmed in America and I swear to God they would have had like 20,000 stuntmen and a green screen.

Apparently Michelle kept you all entertained on the boat by hosting quizzes between takes?

Why is she obsessed with quizzes? Honestly, dude, she can’t help it, she’s obsessed with quizzes. This is the fascinating thing about her. She loves figuring shit out. She’s not thick at all. If anyone’s sat at home thinking she’s a ditzy girl that likes to go out clubbing, you’re so wrong about her. She’s really smart. Weird, but fucking smart! You know, ask her about the Tudors. Tell her to tell you a fact about the Tudors, she’s got a hundred. It’s remarkable.

There’s a new girl, Samantha, who seems to have an eye for Vinnie. What can you tease about her?

There’s an awful lot more to her than meets the eye, let’s put it that way. I’ll start off by saying it’s based on a very vague truth, that one. Very vague, and I’ll never go into that, so don’t ask! Without question she’s dangerous for Vinnie. I think the trouble is Vinnie really struggles to trust anybody at all. Like, even the sweetest ones. For Vinnie, that is just the biggest risk. If he gets with this girl she’s going to figure him out, realise he’s a twat and leave him, he’ll be right back on his arse again. So she’s dangerous from that side of things but she’s also dangerous for a whole heap of other reasons that Vinnie’s clueless to. He really needs to watch his back with this one.

Brassic season 3.
© Sky UK Limited.
Brassic is back for a new season.

Do you think Brassic could run for 10 series?

Definitely. But it’s not something we’re necessarily aiming for. We’ve not even got a rule with that. Like, if anyone brings it up, how long do you think we’ll go for? We don’t have an answer for each other. We don’t. In fact, if anything we’re getting better with each series and I’m worried about it. What the fucking hell are we going to do? Like, it’s brilliantly tough every time, how can we keep going on that trajectory without fucking it up? That’s the battle. You know, that’s not an easy fucking cross to be lumping about with you. But listen, we all love the show, we want to carry on.

Would you ever consider adapting a movie version?

I’d do anything. I don’t think there’s any rules. I’ll do a spinoff if the idea is right. If it’s good, I don’t care what anyone thinks, we can go for it. We have a group of people who love our show and if they want more, we’ll give it to them, I don’t care what everyone else thinks.

What plans do you have outside of Brassic?

I’d like to be able to get to a point where, I mean, it’s a big ask at this stage in my career, but to be like Shane Meadows. I learnt from him to stick with what you know. Surround yourself with people who love what they do and who are frightened the night before. If you’re shitting yourself the night before, then you’re the ones I want to work with. So there are lots of ideas knocking about.

Brassic 3, all episodes available Wed 6 October on Sky Max and streaming service NOW.

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