The upcoming Dad’s Army film has a star-studded cast and a great comedic pedigree – but that nearly wasn’t enough for Blake Harrison, who was concerned that his character, the simple-minded Private Pike, was too similar to his famously dim-witted Neil in The Inbetweeners.
“Yeah, to be honest, I very nearly didn’t do it,” Harrison revealed. “I was really close to saying no, and then I was told who else was in it.
“I started Inbetweeners seven years ago, and in that time I’ve done… seven or eight other shows, maybe more. And films as well. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve got this varied career, but the man on the street goes, ‘Neil! Do a dance, you mug!’
“It’s always in the back of my head. I really want to make sure I don’t play another dumb cockney.
“But as soon as I was told that Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Catherine Zeta Jones were involved… I was just like… ‘Yeah I’m not going to get a chance to work with them, so this is it.’ And they are legends. These guys are like in their 60s and 70s, and they’ve got so much experience of this profession.
“So, you know, as much as I have been quite adamant I don’t wanna play dumb cockney roles I just thought the experience of working with those guys, and what I could learn from them was worth it. And also Dad’s Army was on my house a lot as a kid, the re-runs, so it’s a privilege to be involved in something like that.”
In any case Harrison says there’s no danger of him being taken for a dumb cockney in his latest role for E4 comedy-drama Tripped, where he plays a young man (of normal intelligence, presumably) who accidentally gets lost in a series of parallel universes.
“I’ve always grown up watching Marvel and DC Cartoons and that kind of stuff, and reading comics, so the whole multiverse thing is something I’m quite familiar with,” Harrison said.
“Sci-fi’s my passion. I think I got into acting because I really wanted to be Wolverine as a kid. I had fingerless gloves and would stick pens and pencils down them and pretend I was Wolverine when I was seven years old.
“The closest I could get to being bitten by a radioactive spider or moving things with my mind would be to be an actor, and use effects to do that. So comedy was kind of an accident, really.”