Kelly From This Is England 90 Talks Insecurities And Bacon Butties
The Debrief: We talk to actress Chanel Cresswell ahead of the return of TV's bestest drama
Cancel your Sunday Tinder date and close down Netflix. Five frustratingly long years after the last instalment, the most eagerly awaited return of This Is England is finally hitting the small screen this weekend. And this time, it’s all about the ’90s.
The award-winning franchise, directed by Shane Meadows, follows the always gritty, always hilarious and seriously nostalgic lives of a group of northern friends navigating their way through the ’80s (if you haven’t yet seen the original film, This Is England, or the subsequent Channel 4 series of the same name set in ’86 and ’88, we suggest you rectify this immediately).
For this final (sob) instalment, 10 years on from when we first met Woody (Joe Gilgun), Lol (Vicky McClure) and the gang, the hit series is taking on rave culture – and sees Kelly, played by Chanel Creswell, taking centre stage for the first time.
‘I didn’t think I’d be so scared,’ she told The Debrief when we caught up with her last week. ‘When you see someone take on a lead storyline on the TV it just looks so effortless. When I watched Vicky (McClure) doing it in ’86 and ’88, she looks so comfortable. When we started filming, I just kept thinking to myself, “I shouldn’t be feeling as scared as I do right now”. It was so daunting. I just had to go on set and do it.’
IRL Chanel, 25, is almost unrecognisable from her loveable rogue character Kelly, best known for rocking pastel pink hair (and a Mohican at that). ‘Kelly’s like my alter-ego,’ she says. ‘She does what I wish I could do, or wear, but I can’t. I’ve been playing her since I was 15, so I feel like I grew up with her. But - though we’re both very streetwise - I’m a lot more girly than her.
‘Also, this instalment is set in 1990 – which is when I was born. So we’ve obviously got a massively different perception of the ’90s. I feel lucky that in a way I got to relive the ’90s but through Shane’s perception. What I liked about it was how much you could get away with. The rules were completely different back then; it was a bit freer. We weren’t constantly contactable on phones. You could kind of disappear a bit.’
There are so many things that make This Is England such a cultural staple – and, not to mention, wildly popular – including fashion (‘I love having an input into Kelly’s look,’ Chanel says) and, of course, the era-defining music scenes. But it’s the cast, and their relationships, which make it so unique. It’s well known that, even off screen, the cast still call each other by their character names, and regularly hang out together.
‘We do have so much fun,’ Chanel says. ‘I’m really good mates with Gadget (played by Andrew Ellis) and Tomo (Thomas Turgoose), they’ve all come round my house and stayed and had parties with my family. Danielle Watson who plays Trev was my best mate at school. My mum’s cooked them all bacon butties from time to time.’
Kelly is the focus of this series, and there’s (as always) a dark storyline to go alongside that honour, so ’90 wasn’t always fun for her to film – though they managed to squeeze in some laughs. ‘There’s a scene where I’m smoking and we were messing about,’ she giggles. ‘I realised that it was actually my eyelashes that were smoking! I turned to Shane and asked if they were alright and he was like, “Yeah, yeah, fine”. I said - “Shane, I can smell them!”
‘But quite a lot of the time, the filming was quite intense for me. Kelly’s in a different headspace on the drugs scene to everybody else, because of what she’s been through with her dad. People react differently on drugs – you’ve got your mates that take it really well, then others who see their bad side come out when they’re using. That’s definitely something Kelly struggles with.
‘She self-isolates, pushes those who love her most away. In a way, it’s like self-harm.’
Long-term fans will know that Kelly’s hopeless friend and admirer, Gadget, has long been in love with her – and there’s a hint that, in this final series, he just might get his girl. Will he? ‘Poor Gadget,’ Chanel says. ‘I will say that in ’90 their friendship, um, grows a lot more… He’s completely got her back; he’ll do anything for her.
‘But other than that I can’t say. You’ll have to wait and see…’
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