Last December Vicky McClure and the This Is England cast returned to our screens for the third instalment of the story. In this Man Monthly exclusive, Britain’s most talked about emerging actress talks about winning awards, future plans and why she’s a home town girl...

In 2006, Shane Meadows released one of the most important British films of the decade. Six years on, with a fourth instalment rumoured to be in the making, the success story behind This Is England has been phenomenal.

At the centre of the film’s achievement is one of the UK’s most talented emerging actresses. Vicky McClure’s BAFTA winning performance in the second instalment (This Is England ‘86) rocketed the series’ profile further than underground acclaim and the third part of the story, aired last Christmas, has solidified This Is England’s status as one of the UK’s best loved series.

McClure’s complex character, Lol, took centre stage in ‘86 when her child abusing, father (Johnny Harris) returns. With the story revolving around Lol’s difficult relationship with her father and the cannon ball effect it has on her life – relationships with her partner Woody (Joe Gilgun) and her mother breaking down, leading to an affair with Milky – Woody’s best pal.

It makes difficult watching, though forcefully compelling and McClure’s BAFTA and Royal Television Society gongs for best leading actress were more than deserved.

She describes her awards as “humbling” and “amazing” - she’s down to earth and there’s a warmth about the way she talks - which she does a lot.

“God, I won a BAFTA. It was always a dream when I was growing up but never a realistic dream. Earlier that year I won the RTS [Royal Television Society] - an award I was well aware of before, it’s a really amazing award. I was just so pleased to win - I was up against people like Julie Walters who is a complete idol to me. I felt a bit bad when I won!”

She’s modest about her achievements but explains that success have come as a bit of surprise: “Awards are great and they let you know when you’ve done well but that’s not what it’s about - it’s just an added bonus. We didn’t expect to gather such widespread acclaim, we knew This Is England was huge and was growing in popularity but I didn’t really know what audience reaction we were in for. I knew we had made something special before but I don’t think any of us expected it to be as well received as it was.”

The intensity of This Is England ‘86 strongly resonated with the British public and the climax of the series featured one of the hardest-to-watch scenes ever aired on UK television. When Lol confronts her father after an attack on her friend Trev he turns on her before she delivering a final hammer blow, quite literally. 

“It wasn’t easy – nothing ever is when you put your heart and soul into it. Lol is the hardest character I’ve had to play but at the same time she comes very naturally to me. I worked my arse off over the filming and yeah, it’s difficult when you’re dealing with these issues. I couldn’t have done the rape scene with anyone other actor other than Johnny Harris. The whole scene couldn’t have happened without Shane either – it’s one of the most horrific rape scenes ever seen on TV. It was a draining experience but luckily I came out ok on the other side.”

We speak before the release of This Is England ‘88, initially meant to revert back to the original format of film after ‘86 was spread over four TV specials, but McClure explains the change of plan: “There was quite a bit of agonising over it I think. It was originally meant as a feature but because of the amount of great material we shot it would have been a massive shame to try and weave it all in to 90 minutes.”

Instead, This Is England ‘88 was a three part Channel 4 special, set 18 months on from its predecessor. With Woody segregated from the group and Lol mothering the product from her affair with Milky, Meadows once again heads into gloomy territory, with little to uplift you from Lol’s turmoil. Filmed in Sheffield, it’s a place McClure felt at home with, only being 40 miles up the M1 from her native Nottingham:

“I love Sheffield - I felt very at home. It has a similar vibe to Nottingham. It’s not too big and not too small, you feel like you can get around so easily. The people are just so nice – they talk to you, everyone’s friendly and normal and as most people knew who we were, they were very inviting. I lived near Ecclesall Road, it’s a great area.”

McClure sticks close to her roots and is clearly fond of her home town, particularly because it’s where her family and immediate friends still live: “I’ve got a lot of great friends in Nottingham, I’m a home girl, I like being close to my family. I’m extremely close to my parents, and my sister, we’re very tightly knit.”

As for the future, the actress says she would “like to have a go at something funny,” after the intensity that This Is England and other roles including Waking The Dead spin-off The Body Farm and Channel 4’s Rough Skin.

“I don’t know why the roles are always so serious, when I read a script I have to feel passionate about it. I like to take jobs that have a sense of reality. I would love to do a bit of comedy but I’m probably not very funny!”