Given how recognisable he has become playing the daft but loveable Neil in The Inbetweeners, it wouldn’t be unjust for you to blithely assume that Blake Harrison doesn’t have the sharpest of personalities. However, as it soon becomes clear when speaking to him, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Infused by a fiery passion for his craft, Harrison immediately reveals himself to be both an insightful and intelligent conversationalist.
This month sees the release of independent British thriller Keeping Rosy, which finds Harrison in a role that’s worlds away from the comedic ones we’re used to seeing him perform. Keen to discuss this latest development in an already illustrious career, Culturefly caught up with Blake prior to the film’s national release.
Culturefly: Tell us a little about your character in Keeping Rosy and how he fits into the narrative.
Blake: I play Roger, who acts as the antagonist to Maxine Peake’s character Charlotte. He works as a security guard, not making much money or taking any pride in his work. However, when he discovers some CCTV footage that catches Charlotte in a compromising position, he uses it as way to exploit her for his own financial gain through intimidation and aggression. Eventually it becomes clear to both the audience and Charlotte just how dark Roger’s character really is.
CF: It sounds like a very different character from the comedic ones people know you for, is that what appealed to you?
Blake: Yes, definitely. While it’s great playing comedic roles, it’s more something that I fell in to. I was never part of a comedy sketch group or did stand-up. I was just an actor who graduated from drama school and was fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to act in a televisual comedy. This of course meant that people began recognising me as a comedic actor and offered me many more opportunities within the field, which has been brilliant as it allowed me to develop my performing skills.
However, when the chance to audition for a thriller came along, it was an opportunity that I jumped at. I loved all of the twists in the script and was excited by the prospect of playing an unlikeable character that people hadn’t seen me do before.
CF: Just from the trailer you can see how threatening and malevolent Roger is, how did you achieve this?
Blake: While I constantly try to maintain a sense of professionalism on set in order to achieve the best performance possible, it’s always best to keep the atmosphere light when you’re doing comedy in order for the material to work.
When working on Keeping Rosy, I took more time to be by myself and get in to Roger’s mind-set before shooting the more intense scenes. The film’s director, Steve Reeves, offered fantastic support. He encouraged me to continually develop Roger’s personality.
CF: So you would say Reeves was a good director to work with?
Blake: He was absolutely brilliant. That he had the courage to take a comedic actor such as myself and play him against type shows great imagination for a man making his debut film.
On the set he was really approachable and supportive. He showed faith in letting extended scenes play out, which from an actor’s perspective can be very liberating as it allows the material to continually feel fresh and exciting. His ability to find a balance between offering insightful suggestions and giving me the freedom to evolve Roger’s character myself was fantastic.
CF: Given that this is an independent film, do you believe that the growing number of Hollywood productions that are coming to film in the UK is good for our film industry?
Blake: From my own perspective, I believe it’s about balance between the two. The fact that these big Hollywood films are coming over, using our studios and pumping money in to our film industry by employing British crews and actors is fantastic. It means that everyone is able to go home with a pay check at the end of the week.
However, there’s a real sense of privilege about having the opportunity to work on an independent film. It offers the chance to be creative and showcase different abilities that present a challenge to the performer. Independent films represent this exciting creative bubble of people working to achieve the best result possible and we need to make sure they also receive the funding and support they deserve.
CF: What is it that you look for when reading through a script?
Blake: For me, I try to pick jobs based on character more than anything else and if a character comes along – be it in a film, a TV show or stage production – that interests me, I’ll do everything I can to get that part. However, I also consider what learning opportunities certain roles present. For example, if a part comes along that gives me the chance to work with someone I admire and believe I can a lot learn from then I would definitely think about it.
CF: Now that you’ve performed extensively in film, TV and on the stage, which one do you believe offers an actor the most creative freedom?
Blake: Again from my own point of view and personal experiences, I think that as an actor, given the extensive rehearsal time that and greater opportunities to develop your role, an actor will always produce their best work in theatre. I’ve been on TV sets where you get very little pre-production and though many talented actors are more than able to still accomplish great things, to have the extended time to fully flesh out your character is really precious and a fantastic prospect for any actor.
CF: Keeping Rosy isn’t the only film you have coming out soon, with The Inbetweeners 2 due to be released in August. How did you find it returning to the role of Neil after a prolonged period of time?
Blake: Because I’ve done it for so long now, it still feels like a comfortable character to play. However, relaxing back in to the role was harder than I anticipated. During the first couple of days of rehearsal in particular, I found myself struggling to nail the jokes.
But it didn’t take too long to find Neil’s unique mind-set and after that I was able to start playing around with the character once again and that was really exciting. The script is fantastic, and I really hope everyone enjoys it.
CF: How was it filming over in Australia?
Blake: I think it’s fair to say that we all absolutely loved it and in a lot of ways didn’t want to come home. Australia is a stunning place and it was wonderful to see different parts of the country. We explored the Outback, staying in an amazing town that had a population of just 67 people and was surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of uninhabited land. Then for the final part of the shoot we went to Sydney, which gave us the chance to see an entirely different side to the country that was equally as beautiful. The whole experience really was something special.
Keeping Rosy will be showing at Picturehouse venues in London from June 27th, with a wider Picturehouse release across the country from July 15th. Culturefly would like to thank Blake for taking the time to speak to us.