| 24°C Belfast

'A big part of the show is mental health and I'm a frontrunner for that'

As series two of the Sky comedy Brassic begins, its creator Joe Gilgun talks to Georgia Humphreys


Big issues: Joe Gilgun in Brassic

Big issues: Joe Gilgun in Brassic

Big issues: Joe Gilgun in Brassic

The launch of Brassic was overwhelming for its creator and lead actor, the inimitable Joe Gilgun.

The Chorley-born star (36) doesn't own a TV and so didn't watch the Sky comedy air; instead, he sat in silence for hours, waiting to hear about the reaction to it.

"It's autobiographical, so if people had thought it had been rubbish, it would have had serious mental health implications for me," he confides.

Luckily, Gilgun - whose varied CV includes Emmerdale, This Is England and Misfits - could breathe a huge sigh of relief, because "initial reports that came back said, 'It's the best comedy drama (on Sky) we've had in seven years'."

Now, there is a second series coming our way. Once again, it follows the crazy escapades of Vinnie, a Lancashire lad with bipolar disorder (played by Gilgun), and his group of working-class mates, as they try to win at life in northern suburbia. The show is that perfect blend of comedy and drama, as the pals - who have grown up scamming and stealing - face all sorts of trouble.

So, what's it like on set for Brassic?

"There's a lot of love," Gilgun says of his co-stars and crew. "I mean, I'm not going to witter on about that too much, because actors do, and it does my head in.

"They talk about families - the image a lot of actors try to portray is that everyone's p****** themselves laughing all day, and that's not it. You're a real family, you squabble, you disagree on things...

"We all pick each other up and look after each other, that's crew included. We're all a big support network. A big part of the show is mental health, and I'm a frontrunner for that."

The star, who has bipolar disorder in real life, says he "was terrified during the shooting of season one. I felt like a massive impostor as a creator".

But the success of Brassic has made him more confident about writing other material.

"I obsessively write. I don't have a lot of mates, I don't have a girlfriend, I'm like a bit of a loser who feeds the pigeons - but I do have a lot of ideas," he quips.

For the last three years, Gilgun has spent six months of the year in the US filming horror show Preacher. And no one sums up Gilgun better than himself: "My personality is a bit intense," he notes.

As something at the forefront of all our minds, we discuss the current lockdown and how Gilgun is coping with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Genuinely, Vinnie's mental health is exactly mine; he's a mirror image of me, Vin," reveals Gilgun. "What you see on screen is pretty much who I am, especially when it comes to the mental health, even down to the medicine he's on - I'm on exactly that medicine I've spoken about, to the actual milligram.

"I do have friends from my past - a very tight circle that are very understanding and loving of me... people from my childhood that I've stuck with. And I do have a few reprobate mates from all corners of the UK from when I had my colourful... half of them are locked up, to be honest."

See? Never a dull moment during an interview with Gilgun.

If anything, he's probably "thrived" during lockdown, he adds, but is finding it hard not being able to see his family.

"I miss my sister and the kids. I miss my mum - my dad passed away last year and that was pretty heavy, so like, we're quite close as a family. There are moments when I think I'm going to fall off the face of the earth. But, the majority of the time, I'm doing all right."

One topic he has been writing about recently is his experience on dating apps; he's realised he will "never, ever, meet The One on Tinder", he admits.

"It's taken a good year to dawn on me that it's full of lying sociopaths! People are just mean... I don't understand how people can just drop each other like that. Just because they're not in front of each other is what it is. No-one really cares about anyone.

"I'm not very successful on it, I don't get many matches. I'm not much of a ladies' man at all. It doesn't complete me, know what I mean?"

Series two of Brassic is available on Sky One, Sky on demand and on NOW TV from Thursday, May 7

Belfast Telegraph