Interview with Hugo ChegwinCategory: Press Pack Article
Co-writer and plays Phil “The Captain” Pocket
Can you start by telling us the set-up for The Curse?
It’s about four idiots who take on something completely out of their comfort zone. It follows their journey from being nobodies to potential gangsters.
Did you grow up on these kind of stories?
Big time. During my early teens, early Guy Ritchie films like Lock Stock and Snatch, and Nick Love films like The Football Factory or The Business, were really popular. They shaped not only British cinema but culture and music as well. But it got a bit out of hand and there were so many of them, they lost a bit of their credibility. But when they’re done well, which I hope The Curse is, they’re great. It’s been a while since we’ve had a really good home-grown gangster film or TV series. Maybe there’s a space for that in people’s viewing habits again.
You’re too young really but what do you remember about the 80s period?
Yeah, I was only five when the 80s finished. But for me, it’s the era of Ghostbusters, Michael Jackson, Prince, things like that. All American stuff, for some reason. The era of Coke, Pepsi and McDonald’s. I remember all that but really, I’m a 90s guy. That’s when my memory really started working.
Tell us a bit about your character, Phil?
The first time we meet him, he’s trying to nickname himself “The Captain”. Phil’s an idiot. He wants to be a face. He longs to be somebody. He’s the gofer and driver for Clive and Joey, who are real gangsters, meaning that he sees the respect and power that brings. He wants a taste of that himself but nobody’s giving it to him. So when Sidney presents this opportunity to Phil, it’s his moment to join the firm he’s longed to be part of. He’s a wannabe gangster.
And he forms a bit of a double act with Big Mick?
Definitely. Mick is his best mate but Phil also sees him as his henchman. A henchman he’s not afraid of at all. Mick isn’t scary really, although he’s got helluva voice on him. It’s mad. In a good way. But I feel that as a duo, they balance each other out. Mick’s stupid but likeable. Phil’s also stupid - but less likeable.
Phil seems to spend a lot of time getting his hat knocked off, doesn’t he?
I feel that’s a metaphor for his whole character. He’s just about to get through the door, then they don’t let him in. But Phil goes on a journey, too. In a way, they all turn slightly gangster because they have to protect the loot. But I suspect Phil might enjoy it more than the others. Or thinks he enjoys it, anyway.
Did you base him on anyone?
There are people I grew up with who thought gangsters were cool, who wanted to be affiliated with certain people. I preferred making music and doing creative things. That kept me occupied and safe, so I thought “Cool, I’ll stick to this. This is me.”
How did you find the move from People Just Do Nothing to making The Curse?
The whole thing was quite daunting, actually. We make People Just Do Nothing mockumentary-style with just two cameras. This was set-ups and not performing to camera. It was a massive learning curve but I really enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t say it’s the polar opposite because it’s still about a bunch of idiots but it was nice to do something different. Watching Tom in the early scenes, he was so comfortable and confident and understood how it all worked. I was like “Fuck, he’s really, really good.” Learning to perform like that was scary. Steve and Seapa were so good at it too. They took to it and understood it really well. I winged it a bit but I think I got away with it.
Was there lots of laughter on-set?
Yeah. Credit to James De Frond, the director, because he allowed us to mess about and not always be so on-script. If something felt good or we had a suggestion, we could try it. Sometimes we pushed it to ludicrous levels that won’t make the edit but it was great to have that freedom. Tom especially would do impulsive things you weren’t expecting, he’d just suddenly kiss me on the head during a scene.
You had to shave your face and head…
Full body, actually. I shaved everything. I was very aerodynamic, my swimming stepped up a gear. I was like a dolphin, no splash. No, it was weird. I felt a bit like a ballbag for six weeks. I didn’t enjoy that. But we all had to made sacrifices. Steve and Seapa had the moustaches, me and Tom looked like ballbags. It’s nice to be back to my normal self now.
Did you enjoy all the Cockney slang in the show?
Loved that. I feel those things add a bit of depth to the characters - like a bunch of mates having their own in-jokes and shorthand. Like, the characters call cocaine “boof”, which I’d never heard before.
Deep down, is it a story about friendship?
Yeah, that’s what we’re good at. A bunch of mates. It’s similar in that it’s about four idiots on a journey. But this time with loads of gold. Instead of chasing a pipedream, it’s there, they can see it and it starts to change them.
Are you a fan of heist films?
Definitely. I’m fond of a lot of British gangster films. I think they’ve made a huge contribution to British cinema, especially for my generation. Snatch is amazing. Sexy Beast is great. On TV, I loved the Sopranos too.
What do you hope the reaction to The Curse will be?
It’s very different to People Just Do Nothing. But to use a music analogy, you can’t keep making the same album over and over. You’ve got to flip it on its head a little bit. I feel like we’ve attempted to do that. But in a good way. We’re not making a psychedelic double album… Yet!