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'Filming in a circus was crazy!' Joe Gilgun reveals what's in store as comedy drama Brassic returns

Joe Gilgun as Vinnie in Brassic series two

Joe Gilgun is back with a new series of his Lancashire-based comedy drama featuring the exploits of a close-knit gang of mates. Here Joe talks clowns, chaos and why the series means so much to him...

This is England and former Emmerdale star, Joe Gilgun is back with a second series of  his hit comedy drama Brassic which co-stars Michelle Keegan (Our Girl) and Damien Molony (Ripper Street, The Split).

Joe, who is bi-polar and has talked openly about his struggles with mental health in the past, stars as  bi-polar Vinnie who is consistently embroiled in madcap money-making scams with his close knit group of pals including Dylan (Molony) and Dylan's ex Erin (Keegan).

The debut series was a big hit for Sky and became their most watched comedy in seven years. As it returns and promises even crazier and wilder escapades, Dominic West (The Wire, The Affair), resumes his role as Vinnie's hapless GP Dr Chris Cox,  while joining the cast this time are Cold Feet's John Thomson as boozy circus clown Mr Popov, and Bill Paterson (Fleabag) who stars as eccentric tech expert Tony Tillerton.

Here Joe, who created Brassic and wrote both series with award-winning Danny Brocklehurst (Ordinary Lies, Clocking Off) reveals why the drama, set in Lancashire, is so personal to him, how he's made friends for life and why he thinks living in lockdown is actually doing him some good....

What's On TV speaks to Joe Gilgun

What's On TV: There was such a positive response to the first series. How did it feel?

Joe Gilgun: "It was overwhelming. I don’t have a TV at home so I spent the evening it came out sitting in silence while everyone else watched it. When I found out how well it had done and that people were really enjoying it, it was such a relief. Brassic is autobiographical so if people had thought was rubbish it would have had serious mental health implications for me! I laid myself bare so if people had found it boring I’d have been mortified."

MIchelle Keegan Brassic

Joe Gilgun (left) stars alongside Michelle Keegan who plays Erin and Damien Molony who plays Dylan (Image credit: Photographer - Justin Downing)

Has the success of Brassic and your part in creating it made you more confident about writing other things?

JG: "Absolutely. I’ve got a wealth of ideas. I sit on my own a lot and think endlessly. I obsessively write, I don’t have a lot of mates, I don’t have a girlfriend, I’m a bit of a loser who feeds the pigeons – which has actually become a bit of a problem, because there’s pigeon poo all over my balcony now. I look like a bit of an idiot, I’m covered in tattoos, my personality is a bit intense and I’m hard to be around so I wouldn’t blame someone for thinking I was stupid but I’m not. I’ve got so many ideas and infact I’ve already started working on an another idea. I didn’t realise I had it in me!"

Joe Gilgun in Brassic S2

Vinnie with good pal, Tommo, (Ryan Sampson)

Was it good to be reunited with the cast and how close is everyone off set? Have you all become good mates?

JG: "We really are a like a family. I don’t mean the kind of ‘family’ that actors talk about where it’s all smiles and hugs the whole time, I mean a real family where you squabble, you disagree on things, you hate each other one day and love each other the next but we all support each other completely, pick each other up and look after each other. I I’ve made friends for life."

Joe Gilgun as Vinnie in Brassic series two

Vinnie  (Gilgun) with his gang of mates including Dylan (Damien Molony), Aaron Hefferman, (Ash) champion kebab eater Cardi (Tom Hanson), and garage owner JJ (Parth Thakerar).

How are you finding lockdown? How are you coping?

JG: "Well, genuinely, Vinnie’s mental health is exactly like mine, he’s a mirror image of me, we're on the same medication. What you see on screen is pretty much who I am so I’m not normally very social and because I spend a lot of time on my own lockdown has not made a massive difference in that respect. I think if anything, I’ve probably thrived. I’ve started running again, after putting it off for ages, because I know it's really good for my mental health and I’m eating healthily for the first time in my adult life. I don’t even want to confess this but I’m even eating quinoa! Of course I miss my family, I miss my sister and her kids, I miss my mum, my dad passed away last year and that was pretty heavy. We’re quite close as a family."

Joe Gilgun in Brassic S2

Vinnie (pictured) is always getting into scrapes

Are you staying in touch with people on Zoom and Facetime? Are you good with technology and stuff like that?

JG: "I don’t like it, I’ll be honest. I’m not a massive fan of even having a phone! I’ve not had one that long, I had to get one for when I started filming Preacher a few years ago but I’m not great with technology."

Joe Gilgun and Dominic West in Brassic S2

Dominic West returns playing Dr Chris Cox, Vinnie's unconventional GP

You worked on Preacher for three years over in the States and you’ve made films with the likes of Michael Caine, Vin Diesel and Diane Kruger. Was it quite a weird adjustment stepping back into the world of Brassic?

JG: "Yes, I spent six months of the year where Preacher was filmed in the States and then six months back in the UK, so I went from living in these multimillion dollar places where they put you up in the States, to coming back to the house where I was living in the woods that didn’t even have any running water. One half of the year I was living like Brad Pitt and the rest coming back to my squalor where I was trying to write Brassic. But I’m not remotely materialistic. My happiness genuinely doesn’t come from the material world and what it can give me, I just like making stuff, I like being in things."

Would you say the capers in Brassic this year are even bigger and crazier than season one?

JG: "Yes they are. It’s not like we set out to go bigger but we knew we couldn’t let it run stale or carry on doing the same thing. I think it’s just organically done what it’s done, and ended up being massive, and also a complete nightmare to film! But when it came to the writing,  there are no rules, if things seemed like a good idea, if people are laughing, we put it in."

John Thomson in Brassic S2

John Thomson plays a clown, Mr Popov, from a local travelling circus

John Thomson joins the cast this series playing a clown called Mr Popov. Tell us about that….

JG: "John was fantastic. He’s such a lovely bloke and a fascinating character. We were very lucky to get him and he did such a great job. He turned up on set and hadn’t learnt a single line but he just smashed it on the day. He’s proper old-school, a total pro!"

Mr Popov the clown helps the gang break into the circus

Mr Popov the clown helps the gang break into the circus

Did anything go awry when filming the circus scenes for episode one? There is a lion involved and all sorts...

JG: "Well we got kicked out after one day of filming. We were filming at a real circus and I think they thought there'd just be a couple of actors, a cameraman, a director and a boom operator, so when this whole lot of us turned up, it was chaos. They said to us 'We really can't have you back',  so we ended up having to film the rest of it in a car park but you'd never know it. Our production team completely nailed it!"

Brassic Series Two begins on Thursday May 7 on Sky One, 10pm and all episodes will be available on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV


Tess Lamacraft
Tess Lamacraft

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.