Brothers Reuben and Jensen Clarke have both appeared in the award-winning series Peaky Blinders, Reuben as Peter and Jensen as Tommy Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy) son Charles, and have also worked on short films Making of an Addict and Billy. Reuben and Jensen have also appeared separately in projects ranging from theatre shows to commercials, and are both trained in martial arts working towards their black belts. Talking with Reuben and Jensen, they say more about working on Peaky Blinders, being in the industry as brothers and what they hope the future will bring.
How did your acting careers come about?
We both joined a local drama and dancing club at the age of three and four with some school friends, the lady that ran the club was an actress herself, after helping to build up our confidence in the classes we were ready to join the agency books, we were so excited and had no idea what was in store for us, within a few weeks of being on the books, Jensen landed his first audition and secured his first big role as lead in a Morrison’s Apple Pie Advert, not long after Reuben went to his first audition for a role in CBeebies Biggleton and was cast in a whole series as Reuben the Rockstar, as well as being a character on their online gaming app.
How is it being brothers working together in the industry?
Reuben – It’s a dream come true, he’s my best friend, we support each other with script work and auditions all the time, everyone always asks if we’re competitive and jealous if one gets a role and one doesn’t but we’re not all, I’m very proud of my little brother.
Jensen – I love working with my big brother, we have lots of laughs. We work really well together. People do get us mixed up all time though, it’s very funny!
How was the experience being in the cast of Peaky Blinders, and what did you enjoy most about your time on set?
Jensen – It’s been the best experience playing Charlie Shelby, Tommy Shelby’s (Cillian Murphy) son, I started when I was five years old in Series Four, I loved the costumes and seeing what it was like to live in the 1920s. In the show, I was the apple of my dad’s eye and really looked up to him, he was my hero after my onscreen mum (Grace – Annabelle Wallace) died. In Series Five, our relationship started to break down because I was more aware of what was happening around us, I got to perform some great one on one scenes with my onscreen dad. My favourite ever scene was a fully explosive minefield scene with Cillian, it was nail-biting to see if we’d both survive, thankfully we did. Cillian is a great producer as well as actor and I’ve learnt lots from him. I also had a lovely tutor on set for Series Five, it was loads better than school! I made some lovely friends on set with cast and crew and stay in touch with lots of them.
Reuben – I loved every minute of being in Peaky, I played a local Shelby family friend, I sadly got caught up in their dangerous games and was an innocent victim of a car bombing. I got to work with James Bond’s stunt team and performed my own stunt wearing a harness, along with real fire and stunt props. I was the first child ever to do a stunt in the show post Shelby wars and Tommy (Cillian) was distraught he’d caused my death, the scene was definitely a tear-jerker. It was pretty surreal watching my own funeral but fun keeping it all a big secret from everyone, there was loads of speculation about Peter in the press, it was so funny reading it all, especially knowing it was about me and I couldn’t tell anyone.
As the show is so popular for the older audience, did you get chance to see any of the episodes you were in?
Reuben – Mum and Dad only let us watch our scenes in Peaky Blinders, they’d summarise what they could for us though, it’s not quite the same as watching it all though, maybe I can watch when I start high school! I loved watching my epic stunt scene, I have it as a GIF on my iPad sent to me from one of the Peaky fans.
Jensen – I really enjoyed watching all my scenes but sadly not all the whole series, I’m too young to watch. I know it has a huge worldwide following and I love wearing my peaky caps, I got to keep some of the costumes, I was very lucky.
You both appeared in two short films – Making of An Addict and Billy – can you tell us about them?
Jensen – Making of an Addict was a true short story of a hardcore addict, whose addictions started at the age of seven. I played the seven-year-old addict and for the role I had to drink from a muddy puddle and then eat angel cake and drink vinegar whilst pretending to make myself sick, it was very hard-hitting knowing that someone’s addiction could start so young. Reuben played the son of the addict later on in the film and it was great we got to hang out together on set and attend another premiere together.
Reuben – Billy is a brilliant Salford Gangster movie, we both played local street lads that helped set up house robberies. We got to work with some amazing local talent (Robbie Conway and Sean Ward), it was great to see our scenes made people laugh out loud when we attended the recent premiere at the Manchester Odeon Cinema.
How do you find the experience of working in both screen and theatre?
Reuben – I like both but really enjoy the instant reactions at the theatre and the cheers and claps and the end of the performances, you can’t afford to make any mistakes when you’re live too, I love that though.
Jensen – I also like both, it’s very different but I love the experiences of both. Learning Shakespeare and doing fight scenes live on stage with grown men was pretty awesome, I felt like an action hero.
How do you spend your time away from acting?
We both attend twice-weekly Martial Arts training and are two belts off becoming black belts, we particulary love Eskrima (weapons training). Other hobbies are gymnastics, drama classes, accent training and aerial hoop. Our family has a passion for extreme sports and we’ve recently done tandem paragliding off the 6500ft Babadag Mountains of Olu Deniz in August 2019. Parachute jumps are next on our family bucket list. Outside of this, we love to hang out with our friends, cycle, roller skate and visit our grandparents in Wales, oh and we love family trips to Glastonbury.
What do you hope the future brings to your career?
Reuben – To keep progressing as an actor and try and do more with my brother, I love Stranger Things and Marvel – to be in something like that would be pretty incredible.
Jensen – My dream is to be an acting stuntman, I love to do flips, aerials and tucks, if I could do those in a show/film one day, I’d be very happy.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Reuben – I have a great short horror movie coming out called HARE by Gauis Brown, I play the lead role Thomas. It’s a film about myself and my onscreen mum (Nicole Evans) camping in the woods and I come across a dark evil witch. I loved filming in the woods of Clitheroe, I die in this too, seems I’m good at that! I’ve also been pencilled for a couple of commercials but sadly they’re on hold due to Covid-19.
Jensen – I was due to literally start filming a lead role in a short film called A Boy in Derbyshire which is a story of a young boy Archie living in poverty with an abusive family. I find a local man who literally helps me realise how bad my life is and he helps me go into care for a better life, it’s postponed until after Covid-19 but I can’t wait to start filming, it’s going to be filmed in good old fashioned Cine film.
Also, after successfully self-taping some hard-hitting scenes in our American accents, we’re both shortlisted for a follow-up workshop for a Liverpool Theatre Production of the true story of Gabriel Fernandez – Jensen to play Gabriel and Reuben to play the older brother Ezequiel. It’s a heartbreaking true story of a young boy tortured and killed by his mother.
Reuben and Jensen Clarke are represented by Talent4kidz http://www.talent4kidz.co.uk
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