Entertainment & Arts

TV return for This Is England

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Media captionThe TV series which revisits the 1980s and picks up three years on from the film This Is England

Four years on from This Is England, Channel 4 is to screen a four-part follow up to the Bafta-winning film.

The story, a semi-autobiographical work by director Shane Meadows, followed the coming of age of 13-year-old Shaun, a lonely boy welcomed into a gang of skinheads.

It made an overnight star of Thomas Turgoose, the young first-time actor playing the troubled teenager, who went on to win best newcomer prizes from Empire magazine and the British Independent Film Awards.

This Is England '86 picks up three years on from the film's shockingly violent climax.

But the story of how it made it to the small screen goes back to the death of Turgoose's mother, Sharon.

"What happened on This Is England was something quite special. Myself and the cast developed a bond while shooting," says director Meadows.

"Thomas' mum passed away not long after we finished filming and there was a moment when we went up to Grimsby, to go to the funeral and support him.

"I remember thinking this wasn't like normal films, there's a closeness, a family thing that's quite rare."

Image caption Meadows is hoping for another series of This Is England

Meadows, who won acclaim for his earlier films including A Room For Romeo Brass and Dead Man's Shoes, said This Is England took on a life of its own after the cameras stopped rolling.

"I travelled the world and people said they loved this character or asked, 'What happened to Combo? Did Milky survive?'

"There was a lot of goodwill for characters that didn't get a lot of screen time."

Unusual as it for a director to follow up a film with a television series, Meadows insists it was his preferred medium for further exploring the story.

"Film is quite restrictive - 90 minutes isn't a lot of time but a series, four-hours of drama, was the perfect avenue for me to go down," he explains.

Still young

Meadows shares directing duties with newcomer Tom Harper, who has worked on hit E4 drama Misfits and the film The Scouting Book for Boys.

His co-writer on the series, Jack Thorne, cut his teeth on the likes of Skins and Shameless.

But still the youngest on set at 18 years old is Thomas 'Tommo' Turgoose.

Image caption The majority of the cast reside in the north of England

His character Shaun is now sitting his GCSEs and facing an uncertain future in a country with more than three million unemployed.

Since making his debut five years ago, Turgoose has been praised for performances in Eden Lake and, working with Meadows, in Somers Town.

"For my character, I took it from myself, with Shaun losing his dad at a young age, I related that with losing my my mum straight after the film and it hit me a bit when we got back on set," he says.

The camaraderie of the young cast on set spilled over into their everyday lives and Turgoose formed a particularly close bond with co-star Joe Gilgun.

Emmerdale star Gilgun, who plays the kind-hearted Woody, smiles: "We gang up on Tommo a lot, only because he's the youngest. And because he's the youngest, he's still learning but we are all friends."

"You know you've got a real mate when you can talk about anything," says Turgoose.

"I'm 18 and I had a lot of relationship problems on the series and, if I ever wanted to speak to someone, Joe was always the man because he's been through the same as me."

The skinheads of 1983 have been replaced with the dodgy fringes, suits and shell suits of the mid-80s and once again Meadows has nailed the look of the period.

A soundtrack which includes the likes of The Jam also helps to invoke the spirit of the time.

One of the major differences of the new series is that the focus shifts away from Shaun and settles on the character of Lol, one of the peripheral characters from the film.

Played by Vicky McClure, she is the moral compass of the series and is faced with some seriously dark storylines, one involving an abusive father.

"The story that Lol has got was the biggest challenge of my life," she says.

"Johnny Harris is the best actor I've worked with in my life. He plays my dad and we have a lot of challenging scenes."

The male roles in Meadows films are usually central, something the director acknowledges as being part of his own upbringing.

As a result, McClure says the pressure to perform was even greater.

"I kind of knew what was at stake because Shane's now being seen to have a female lead which hasn't happened before. It was a massive deal but Shane's one of those people that you feel comfortable with, no matter the circumstances."

As for Meadows himself, his move into TV may be revisited if the show is a success.

"I've already kind of got a second series written out in my head, which is set around 1990, around the whole rave scene when I got into The Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays, the whole Manchester thing," he says.

"I would love to do a Christmas special because no-one does a good Christmas special any more."

This Is England '86 starts on Tuesday 7 September at 2200 BST on Channel 4.

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