Back in 2016, This Is England star Joe Gilgun began working with Ordinary Lies writer Danny Brocklehurst to translate strange-but-true stories from Gilgun’s past for television – the end result was Brassic, Sky One’s hilarious, occasionally touching and always unpredictable series about a gang of friends doing whatever they need to do to get by.
As the second series – greenlit by Sky before the first had even aired – debuts, Gilgun tells RadioTimes.com that BAFTA winner Brocklehurst has “an amazing ability” to untangle the “cluster of ideas” in his head.
“They’re all good ideas but none of them are in a linear format,” he explains. “I’m dyslexic, so I can’t write anything down, I can’t get any structure, it’s just lightbulb moments here and there. I need a sounding board, I need someone to ask me questions – and I always have the f**king answers, there’s never not an answer there, I’m so arrogant.”
To bring Brassic to the screen, Gilgun and Brocklehurst would meet semi-regularly to thrash out ideas. “I love them meetings, ’cause I never shut my mouth,” Gilgun says. “I f**king love filling the air with words. Just pecking everyone’s head, especially Danny’s.
“He has this amazing ability to just untangle it all. what I’ve realised is some people just can’t stand me and don’t get it, and then other people really do get it – Danny fortunately does.”
The end result of their conversations won plaudits when it first launched in August 2019, with The Guardian noting that Brassic “works because it has heart without sentimentality and authenticity without strain” – a balance that Gilgun says he was hugely concerned about getting right.
“Initially it was of great concern, some of the more poignant stuff in season one, we were genuinely really worried about whether it would land, whether people would enjoy that,” he says. “And actually what we learnt was people like that just as much as the f**king capers and antics that were going on.
“You have to have that stuff there, it grounds the madness of the whole show – with fatbergs, stealing horses, dildos, God knows what else. The whole thing runs stale if it’s just joking and laughing and things going wrong all the time – that’s not real.
“So we always work towards the truth and as a creative team, we always call bulls**t – it doesn’t matter how much I love you, if I don’t agree with you, I’ll f**king argue with you… and I’m hard work, dude! Like, it can go on for days. I’m resilient.”
Gilgun plays Vinnie O’Neil on Brassic, a character loosely based on his younger self who has assembled a close-knit makeshift family around him, including old flame Erin (Michelle Keegan) and best friend Dylan (Damien Molony). As co-creator of the series though, he’s also involved in every aspect of the show in a way that surpasses just being its leading man.
“I’m a control freak, dude – I can make myself ill. This is the thing, right – your base idea is important, you have to protect it, and the trouble is, the more creative heads you have on the job, it becomes more and more diluted, so you have to be very careful.
“Everyone’s got their own version of what they want to do and it’s quite a big adjustment for a lot of crew members, for an actor to say, ‘No, I don’t want to do it like this, I want to do it like that’.
“It’s easy to be underestimated, I think, because of the way I look, the way I sound, my general intensity can be quite irritating, and as a result I can be underestimated and thought of as a bit of a loon… which is true, but I’m not stupid! I do have a goal.”
His commitment to perfection appears to have paid off again: the new episodes of Brassic, according to Gilgun, don’t suffer from “second album syndrome” and match the high quality of the first run, and Sky appears to agree, having again commissioned another series before the latest has aired.
“Me and Danny had a two-hour Zoom meeting and we managed to box off the last half of our season three the other day,” Gilgun reveals. He admits to getting “bored quick” and is already developing a new project with Brocklehurst, but while he insists that they will “absolutely put [Brassic] to bed” when it’s the right time rather than “flogging it for all its worth”, for right now the show’s unique tone still holds an appeal for him.
“It’s very glossy but it has this anarchy and this level of grit – that sets us apart in a way. And it’s by design – it’s what we were after, it was our intention.
“Thank f**k it’s been a success. Jesus Christ. Can you imagine if it would’ve sucked?”
Brassic returns to Sky One tonight at 10pm and is available to watch via Sky and NOW TV – check out what else is on with our TV Guide