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Interview: Noel Clarke

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As an actor in the likes of Doctor Who and Star Trek: Into Darkness Noel Clarke is an instantly recognisable face, but it is his work with his ‘Hood franchise - Kidulthood (2006) & Adulthood (2008). that sets him up as one of the UK’s most prolific creatives.

Now, the award-winning film maker has returned to as director and star of the final instalment in the franchise, Brotherhood. He reprises his role as Sam Peel, the reformed bad boy who is trying to abandon his troubled past and turn over a new leaf with his new family.

Once again unveiling marginalised experiences of inner city culture -  good, bad and in between – it’s been widely regarded as the first British movie trilogy.

“As far as I’m aware, it is”says the BAFTA award-winner before continuing,“Someone mentioned to me that there might have been a UK trilogy film series made in the 1940s but they didn’t say the name”.

For a franchise which has had such a widespread impact, Clarke admits that, “I didn’t know anyone would make Kidulthood but it happened then just grew from there. I didn’t intend for it to be one part [never mind three]”.

What set the ‘Hood movies apart, was not just the gritty representation of British urban life, but also its focus on young British talent both in acting and music. It was arguably the first mainstream media to shine a light on the grime movement offering a platform for the likes of Lethal B, Shystie, Chipmunk and Sway.

Not many people know that this home-grown agenda was not planned, in the first instance. Clarke explains: “Initially, we didn’t plan for the soundtracks to be strictly UK but when we made that decision it became a conscious effort. I can actually remember when the first trailer/teaser of Kidulthood was released and had ‘Where is the Love?’ by Black Eyed Peas as the backing music”.

However, the production team quickly recognised the inauthentic feel as it relates to the core movie’s core audience, and decided to revisit the drawing board: “We thought, ‘how could we have American hip hop when it’s a British film?’, changed everything and made it all UK. At the time, there was this young guy called Dizzee Rascal, a boy called Plan B and we revamped the soundtrack using music from artists like those two”.

In Brotherhood the line between the acting and music talent have blurred with a key role going to current grime prince Stormzy who makes his acting debut as Yardz – a good kid at heart, who is in with the wrong crowd. How was this deal sealed?

Clarke clarifies: “It started through Twitter direct messages and came about because I was just a fan of what he was doing. He wasn’t a global mega-star back then, he was a star, but not on the scale that he is now”.

The famed filmmaker adds: “Stormzy was just so laid back in some of his early freestyles and I thought he was great. The script was written some time ago and the part that he plays was perfect for him, so we made it happen. No agents or anything, we did it between us and it went from there”.

The married, father of three credits his “most important” role for the inspiration behind Brotherhood –that of being a parent. He is animated in this conviction: “I’d say that’s what the movie is really about. Sam is trying to live his life, mind his own business and is then put into a situation where he has to protect his family. It’s about what people will do for their kids, which becomes anything! That’s the key concept”.

The characters in the movie mirror the coming-of-age of many of the viewers who were part of the Kidulthood generation; the Morley’s chicken shop after school, loud at the back of the bus, early noughties secondary school kids are now starting their own families like Sam or trying to settle down and live a quiet life, like Henry (Arnold Oceng). Yet, the uncomfortable, sometimes harsh social issues are addressed without apology as Sam’s aggressors go above and beyond to hurt him, dragging him back down a dark path. Clarke insists that it’s all “part of real life”.

Now that the ‘Hood chapter is officially closed, after ranking as number two in the UK Box Office in its opening week, many are left wondering what’s next for Clarke. Though he is famous for being tight lipped about his plans and says “I can’t say much”, he does share: “I’m in new six-part drama series on ITV ‘The Level’ and ‘The Scottish Mussel’ coming out which is produced by our company, Unstoppable Entertainment”. 

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