Actor Vicky McClure on day jobs

Actor Vicky McClure on day jobs

By Tom Seymour 21/03/14

At 18, Vicky McClure was cast in Shane Meadows’ This Is England. She went on to appear in This Is England ’86, the BBC’s Line of Duty and ITV’s Broadchurch, as well as new film Svengali. She talks to Tom Seymour about holding down a "real" job and staying true to herself...

You held down a job working for a surveyors in Nottingham while establishing yourself as an actor. How did you combine a “real” job with acting? 

I worked in an office called Direct Valuations in Nottingham; I was there for eight years. They were brilliant – they let me go to auditions and I shot This Is England while still working there. I remember shooting a film with Madonna, and we did this global promotional tour in Madonna’s private jet. So I landed in London in Madonna’s private jet and the next day I was back in the office in Nottingham. And I loved that lifestyle. 

What did it teach you? 

This business is brilliant but very bonkers. And, as any actor will tell you, if you haven’t got to a place where you can depend on your career as a performer, then you need a job. You can’t just live off fresh air. I’ve had a job since I was 16, and I enjoy going to work and earning my own money. I come from a very hard-working family that gets up early even when you can have a lie-in. So it’s in my blood. Everyone in my family has normal, very secure, very respectable jobs. My Dad’s a joiner, for example. So it keeps me grounded and focused on what I’m trying to achieve – which is work and not fame. 

When did you decide to go full-time with acting? Was that anxiety-provoking? 

I left just before we filmed This Is England ’86, which was five years ago. Shane Meadows told me he wanted my story to be the forefront of the show, so I decided it was my biggest opportunity to date and it would be impossible to hold down my job as well. So I said to my boss: “Here’s my notice, but should it all go tits up I’ll give you a ring.”  I haven’t made that call. I’ve got good friends in the industry now and I hope I don’t ever have to get a job that isn’t acting because it’s something I’ve worked for. But I wouldn’t change anything. 

You must get sent a lot of scripts. How do you decide which to do?

I get sent a lot of scripts and sometimes you can’t even get through them because you’re not enjoying it. But I connected with Svengali very quickly. I didn’t [just] want to tick off the comedy box because I’m associated with darker parts, but at the same time I felt like I was dying for something like this to come around. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll comedy about keeping the people you love close-by, and it’s surrounded by incredible music. It’s got a really clear message. 

If you could say something to the Vicky McClure who had just been cast in This Is England as an 18-year-old, what would it be? 

Don’t let the bastards grind you down… I have the best people around me, and I need them for when I don’t get a part or things are hard. There’s a tougher side to the industry. It may look glamorous but often it’s not, and it’s easy to get too wrapped up in it. There’s life outside of the job; you need to embrace that. 

What’s your advice to an actor just starting out? 

There’s no set way to succeed in this industry, so be yourself: there’s nothing more interesting than someone who knows who they are. You could be picked off the street and get nominated for an Oscar. I remember going to auditions and trying to speak a bit better, but I realise now that was a silly thing to do. They’re not getting the real you, and that’s ultimately what your audience is going to respond to. 


Svengali is released in cinemas on 21 March 

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