You'll probably recognise him from his hilarious appearance in The Inbetweeners Movie, now the young actor is set to star in Brit comedy Borrowed Time. Here he chats to us about working with Charlie Brooker, growing up in Soho and his fashion essentials
Topman Generation: Borrowed Time takes a light-hearted look at what it’s like growing up on a rough estate. Were your own experiences growing up similar?
Theo Barklem-Biggs: I grew up in Soho. It’s like anywhere in London; there’s a massive divide between rich and poor. There’s a massive window of opportunity for both the legitimate world and the illegitimate. When you grow up in Central London you really see both sides of the coin. In Borrowed Time Kevin has a duller upbringing. He’s not so involved, but he would have still seen rich and poor in contrast; they’re never too far apart in London.
It’s almost ‘social surrealism’. It’s its own thing, its own entity. You could say it’s a Mike Leigh film twisted on its head
TG: Which films did you draw influence from when you were shooting Borrowed Time? It seems like a light-hearted version of Gran Torino meets Kidulthood.
TBB: Not so much Kidulthood. There’s an element of Gran Torino, with the young and the old characters coming together. But both of those films are concerned with social realism whereas Borrowed Time isn’t. It’s almost ‘social surrealism’. It’s its own thing, its own entity. You could say it’s a Mike Leigh film twisted on its head.
TG: You worked alongside Warren Brown (Luther, Hollyoaks) and Phil Davis (Brighton Rock, Quadrophenia). What was that like? Did they teach you any tricks of the trade?
TBB: Phil Davis came in with all these little ticks and quirks. He had his own ideas and wasn’t afraid to put them forward in the rehearsal room. He had some great ideas to enliven the lines. It’s a sign of a great director that Jules Bishop let the actors have some leeway. Phil was great to watch and he made me feel really comfortable, straight away. Warren Brown was in character the whole time. It was a bizarre experience; he was constantly doing Shaolin kicks.
TG: The film was shot in 18 days, how was that for you as an actor?
TBB: It was really, really quick. At max we had three takes per scene. There were times we were running out of film stock. These days most films are on digital, but after watching this on super 16 I can say it gave it a good look. In terms of acting, it stopped me over-thinking. I think it worked as I didn’t have time to look back and dwell on things. It kept the momentum going, kept me present. It gave it a fresh feel and a spontaneous element to the performances.
TG: The film was made as part of the Film London Microwave Scheme. What can you tell us about that?
TBB: It’s a scheme directed at helping new and emerging talent in the areas of acting, directing, writing and producing. They allocate £120,000 to three films a year to help them get going. Eran Creevy did Shifty through the scheme, then followed it up with Welcome To The Punch. Shifty was nominated for a BAFTA, it was incredible. You could argue it was the start of Riz Ahmed and Daniel May’s careers. It put them on the map. Plan B’s Ill Manors came out through the scheme as well. It’s fantastic that there’s a platform to promote great new films. I’m a big fan of the Microwave Scheme.
Charlie Brooker is a genius. I only got to meet him a few times on set, but he seems like a lovely person
TG: What was your experience like working on The Inbetweeners Movie? Any funny anecdotes?
TBB: I don’t have any anecdotes from on-set. I was sort of ‘in character’ the whole time, if you know what I mean? Outside of set some bizarre stuff happened. It’s quite rude, some of the stuff, so I’m not sure I can repeat it. It was strange. You’re in Magaluf, which is fine when you’re in the summer and you want that kind of thing but in February, when the clubs are half empty, it’s a weird experience. I saw some strange things.
TG: You had a brief role in Touch of Cloth. What was it like working with Charlie Brooker?
TBB: Charlie Brooker is a genius. I only got to meet him a few times on set, but he seems like a lovely person. It was lovely getting to watch Suranne Jones and John Hannah work. It was so funny. I don’t know how we got a take without me laughing. It’s my kind of comedy; ridiculous but classy. It was great to do because I’d done quite a few interview scenes in things like The Bill, so it was rewarding to make a joke of it.
TG: Okay, so when you’re not acting and you can choose your own clothes, what are your fashion staples?
TBB: I don’t leave the house without my dog tags. They’re like a little tablet, The Ten Commandments could be written on them, but I have something quite personal written there instead. That’s about it. My style constantly fluctuates with my music tastes. It never really settles.
TG: What’s next for you?
TBB: I’m waiting for Borrowed Time to get the attention of some massive directors. Haha, no. I’m currently filming Silk series three, which is a lot of fun. My characters got a bit more to do this time. I can’t say too much really, but it always feels like a family reunion when we come back to it. I’ve got The Guilty coming out, which is a three-part drama on ITV. There’s also a pilot I can’t really speak about and a few more things in the pipeline. It’s an exciting time.
Borrowed Time is released on 13 September 2013.