Stephen Graham ‘lost himself’ in alcohol while playing racist thug in This Is England
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Stephen Graham truly is one of the UK's most talented actors, but he nearly packed it all in after starring in This is England. You can watch the trailer for the film here:
Shane Meadows’ 2006 skinhead drama saw Graham portray the racist thug Combo, and while he was praised for his acting skills, he admitted that he 'lost himself' and turned to alcohol to cope with taking on such a violent role.
Speaking on Desert Island Discs, he said: "It was life-changing. I lost myself quite a bit within that character."
Due to the violence and racism depicted in the film, he said he would often come home and ‘cry my eyes out’ while they were shooting scenes.
"For me, that was where I really learned to dive into a character," he added.
"After This Is England I could not get a job. For about eight months I couldn't get an audition.
"I almost packed it all in. I was going to be a youth worker."
The nature of the script also brought up painful memories of racist abuse he suffered when he was younger.
Graham, whose grandfather was from Jamaica, said: "I'm mixed race. As a kid I was called horrible words that I don't even want to say, and little monkey boy."
It was a dark time in his life, though thankfully the 49-year-old star has overcome major struggles and grown both personally and professionally over the years.
He's starred in a wide variety of roles since This is England, including The Irishman, Boardwalk Empire, Line of Duty and Peaky Blinders.
Graham has also used his past to provide opportunities to others through his production company Matriarch Productions, which was behind the critically acclaimed 2021 drama Boiling Point.
More recently, the actor led The Walk-In where he played reformed neo-Nazi turned anti-fascist activist Matthew Collins.
ITV's five-part drama based on a true story is well worth a watch, navigating the far-right plot to kill an MP, and how it was foiled by an inside man.
Set during the time of the EU referendum, the series delves into the danger of division that is as important a topic now as it was back then.
Discussing his decision to take on the role, Graham told the Radio Times earlier this month: "I think it’s important we have drama like this that tells the truth. It’s the reason why I choose the scripts I do.
"I love to go into people’s living rooms and create conversation and debate, try and bring about some discussion about what they’re watching.
"It’s important for me, as an actor, to be part of something that’s a social commentary."
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org where you'll find resources and contact details