Interview: John Simm
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Actor John Simm is best known for his roles in Life on Mars and Dr Who. Now he plays an inmate in prison drama EVERYDAY - a project he describes as a 'unique.' Explain a little bit about EVERYDAY, and about who you play. It's a unique project, as far as my career goes, and I think for all of us. It was filmed in real time over five years. I play Ian, who's in prison for an unspecified crime. It's nothing violent or particularly horrible, but he's been involved in something he shouldn't have. And it's all to do with the prison visits, really. It's Shirley's (Shirley Henderson, Simm's EVERYDAY co-star) film, I think. Shirley carries the whole thing wonderfully. It was a very strange film to do, but brilliant. My character was away from his kids the whole time, apart from prison visits, and was on the end of the phone. As an actor, your work takes you away from your family a lot. Were you able to use that to play the role? Yeah. I could relate to that, because a lot of the time when we were filming, I'd just come back from three months in South Africa or wherever, and I hadn't seen my kids for ages. And then I'd come home and have to fit in. So when he comes out on day release and tries to fit in to their routine, it's very difficult. I could kind of relate to that in a tiny way. It takes a while for your kids to trust you again. My name, when I come back from a long time away, is "Mummy-I-Mean-Daddy". It's quite hard to take. And for Ian, it's even worse, because he has to miss Christmases - that's something I've never had to do. The longest I've been without seeing them is five or six weeks, which is almost unbearable. Why did you say yes to this? What attracted you to it? I'm friends with Michael, I‘ve worked with him before, and Shirley. I trust and adore and respect both of them massively. And Michael Winterbottom's such an innovator, every time he comes up with an idea, I think "Wow. Let's go for it." And we started making it, and I thought it was never going to end. I thought maybe he'd forget about it halfway through. He was off doing films left, right and centre, he never stops. And I was off filming, and so was Shirley, and we'd all reconvene when we were all back at the same time. We'd do a week here and a week there. And the passing of time thing was really interesting to me. I'd seen it in documentaries before, but never in fiction. And this sort of melded the two genres together. In a lot of ways, the kids are not acting. I'm very wary of child actors - nothing to do with them, but they're usually not brilliant actors when they try to read lines. But there was none of that. It was real. It was their house, it was their school, they used their own names. The only thing that wasn't real for them was me and Shirley. It was just a really attractive proposition for me. What about snapping back into character. Was that a challenge, for these shoots months apart that lasted a week or two? Yeah, that was quite difficult. I had to realise where I was, and who I was. I'd sometimes forget that I was Scouse, sometimes Michael would have to remind me. But it was so interesting - all the stuff in prison. There were two halves of the shoot for me, because Ian starts to spend time at home halfway through, on day release and things like that. But all the prison scenes were incredibly interesting. I got to speak to a lot of people in there, and hear a lot of stories. It was a real eye-opener. A lot of the extras are real prisoners. I never asked what they did. But I would say to all of them "What's the worst moment of the whole thing?" And they all said exactly the same thing: When the door shuts for the first time. You walk into your cell and - bang - the door closes. Did you see the kids growing up and changing in front of the camera? Yeah, it was incredible. Mainly when I watched it back, it was really, really extraordinary. I'd forgotten half of it. In the first scene, one of them's got a nappy on! That's how long ago it was. It was really interesting, seeing them grow. And seeing us age, as well. We've never done anything like that before, there's no make-up involved to age us, it's all just completely natural. And I loved the fact that it was just a snapshot. Nothing really happens. It's just tiny little hand grenades of incidents happen. It was a very, very, very interesting project.
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