Interview with Steve StampCategory: Press Pack Article
Co-writer and plays Sidney Wilson
Can you start by telling us the set-up for The Curse?
It’s about a group of friends in a part of East London which was suffering under Thatcher’s Britain. They’re increasingly desperate, looking for a way to improve their lives and hatch a plan to rob the storage depot where one of them works. But when they do the robbery, it becomes apparent that they’ve stumbled into the biggest gold bullion heist of all time. We follow these low-level criminals as they deal with this life-changing event.
And it’s loosely based on true stories?
The Curse is very loose inspired by a big heist where the thieves stumbled on all this gold bullion by coincidence. We thought there was comedy in the idea of inadvertently pulling off something of that scale and suddenly being sucked into this deeper, more intense criminal world. The more we researched crimes at that time and how the gangland politics might play out, it seemed fun to explore. It’s a fascinating world to portray in a comedic way. What if the people involved were completely inept?
Tell us a bit about your character, Sid?
He works as a security guard at the storage facility. He’s a bit of a loser with not much going on in his life and his sister ‘Tash is the one that brings everybody together. Sid thinks that he’s the mastermind of the whole operation but he’s being manipulated most of the time. He ends up not having the amount of control he’d like and being pushed out of his own job. As the story progresses, Sid becomes quite a downtrodden, frustrated character but huge fun to play. He’s got a greedy, selfish side too. I don’t want to give much away but he gets more and more shat on.
Allan said you were the castmate who made him corpse the most…
Really? There were scenes where we were able to go a bit off-script and throw different things in there. Obviously me and Seapa are very used to each other’s humour and bounce off each other well, so that was a lot of fun. All of us added bits and pieces to make scenes as funny as we could. It was just a pleasure to work with such a funny bunch of people. They’re my funniest mates, as well as my work colleagues. I found it hardest to keep a straight face with Tom. He’d do a look or suddenly grab you to add another level. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He sees it as his job to make you laugh.
You’re too young really but what do you remember about the 80s period?
I was born in ’84 so I was around for a bit of it. The 80s has always been massive for me. All my favourite films growing up were from the 80s - E.T, The Goonies, Ghostbusters, Gremlins. Even now, a lot of my favourite music is 80s. I’m a massive Prince fan. I love the funk stuff like George Clinton and Morris Day & The Time. And there’s so many great 80s pop tunes, you’re spoilt for choice. Me and James put together playlists with hundreds of songs. So it’s always been an era that I had a connection with and I enjoy the visual elements of the 80s.
Was that part of the show’s appeal for you?
Yeah, it meant we could have a completely different look to the show. You could really go to town on the sets and costumes. We spent a lot of time making sure it felt grounded in reality and specific to East London at that time. We were lucky enough to have Anna Sheldrake [production designer] and Lynsey Moore [costume designer], who worked with James to create these amazing sets and outfits. There are so many details in there that the average viewer won’t even notice. Like, the proper gangsters always wear bits of red and as our guys become more entrenched in that world, they start to increasingly wear bits of red too. Even in the edit, we were picking out music and digging into that 80s London scene. We tried to think outside the box, not do the obvious hits but more what you’d hear on a jukebox back then. We got pretty deep into it all. We’re all quite geeky like that.
Tell us a bit about your look in the show?
Sid has quite a 70s look. He’s not got the money to buy up-to-date styles, so he wears a lot of brown, quite grandaddy-looking outfits. I grew this mullet, which has always been my dream, and a ‘tache because they were everywhere back then. I wanted him to be a bit of a weasel so I talk through my teeth. Together the ‘tache and voice brought him to life.
How was living with the mullet and moustache during shooting?
The mullet wasn’t so bad. The ‘tache was worse. You could only really get away with it in East London. But I didn’t look too bad. Seapa’s moustache was more noticeable. Tom and Hugo had to shave their whole faces and heads and hated it, so I got away quite lightly.
You’ve gone from West to East London, with People Just Do Nothing followed by The Curse…
Yeah but via Liverpool where we actually filmed it. Liverpool looks a bit like 80s East London in places. There are unspoilt, undeveloped streets with old brick buildings. They shoot stuff like Peaky Blinders up there. We wanted that old East End feel, where it’s all about the hustle. In the first episode, we mention the triangle of the East End - if something comes in, it doesn’t come out. It’s a Robin Hood approach. The working classes have to fend for themselves and make ends meet however they can, because they’re being fucked over by the government. Unfortunately that’s still very relevant.
Are you a fan of heist films?
I like British gangster stuff. It’s always nice to hear London voices on-screen and I guess we play into those tropes. Another big reference point for us was Fargo, giving it that Coen brothers darkness and having recognisably scary villains, rubbing up against these comedic idiots. We approached it as if we were making something really classy, then put ourselves into it to undermine it all.
What do you hope the reaction will be?
It’s a bit of a departure for us but I think we’ve pulled it off. We’re aware that because the three of us - Hugo, Seapa and me - are involved, it will inevitably draw comparisons to People Just Do Nothing. But it feels such a different show. I hope people can see the range we have in terms of our acting now. We’re capable of creating different characters and stories. Hopefully people will be pleasantly surprised and want to see what’s next. For me, The Curse has potential for more series and be something that we’re all quite invested in. It’s exciting.