Vicky McClure on Line of Duty, Insomnia, and hope of a This is England return

Vicky McClure shares insight into her past and current roles with Yahoo for Role Recall. (BBC/Film 4/Paramount+)
Vicky McClure shares insight into her past and current roles with Yahoo for Role Recall. (BBC/Film 4/Paramount+)

Vicky McClure is one of the greats, and in the 25 years since her debut in A Room for Romeo Brass she has become a staple of the British entertainment industry.

With projects like Line of Duty and This is England, the actor has delivered mesmerising, thought-provoking performances that stay with viewers long after they've finished. And McClure is hoping to do the same again with her Paramount+ series Insomnia, a gripping psychological thriller about one woman's quest to keep a hold of reality as she suffers from sleep deprivation.

Watch: Vicky McClure shares insight into her career for Role Recall

Insomnia is just one of McClure's many memorable roles, and the actor is taking the time to look back at her career, both in acting and with charity work, for Role Recall with Yahoo.

Vicky McClure in A Room for Romeo Brass. (Company Pictures)
Vicky McClure made her screen debut in A Room for Romeo Brass, her first project with Shane Meadows. (Company Pictures) ((Company Pictures))

McClure made her screen debut in 1999 film A Room For Romeo Brass, and not only was it her first film role it was also the start of her decades-long collaboration with director Shane Meadows.

In it she plays Ladine, the sister of the titular Romeo — played by future This is England co-star Andrew Shim — who draws the eye of a quirky man named Morell (Paddy Considine, also in his screen debut). McClure landed the job when Meadows and Considine visited her acting workshop group in Nottingham looking for someone who could work well with him in this tale of dangerous obsession.

"The Shane Meadows that I met when I was 15 isn't the Shane Meadows that we know now," McClure reflects. "So, at the time, he was just another director. I knew he'd done Twenty Four Seven and Where's the Money, Ronnie?, these brilliant shorts, but I was a naive 15-year-old just doing an audition.

"But, weirdly, me and Shane have watched back that audition tape, he's got it all on tape and it was really fascinating to watch cause, actually, Shane was also acting in the scene with me and Paddy. So the first time we kind of met we acted together, which is a memory that both of us had kind of forgotten.

"I owe so much to Shane for my career and he's still one of my very best friends now, so I'm just really lucky that I got that that shot on that job."

Considine "was great" to work with, McClure adds, but it's thanks to Meadows that the shocking nature of the narrative didn't weigh too heavily on the cast: "Shane just creates a really lovely family atmosphere, it creates a very fun working environment because some of the stuff is always quite dark.

A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS, Andrew Shim, Paddy Considine, 1999. ©USA Films/courtesy Everett Collection
The actor starred opposite Andrew Shim and Paddy Considine in the film, sharing how impressed she was by the latter's performance and depiction of toxic masculinity. (USA Films) (©USA Films/Courtesy Everett Collection, Everett Collection Inc)

"I think it's important for him to lighten the load when the cameras are down, we can all have a giggle. So my memories of Romeo Brass are all just fond, I was off school, I was six weeks off to go and shoot a film.

"I do remember thinking 'ohh this is gonna be the making of me and I'm in a film and it's gonna be huge' and then I looked back and I think it was at six cinemas across the UK! So that naivety is not a bad thing really, because you then just get to focus on what you're doing and not worry about all the goings on behind the scenes."

Even now McClure feels A Room for Romeo Brass is "an amazing film", saying that "it really stands the test of time" thanks to the subjects it approaches, and it's a kind of filmmaking that she feels "is quite rare now".

Prod DB © Film4 / UK Film Council / DR THIS IS ENGLAND (THIS IS ENGLAND) de Shane Meadows 2006 GB avec Sophie Ellerby, Kieran Hardcastle, Rosamund Hanson, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose, Andrew Ellis, Joe Gilgun, Vicky McClure et Chanel Cresswell  adolescents, skinheads, Angleterre, 80's, bande, hooligans,
Vicky McClure's breakout role came in her second collaboration with Shane Meadows: This is England. The film became a cultural phenomenon, and spawned three follow-up TV series. (Film4) (TCD/Prod.DB, TCD/Prod.DB)

McClure followed up her debut with one of her biggest roles to date — Lol Jenkins in This is England. Once again directed by Meadows, the unlikely franchise began with the 2006 movie which centres on young boy Shaun's (Thomas Turgoose) friendship with a group of skinheads, and continued with the sequel series This is England '86, '88, and '90 between 2010 and 2015.

It is arguably one of her most recognisable performances, and This is England '86 earned McClure her first Bafta for her depiction of her character's experience with child abuse. She admits that she found the dark nature of later narratives in the series difficult to tackle: "It was a really, really tough job. I wanted to do it justice, of course.

"I think working with people like Johnny Harris [who plays Lol's dad Mick], where he's the loveliest man in the world and yet he plays the most evil character, but you just want to feel safe. You just want to feel like you're in a safe environment and that was always the case on This is England.

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This Is England '86
Joe Gilgun as Woody and Vicky McClure as Lol
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This picture may be used solely for Channel 4 programme publicity purposes in connection with the current broadcast of the programme(s) featured in the national and local press and listings. Not to be reproduced or redistributed for any use or in any medium not set out above (including the internet or other electronic form) without the prior written consent of Channel 4 Picture Publicity 020 7306 8685
Joe Gilgun as Woody and Vicky McClure as Lol in This Is England '86, the series was 'tough' to make but landed the actor a Bafta for Best Actress. (Channel 4) ((Channel 4))

"All the cast, everyone's got your back, we were a really close knit group, and so it was all about just being able to feel comfortable in the space that you're in. Obviously there was a fair amount of research to do, but actually with Shane it's all about talking about it and working it out."

McClure explains that on the This is England sets the cast and crew would often spend "a couple of hours" talking about their storyline before acting them out, and doing things like listen to music to get into the right headspace for a scene.

"Then Shane will do things like he'll tell somebody something and not tell the other person so there's this natural reaction that you can get," McClure went on.

"So there's all those elements that go on, on top of what is a really strong story already. That really does create what This is England manages to do so well, which is make you feel like you're watching something that's so believable and authentic."

This Is England 86 - Photocall
Vicky McClure with This is England director Shane Meadows, who the actor said gives her actors a lot of freedom to improvise and creates a sense of family on set. (Alamy) (Ian West, PA Images)

Meadows, McClure explains, prefers to give his cast freedom to express themselves in their own way on set, so that they're "not restricted by a script". This is an environment that McClure thrives in, and she says the director's "attention to detail" when it comes to set design and rehearsal time makes him all that more impressive to work with.

"He's a collaborator, he wants people to input into what they're doing and there's a load of rehearsals so you don't go in there feeling like you're not sure who your character is," she says. "Once you get on set you're really set on who you are."

McClure goes on: "That show for me holds such a special place in my heart and I love working like that. I love working with that kind of freedom, and it's not easy to do — you can't say to an actor 'just improvise this', it takes a really specific director like Shane to be able to harness that, and it takes a specific actor to be able to do it.

"I couldn't just reel off some Shakespeare for you now, but loads of actors would be great at that, so we've all got our strengths."

(l-r ) Banjo (George Newton); Harvey (Michael Socha); Milky (Andrew Shim) Titch (Auyumn Smiles), Gadget (Andrew Ellis); Lol (Vicky McClure), Trev (Danielle Watson) &
Kelly (Chanel Cresswell).
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Vicky McClure (pictured in This is England '88) revealed that she knows Shane Meadows' plans for a future This is England '00 and she'd love to see the story come to fruition. (Channel 4) ((Channel 4))

Meadows hopes to one day continue the story with This is England '00, and McClure reveals she already knows exactly what's to come for Lol, Woody (Joe Gilgun), Shaun and the gang.

"I know what he's got in store, so I can't really say," she admits when asked about her hopes for her character's future with husband Woody. "Shane spoke to me about what his ideas are for that one and, all in all, I'd just love to see it happen, because to put Lol's docs back on would be quite a moment and to just be back with the gang would be amazing.

"What a group of actors and an amazing group of people, the crew, everything. It was such a huge part of the start of my career that to go back to that — I mean, I'd be kind of petrified as well because there's some big shoes to fill — but it would be pretty incredible, knowing what I know."

Vicky McClure in  Filth and Wisdom.
One of Vicky McClure's first film roles was starring in Filth and Wisdom, directed by none other than Madonna. (Alamy) ((Capital Pictures))

Working on a film is one thing, but getting to do it with pop star royalty when it's their directorial debut is entirely another, especially when you're still early in your career as McClure was when she starred in Madonna's Filth and Wisdom in 2008.

The actor joked that she tried not to be too starstruck by the Like a Prayer singer on set, saying of the experience: "I didn't not think about it, but you kind of can't think about it too much because you've got a job to do and she's your director and you've just gotta try and be as professional as possible.

"That whole scenario was surreal, obviously, at the time I didn't actually have an agent and so it was just Stephen Graham who got in touch with me to say Madonna wants to work with you, and I obviously said I didn't believe him, I thought it was a wind up.

Bildnummer: 52397136  Datum: 13.02.2008  Copyright: imago/Xinhua Regisseurin Madonna ( posiert mit den Schauspielern v.l.n.r.: Vicky McClure, Eugene Hutz und Holly Weston anlässlich eines Pressetermins zum Film - Filth and Wisdom - im Rahmen der 58. Internationalen Filmfestspiele 2008 in Berlin - PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxCHN, Personen , optimistisch , premiumd; 2008, Berlin, Berlinale, Pressetermin, 58. Internationale Filmfestspiele, Schauspieler, Musik, Musikerin, Musikerin, Pop, Sängerin, MacClure, Mc Clure, Mac, lächelt; , quer, Kbdig, Gruppenbild, close, Film, Kunst, Randbild, People o0
Madonna cast Vicky McClure in the film because she was a fan of A Room for Romeo Brass, and it was Stephen Graham who revealed this to the actor. (Getty) (Imago, Imago)

"Cut to somebody's calling me and saying, 'yeah, this is a genuine thing', and the reason that she knew about me was because of A Room for Romeo Brass, that was one of her favourite films, apparently. So it was brilliant."

"I love Madonna, I went to see her in concert last year, I've always been a Madonna fan, so it was a moment for me where I was just couldn't quite believe it was happening," she adds.

"But I loved it, we had a laugh. Eugene Hutz, Holly [Weston], Richard E Grant, Stephen Graham, it was such a such a fun shoot really. It was great for her as well, I just love the fact that she's Madonna and she'll just do what she wants."

Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Martin Compston will be back in Line Of Duty next year (Credit: BBC)
Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar and Martin Compston in Line Of Duty, one of her most celebrated roles to date. (BBC) (BBC/World Productions Ltd)

McClure's other big job is, of course, BBC's Line of Duty where she starred as AC-12 detective Kate Fleming opposite Martin Compston and Adrian Dunbar. The show became a sensation over the course of its nine years on the air, with fans going particularly wild for the long-running mystery around the search for the corrupt senior in the police force known as "H".

H's identity was revealed in season 6, with reaction from fans being somewhat mixed over the person who was revealed to be the culprit. McClure shared that the cast knew they were "always gonna be surprised by the reaction" but it was important not to think too much on it.

"You're never gonna please everyone, don't try, don't worry about it," the actor says. "There were some people that loved the ending, there were some people that were like, 'what?' and that's fine. I thought it was clever, I kind of loved the fact that it felt authentic in that space, rather than there being some sort of big old chase, reveal, whatever it may be."

McClure dared anyone to try and write something better than what creator Jed Mercurio came up with, adding: "I have so much respect for Jed. I'd love to see someone else try and write that!"

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 - TX: n/a - Episode: Line Of Duty - Ep 1 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 16TH MARCH, 2021* DI Kate Fleming (VICKY MCCLURE), DCI Joanne Davidson (KELLY MACDONALD) - (C) World Productions - Photographer: Steffan Hill
Reflecting on her time on the show, Vicky McClure said: 'There was just something that happened when we were all put together... something was written in the stars.' (BBC) (BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill)

Fan reactions aside, one thing that heightened her experience on the series was the friendship that she made with Mercurio, Compston and Dunbar. "I think the fact that me, Martin, and Addie, and Jed have formed a really nice friendship over the years means that it's a nice steady set to work on," McClure says.

"There's no egos, leave that at the door, we're all working class kids that have found ourselves into this industry. I remember me and Martin going like, 'how have we managed to [do this]?' because we look really young when you look back at series one. So we've grown up together really, which is amazing."

The trio all still meet up with one another, with McClure sharing that she saw all three at different points in the weeks before meeting Yahoo: "There was just something that happened when we were all put together on that show. It could have gone many different ways, I'm sure, but something was written in the stars.

"We just get on, we're professional when we need to be, we like to go out and have a bit of a laugh. We like to enjoy the job — we're all very lucky to be in that show. I mean, when people talk to me about This is England and Line of Duty, I can't believe I'm a part of both those shows really."

Programme Name: Line Of Duty - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (MARTIN COMPSTON), Detective Inspector Lindsay Denton (KEELEY HAWES), Detective Constable Kate Fleming (VICKY McCLURE) - (C) World Productions/Mark Bourdillon - Photographer: Mark Bourdillon
Each season of the show featured a new group of guest stars, Keeley Hawes being one, but Vicky McClure said she couldn't possible choose a favourite because they're all so good. (BBC) (World Productions)

Over the years Line of Duty shook things up by introducing new guest stars and storylines for AC-12 to investigate, with corrupt officers played by Keeley Hawes, Thandiwe Newton and Stephen Graham to name a few.

McClure admits it'll be too difficult to choose any one season, or any one guest star, as her favourite because she enjoyed all of them: "I wouldn't like to single out any guest stars because they've all been brilliant. We're so lucky that that is sort of the set up of the show, that we get this new star every series, and every time you just go, 'oh, we've got who? Amazing.'

"But Lennie James, he set the mark [in season 1], it was because of Lennie that we shoot these big interrogation scenes in one [go], and there's none of this breaking it down so it's a bit easier — because they're sometimes 30 page scenes and it's a lot to get through — but he was adamant we will shoot it like that. And so it kind of gave Line of Duty that style that it's still got, and I love Lennie James, he's great.

"Everyone was brilliant though, I'm gonna say that because it's the truth. Keeley Hawes, Thandiwe Newton, Jason Watkins, just to name a few, where you just go, 'wow, we've been really blessed'."



Broadchurch is a new eight part drama series by Kudos Film and Television for ITV. The star-studded cast includes David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Andrew Buchan, Jodie Whittaker, Vicky McClure, Pauline Quirke, Will Mellor, Arthur Darvill and Carolyn Pickles.

This brand new eight part series is written and created by Chris Chibnall (Law and Order: UK, Doctor Who) and will explore what happens to a small community in Dorset when it suddenly becomes the focus of a police investigation, following the tragic and mysterious death of an eleven year old boy under the glare of the media spotlight.

Bloodied and dirty, Danny Latimer (Oskar McNamara) has been found dead on an idyllic beach surrounded by rocks and a jutting cliff-face from where he may have fallen. Whilst his death remains unresolved, the picturesque seaside town of Broadchurch is at the heart of a major police investigation and a national media frenzy.

Pictured : THE PRESS:
CAROLYN PICKLES as Maggie Radcliffe, VICKY McLURE as Karen White and JONATHAN BAILEY as Ollie Stevens.

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Carolyn Pickles, Jonathan Bailey and Vicky McClure in Broadchurch, which was made before Bailey's stratospheric rise to fame. (ITV) (Kudos Film/ITV)

Another show of McClure that became a nationwide sensation was Broadchurch, the ITV crime drama led by David Tennant and Olivia Colman. In the series, McClure played reporter Karen White who heads to the eponymous town to investigate the murder of eleven-year-old Danny Latimer.

When she arrives she encounters local journalist Olly Stevens, who is played by none other than Jonathan Bailey. The actor was still in the early stages of his career when he appeared in the 2013 series, but he has since gone on to become one of the biggest young stars of Hollywood after his breakout role in Netflix's Bridgerton as Anthony Bridgerton.

McClure looks back at her time with Bailey fondly, saying they had a "lovely time" on set: "It was me and Carolyn Pickles [who plays Maggie Radcliffe] and we were this little crew forming the journalistic side of things, and so we formed this little team and he was just the loveliest guy. Really friendly, we'd all hang out on the beach because we were filming close to the sea.

"And I just remember having a nice time and it's not that I never would have expected him to go to Hollywood like that, but I'm really, really chuffed. I follow him on Instagram and I'm like, 'where are you now? What are you doing?' He's the face of this, he's at these big events, and I just think, 'wow, good for you.' Brilliant."

Line of Duty star Vicky McClure (centre) takes part in the Alzheimer's Society's Nottingham Memory Walk alongside members of the BBC's Our Dementia Choir.
Line of Duty star Vicky McClure (centre) takes part in the Alzheimer's Society's Nottingham Memory Walk alongside members of the BBC's Our Dementia Choir. (Alamy) (Jacob King, PA Images)

Acting aside, McClure's passion project is advocating for those with dementia, raising awareness about the illness, and proving that music can used to help people with it. McClure has worked tirelessly to achieve this through her work with Our Dementia Choir, whose journey is documented in the group's titular BBC series.

"It's important for me because it's important for everyone, this is the UK's biggest killer," McClure shares. "I think the more everyone can do, and everyone needs to be as dementia aware and as dementia friendly as they can be because you can't see it.

"It's not a broken leg, you're not gonna recognise it and we're all living amongst people that are living with dementia, and we need to be mindful of that and make it as easy for them as possible to carry on living. That's the whole purpose and message of Our Dementia Choir.

"And then on the other side of that is the music is it's not that we're just going 'oh music's a really nice thing', it's scientifically proven. The changes we see within the choir and their carers, and family members, the impact it has when they go home — sometimes for days on end.

"They'll have a much calmer way about them because they've been with the choir, because they've injected that music, and it recalls memories. The power of music is a real thing, and I think everybody that's diagnosed should be given at least some sort of idea that that should be something they should introduce at the very start of their diagnosis, just so they've got that as a tool to use."

McClure feels strongly on the matter, adding: "I'm very passionate about it, and the job I do, this platform I have, I think we should all use it for some good."

Picture Shows (L-R):  Emma Averill played by (VICKY MCCLURE) (Paramount+)
Vicky McClure as Emma Averill in Insomnia, her new thriller that she took great care to portray as realistically as possible. (Paramount+) (Amanda Searle/Left Bank/Sony Pic)

The actor's newest series, Insomnia, is something completely different to what fans might be used to. In the thriller McClure stars as Emma, a lawyer who begins to suffer from the sleep-depriving illness, and the more she does the more strange things start happening to her. As her sleep worsens so does Emma's mental health, and her experience forces her to address her family's dark past.

McClure recognises that the role might be a surprise for some viewers, but it was a part that she took "very seriously" because of its examination of mental health: "You try and do your best to make sure that you're doing justice to somebody that might be going through something similar.

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"You know you're relying on everyone, you're relying on costume and makeup to enhance that look and make sure that's coming across. You're relying on your DOP, who's doing really interesting things with the camera, which changes the dynamic, and then you put your spin on it.

"Me and Börkur [Sigþórsso], the director, we worked so well together and sometimes it was one mind, which is really helpful because sometimes you don't have time on set to have too much of a discussion.

"When you're up against the clock and you want to pull out a really good performance it's just helpful to know that you've got a team of people around you that also have the same vision, and know how important it is that we need to get Emma to that stage.

Picture Shows (L-R):  Robert Averill played by (Tom Cullen) and Emma Averill played by (VICKY MCCLURE)  (Paramount+)
The series depicts a woman's worsening mental health as a result of insomnia: 'You try and do your best to make sure that you're doing justice to somebody that might be going through something similar'. (Paramount+) (Amanda Searle/Left Bank/Sony Pic)

"I think, as I approach any job really, I just try and find the reaction in it as much as I can, rather than the acting, and try and make it feel real."

McClure admits it wasn't "a specific" decision to pursue a role that's different to the procedural shows she's been at home with in recent years, but it did feel like the Paramount+ show came at the right time.

"It was more a case of it was approached to me by Left Bank to say 'we'd love to do this show with you, but also with your production company' and I just read it and loved it.

"In my head I was having a quieter year, me and Jonny [Owen] were getting married, so I was like, oh, we can have a bit of a honeymoon, a bit of time off, and then that came through and I was like, 'OK, we're gonna get married but there's not gonna be a honeymoon and no time off'. But, thankfully, I've got a very understanding husband and he's just as busy. So it was just written in the stars, I guess."

The first two episodes of Insomnia are out now on Paramount+, and new episodes will be released every Thursday.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo TV UK at