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Stephen Graham visited co-star's grandma to warn her he'd have to shout racist abuse at her grandson

Jess Hardiman

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Stephen Graham visited co-star's grandma to warn her he'd have to shout racist abuse at her grandson

Actor Stephen Graham was so conscious of approaching a sensitive This is England scene carefully that he went to visit his co-star's grandmother to warn her about what was coming.

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Graham, 49, starred in the 2006 Shane Meadows film – and its various TV offshoots – as sociopathic, racist skinhead Andrew ‘Combo’ Gascoigne.

The brutal character would go on to become one of the actor’s most defining roles, cementing him as a serious contender on the British entertainment scene.

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But it was not a role he took lightly; being mixed race himself, Graham was acutely aware of the delicacy required to take on the portrayal of Combo’s deep prejudices - especially during one particularly heated scene with co-star Andrew Shim, who played Milky.

Graham and Shim in This is England, 2006. Credit: Optimum Releasing
Graham and Shim in This is England, 2006. Credit: Optimum Releasing

In an interview on YouTube page Tubes and Ange Golf Life, Graham recalled how he, Shim and director Shane Meadows had decided to go and visit Shim’s grandmother to explain the difficult scene they were about to film.

"The night before […] we went round to Shimmy’s nana’s, and we all had chicken and rice and peas.

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“And we sat round the table, and I said to his nana, ‘Look, I’m mixed race and I want you to know that – to know my history and my background'.

“And I said, ‘Tomorrow I’m going to be saying some horrible things to Andrew, and it’s all acting, and I just want you to know that it’s not what I think or believe.

Graham visited Shim's grandmother before filming the difficult scene. Credit: Optimum Releasing
Graham visited Shim's grandmother before filming the difficult scene. Credit: Optimum Releasing

"It’s not me, it’s not what I’m about. But this is what I’m going to be doing.’

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“She was lovely, it was really lovely. And what that actually did was it kind of galvanized me and Andrew together for that scene, so there was freedom for me to say anything, but coming from the point of view as the character.

“Because he knows I’m not racist […] it’s a million miles away from anything I am.

"But it just gave us that ground to trust each other.”

Graham is well known for starring in hard-hitting roles. Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Graham is well known for starring in hard-hitting roles. Credit: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
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Graham said it all boiled down to having ‘trust’ for the other actor, and trusting in your director and crew.

"I love the job I do, I really do.” he continued.

“I feel very blessed to do what I do, but without any one of them crew members on that job, it’s not the same.”

The BAFTA TV Award-winning actor has since starred in the likes of Peaky Blinders, Help and Boiling Point.

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He is currently starring in ITV's The Walk-In, a drama based on a true story that sees Graham play a reformed neo-Nazi.

Featured Image Credit: Optimum Releasing

Topics: TV and Film, Stephen Graham

Jess Hardiman
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