On Tuesday Warren Brown resumes his role as DS Justin Ripley in the much anticipated second season of the hit series Luther. Kieran Kinsella recently had the opportunity to speak with Warren about the new series as well as his roles in the BAFTA award winning Occupation, Jimmy McGovern’s Accused and his early life in Thai boxing. In part one of this exclusive Best British TV interview, Warren begins by talking about how he made his way from drama student to TV star.
Your first appearance on British TV was in Paul Abbott’s Shameless. How did you get that role?
“I came into acting a bit by accident really. I did a bit of work as an extra and then I started an acting class in Manchester. I was spotted there by a casting director called David Shaw who told me he had a few castings coming up and invited me along. I auditioned for Shameless and was fortunate enough to get the part.
It was great to do that show as my first job because it was really exciting working with people like David Threlfall and James McAvoy. Lots of people from that show have gone on to do great things. It was a fantastic experience and after the first season, I was lucky enough to come back and do another episode in the second season. I then had some other roles but about a year after Shameless I got a part in Hollyoaks which was my first long-term acting job.”
After Hollyoaks, you had parts in a number of other shows before you came to prominence as a result of your appearance in the BAFTA winning drama Occupation. What was it like working on that show?
“It was interesting because after Hollyoaks I had done a couple of episodes of Casualty and a number of other shows but then I went to an audition to discuss Occupation. I had another audition about eight weeks later and I was just blown away by the script. I cried when I read it. It was the biggest role I had done to that point in my career. It was a project that I was really passionate about and knew I would love to watch. Occupation was a great experience. We had an amazing director (Nick Murphy) and I learnt a lot when I was making it. I was privileged and honored to be a part of it and it was topped off when it won the BAFTA.”
A lot of times in ensemble dramas you have one or two people who carry the show but Occupation was a show where everyone was at the same level and it was really brilliantly done.
“I think it was because Peter Bowker had written about three characters who were equally represented. We saw the lives of these three guys as individuals from the outset. It was amazing to work with guys like James Nesbitt and Stephen Graham and we received great feedback.”
Given that the Iraq war is still going on, were you at all worried about how the show would be received?
“I think that Peter Bowker wrote the script in such a way that it is not really taking sides. It is about three guys who just happened to be in the army but ultimately it was just about the lives of those three guys. I have various friends who are in the forces and have been in Iraq so I have always kept my eye on it. It was interesting actually because when we were filming in Morrocco we ran into a bunch of guys from the RAF and they were really pleased to hear that the show was being made. I think that for a lot of people, when you see it on the news it is very easy to change the channel but if you have friends over there or if you’ve been there yourself then it is different. So these RAF guys were just pleased that the story was getting out. I have always had a great admiration for the people who are in the services but filming Occupation just served to increase my level of admiration for those people.”
Last year you were in the Accused and it was a bit of a departure from Luther and Occupation because you were a villain. What was it like working with Jimmy McGovern?
“It was amazing. I have always been a fan of his work. Jimmy McGovern is a bit of a legend in British TV and I had watched shows like Cracker growing up, and I loved The Street. I was absolutely thrilled when I got the part on Accused because his writing is so good. It was a chance to work with David Blair who had worked with Stephen Graham from Occupation the year before.
I met Jimmy McGovern at the read through and the script was great and it unfolded in a clever way, as did all of the episodes in the show. Having spoken to people afterwards it is clear that audiences were split up until a certain point as to whose side they were on but at the end my character was clearly the villain.
Naomie Harris was great to work with because she is a fantastic actress and we had some quite heavy scenes. We did not have a lot of time to film it but we sat with the director and talked it through. It was very sensitive material and quite powerful. It was quite graphic but we talked about how it was going to be approached so it was done very professionally. The end product was very powerful and thought provoking and I really enjoyed working with David and Naomie.”
Read more from Warren Brown here on Best British TV next week as he talks about the second season of Luther.