STAR INTERVIEW: Vicky finds new love with her Svengali

Vicky McClure and Jonny Owen in Svengali ANL-140321-140226001
Vicky McClure and Jonny Owen in Svengali ANL-140321-140226001
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Chirpy and loved up in her latest film, it’s a world away from the dark roles Vicky McClure’s more often associated with. The This Is England actress talks to Keeley Bolger about her career.

For once, life imitating art isn’t so much of a terrifying prospect for Vicky McClure.

In new Brit flick comedy Svengali, she plays Shell, the long-suffering but supportive girlfriend of band manager Dixie, played by Jonny Owen, and it wasn’t long before she and the Shameless actor had fallen in love for real.

“This [me and Jonny getting together] isn’t going to happen all the time, so it’s unique,” says the friendly 30-year-old, who quickly realised she had genuine feelings for her co-star when filming for the project began.

“If you’re not together, you have to really find something that makes the audience believe in you, and you have to play that in a certain way. Me and Jonny didn’t have to do that.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that their on-screen relationship is so convincing, and they’ve had some nice reactions from film-goers so far.

“People have said to me, ‘My God, the chemistry between you two was incredible’,” says McClure, smiling.

“I don’t jump in and say, ‘Well that’s because...[we’re together]’, because I like the fact that they’ve just enjoyed it and thought it was a good pairing. But it was extremely good because it was real.”

The film, which started life as a web series on YouTube, was actually made two years ago (and features music from a then unknown Jake Bugg). It follows Dixie, a postman and music fanatic-turned-band manager, who puts everything on hold in his obsessive quest to make his group, The Premature Congratulations – or The Prems, famous.

As well as his starring role, Owen, 42, also wrote Svengali, and he and McClure kept their blossoming romance under wraps while the film was being made, so that things didn’t become awkward.

For the actress, who started her career in director Shane Meadows’ 1999 film A Room For Romeo Brass, and came to prominence as the emotionally fragile Lol in Meadows’ This Is England film and the TV series that followed, it was a good chance to show her lighter side.

“I’m daft like everyone else, and Svengali was one of those films that allowed me to embrace that side of me,” she says.

“I know I’m renowned for dark roles, which I love doing, but Svengali was a real opportunity for me to find my own sense of humour.”

In person, McClure is cheerful, good-naturedly rolling her eyes when Owen mentions her channelling her inner ‘Daniel Day Lewis’ method acting on set, and happily chatting about the time she tried to give herself a nickname at school.

“It was Minky,” she reveals, laughing.

“It was basically because one of my friends was called Musty and I said [to my friends], ‘Oh, I should be Minky’. But trying to make your own nickname up is a complete and utter mistake. It never caught on, obviously, because it was a crap nickname.”

Nowadays, she needn’t fear her name not sticking.

Since the film This Is England was released in 2006, McClure, who for many years held an office job, has gone from strength to strength, with a Best Actress Bafta under her belt, for reprising her role as Lol in the Channel 4 spin off series This Is England 86, and roles like ambitious reporter Karen in Broadchurch and DC Kate Fleming in BBC Two hit Line Of Duty.

It’s clear she’s a grafter.

“My mum would say I’ve always been older than my years. I was one of those kids that had something on every night. I was quite independent from a young age. I used to come to London at 16 for auditions,” recalls the actress, who was born in Nottingham in 1983.

“I look back now and think, ‘That was a quite big thing to do at such a young age’. I grew up fast, but I am quite immature.”