It’s been a busy year for David Morrissey, with highly acclaimed performances in which Mrs. Mandela and Five Days for the BBC were followed by the release of the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy, his own feature film directorial debut Don’t Worry About Me, and true story stalker drama U B Dead on ITV back in September.
The Mark Billingham Thorne dramatizations have just finished on Sky1, with Morrissey taking the lead role but viewers may not know that he also produced them. He confessed to feeling like he would “need to lie down in a darkened room for several months” having finished the intense and exhausting project.
“I was making a film in New Zealand which was done entirely on green screen, which isn’t the most exciting way to work for an actor to be honest,” David explained. “During breaks in filming I’d raid the local book shops and some the books I’d bought were Mark’s. I think the first one I read was actually Buried, which I thought had just an amazing storyline. I read Mark’s biog on the back, saw that he’d been a stand-up comedian and then Googled an interview in which he said that if ever Tom Thorne was to come to the screen then he’d like David Morrissey to play him which just blew me away, to be honest. So one thing led to another and here I am.”
The series, which feature adaptations of the first two Billingham novels, Sleepyhead and Scardeycat, have been phenomenally well received; much of which Morrissey attributes to the way in which the stories are written. “There’s a darkness to Tom Thorne that resonates with audiences and readers alike, I think, but what’s different about him is that he’s far from perfect, acting on instincts that are totally wrong which of course get him into trouble. There’s also the way he empathises with his victims. In Sleepyhead it’s the girl in the bed and in Scardeycat it’s the little lad with whom he forms a very real, emotional bond. There’s also the fact that Thorne isn’t particularly likeable sometimes, so there’s a multi-dimensional aspect to him which is just great to bring out as an actor.”
The acclaim that David receives now is born from experience, making his television debut in Willy Russell’s Drama, One Summer, way back in 1981. “It was a really exciting time back then, with so many great actors and writers coming out of Liverpool. I started out like most people I think, doing primary plays in school like The Wizard of Oz in which I played The Scarecrow. When I went to secondary school, though, there wasn’t a drama department so I joined The Everyman Youth Theatre and met a great bloke called Roger Hill who taught me so much about acting and performing it was incredible. That’s when the bug really took a hold, at a time really when things elsewhere weren’t going too well. My father passed away and I found my motivation had dipped a little, especially when it came to school work. Without doubt, it was The Everyman that brought me back on track.”
So would David like to be starting out now? “That’s a really good question. I think its much harder now, but when I began I took the maxim of ‘ignorance is bliss’ to the absolute limit, because I really didn’t have a clue. I think it is a very exciting time now and that there are opportunities available – although the coalition government are doing their damndest to make that less so with their cuts and don’t seem to realise that the performing arts are essential. That said, though, the best bit of advice I’ve been given is that you have to do it if you want to do it. It’s not like miming in your bedroom into a hairbrush or playing air guitar. You have to physically get out there on stage because that’s where the buzz comes from and motivates you as an actor to perform to the best of your ability.”
And it is this motivation that Morrissey hopes to bring out in other, less well off aspiring actors through his new charity, The Creative Arts School Trust. “I was doing a fundraiser for Medical Aid for Palestine, and they asked if I’d be interested in running a scheme through which drama could be used as a tool to help give kids in the region a voice and, so, build their confidence. Having been there and seen the lack off resources available, I agreed but I didn’t want to just parachute in and just be a face, if you like. I wanted it to be something sustainable. So I got back to England and set to work organizing a team to set the foundation up, which is how I met Gemma Aldcroft and Karen Podesta , [founders of Little Atom Productions who organized the launch and also of Club Geek Chic[. The launch night was a fantastic night for the charity at the British Film Institute in London, in September, and I got invited to speak in St. George’s Hall for their In Conversation series of events.”
The latest Club Geek Chic In Conversation evening took place on Wednesday, November 24, this time with Morrissey in the spotlight, where the State of Play, Blackpool and Sense & Sensibility star spoke about his upbringing in Kensington in Liverpool, his time at RADA and his experiences of the UK and international TV and film industry as well as his more recent foray into directing and producing plus his newly launched charity.
The live Desert Island Discs style event featured the interviewee’s five favourite songs, performed by established and emerging Liverpool talent; Amsterdam front man Ian Prowse, up and coming indie band Sparkwood & 21, the sensational Sense of Sound and emerging singer songwriter Poppy L’moure. “I always love returning to my home town,” Morrissey says, “but to be able to combine a visit and the opportunity to talk about my life and career in such a magnificent setting with incredible musicians playing my favourite songs is a real treat. The building is magnificent in itself, but its history – the fact that it is built the wrong way around, the guy who killed himself there and that Charles Dickens gave regular readings in the very room I’m speaking in tonight – the whole thing is just a huge privilege to be a part of.”
Morrissey is the latest in an impressive list of guests that the girls have bagged and that list looks set to grow with actor and impersonator Peter Serafinowicz, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s chief conductor Vasily Petrenko and Liverpool acting legend Sue Johnston tipped to take part early next year. For more information on how to get news of these – and other – events e-mail email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.clubgeekchic.co.uk