'There's nothing like it on TV... I felt that I was in Indiana Jones!'
Edgy new comedy Brassic follows a group of working-class friends living in the north of England. Georgia Humphreys reports
Were you a fan of Shameless? If so, there's a new Sky One comedy with your name on it. Brassic is written by Danny Brocklehurst - creator of the aforementioned Channel 4 drama - and also actor Joe Gilgun, known for Emmerdale, This Is England and Misfits.
It centres around a group of working-class mates, led by Vinnie (played by Gilgun), who get themselves into all sorts of ridiculous situations as they try to win at life in their hometown of Hawley, Lancashire.
"I'll just want you to come home after a nightmare day and see a depiction of the working classes that isn't miserable," suggests Chorley-born Gilgun (35) when asked what he hopes viewers will take away from the series. "I want you to feel like you want to be a part of our gang."
A large focus of the series is how Vinnie is constantly battling with his bipolar disorder (something Gilgun has in real life).
Having had a troubled childhood, he blew his first safe when he was seven years old and now lives alone in a shack in the woods on the outskirts of Hawley, trying to cope with his highs and lows.
Meanwhile, co-star Michelle Keegan (32) plays Erin, who became a single mum to son Tyler at a young age; she is "definitely a positive role model," says the actress.
"Erin's an empowering role for women, especially for single mums," the Mancunian elaborates. "And I love the fact she's fiercely independent and she's very fiery. But she's really quite emotional and, as the series progresses, you see that side of her as well."
Erin's boyfriend is Vinnie's best mate, Dylan - played by Damien Molony - who wants to support Erin's dream of succeeding in her career and giving her son opportunities she never had.
"But that involves leaving town," notes the affable Irish star (35). "And I suppose he's the only person in the gang who really understands Vinnie's bipolar disorder and is really worried as to how isolated Vinnie will be if Dylan leaves. So, there's that great tension. For any actor, it's a dream to play that kind of part."
Keegan is famous for Coronation Street and drama Our Girl - the only comedy she's done so far in her career is a small role in ITV2's Plebs.
Asked why this felt like the right comedic role for her to take on, she says the script felt completely different to anything else she'd read before.
"There is not one character that is similar to the other. And I think it's so unique in a way that there's nothing on TV like it."
"And every single scene is so completely unexpected - that never happens," chimes in Maloney, who quips that at times during filming it "genuinely felt like I was in Indiana Jones".
As well as the gang's hilariously ridiculous escapades, there are also plenty of emotional scenes - particularly when it comes to Erin trying to handle her relationship.
"She's so in love with Dylan and she wants things to work," explains Keegan, "but she's got so many hurdles in the way.
"She's got tunnel vision - she's going to college, she's working, she's trying to get money and things like that. She wants to be with Dylan, but, in a way, he's pushing her away by choosing Vinnie all the time."
Part of the reason Brassic got made is because of a friendship Gilgun struck up with West while shooting the film Pride.
He opened up to the The Wire actor about the "crippling anxiety" he was experiencing and was encouraged to channel it into a project (West plays Vinnie's GP in the show).
"I finished that job and I couldn't leave my house," recalls Gilgun, unabashedly. "I had to have the exact amount of change for the milk so that there'd be no transaction, you know?
"When I met Dom he was just like this light at the end of what was really quite a dark tunnel. He really understood me.
"I'd talk to him about my friends and different experiences and I'd make him smile and laugh and eventually he said, 'Look, you're going to have to do something, you can't just keep talking about this stuff."
Gilgun, who's heartwarmingly open and chatty, shares how he and Brocklehurst worked together to base their writing for Brassic "on some sort of truth".
"It really honestly shines through, I think people can genuinely see that. There is genuine truth to a lot of these stories. A lot are extremely embellished."
With a laugh, he adds: "I obviously can't go into too much detail on what is and isn't true, because I'd be arrested and never be given a visa again, but a lot of it is based on genuine truth, yeah. Things you see really went down."
As for the characters in the show he says "a good 90%" are based on real people.
So, sounds like there could be a few viewers switching on and going, "That's me!"
The antics the gang get up to is "you have to see it to believe it kind of stuff" (think stealing a Shetland pony).
"I remember laughing out loud halfway through the script; it was something that I wanted to be part of," smiley Keegan enthuses of the show's appeal.
And the laughs didn't stop; Keegan shares the cast had to "constantly" stop filming because of people cracking up.
"The guy who played my brother, he would always make me laugh," she recollects.
"I think it's episode five, there's a scene in my house and he was going off at a tangent and you'll see Erin looking down the whole time, occasionally glancing up, because I couldn't watch him, he was making me laugh that much."
Brassic, Sky One, Thursday, 10pm