For his first series regular role, Matt Greenwood plays Tom Clarke, best friend of Rebecca, across all three series of The A Word on BBC One, with the most recent episodes airing earlier this year. Over his many years of acting so far, Matt’s screen roles have included playing Martin Dunbar in Waterloo Road, appearing in the Freddie Mercury biographical film Bohemian Rhapsody and, during lockdown, he has been filming for an upcoming online project. Last year, Matt played the titled character of Vicky in Call Me Vicky at the Pleasance Theatre, a new play based on a true story, which saw him be nominated for Best Male Performance at The Off-West End Theatre Awards. Matt talked to us about playing Tom Clarke in The A Word, being on set of his first film – Bohemian Rhapsody and performing in Call Me Vicky.
You’ve filmed all three series of The A Word, what’s it like filming on location and returning for each series?
I absolutely adore working on The A Word. It’s like an extended family that I’ve got to see every eighteen months or so. I can never wait to see what’s going on in these characters’ lives and what they’re up to now. The Lakes will forever have a special place in my heart. They’ve had their moments of temperamentality – from floods and blizzards in Series One, to heatwaves in Series Two, to being pelted with rain in Series Three – but this show has really changed my life in so many ways. And so The Lakes feel like home.
How would you describe your character Tom Clarke?
Tom is an absolute joy. His loyalty to Rebecca is genuinely inspiring to me personally. His quick-witted repartee is always so fun to play and he can have a sharp tongue when it’s called for, but his heart of gold rings through. He’s Rebecca’s confidante and often her reality-checker, but he’s also very much a source of comedy within the show.
How have you found playing your first series regular role and do you remember how you felt meeting the rest of the cast for the first time?
Tom is very special to me in so many ways. He’s quelled the doubts that plague so many LGBT actors – that they will probably never be a main-player in a show or film. That they will forever be an afterthought. Tom dispelled that for me. Not only is he woven throughout the fabric of the show, but we’ve seen him increasingly brought into the fold of the family. Symbolism aside, it’s such a joy when playing a series regular to have a character that you’re able to come back to and take them further on their journey. As an actor, the insecurity of where your next job is coming from can be crippling. And it’s such a comforting feeling to know that you have that particular job to come back to, a lifeboat in some ways. And what a job to have had as your lifeboat.
Meeting the cast for the first time, five years ago now, I look back on with innocence and warmth. There were some established icons of mine, and some that quickly became icons to me also. Little did I know where that would lead.
What have been some of your favourite scenes to film from the recent Series Three?
My favourite scenes to film have got to be the scenes surrounding the antenatal class with Molly who plays Rebecca and the scenes in the Maternity Ward waiting room with Chris Eccleston, Greg McHugh and Lee Ingleby. The idea of Tom and Maurice having a debate over the modern family set-up is golden.
You’ve filmed for an episode of Giri/Haji, what was this like to work on?
It was so fun! We were filming in a real club in Soho and pretty much having a real night out – but at seven in the morning. I’d originally auditioned for a different role in the show, and as is very common practice, it went to someone slightly more established. But it was so lovely to have been asked to be involved in whatever capacity. When the piece is as brilliant as Giri/Haji was, not much else matters.
Can you tell us about your time on set of Bohemian Rhapsody?
That was an experience. It was my first movie and so bewildering in the moment and even more so to see it on screen. I get quite intense stage fright when working on stage, but not so much when working on a set. However, this time I was incredibly nervous. To even have a small part of a film like that was terrifying and to see the scale of a production like that was mesmerising. It was also really fun to be wearing so much prosthesis and equally terrifying to look in the mirror and see the ravaging effect of AIDS that so many people saw looking back at you.
What do you remember from your time filming Casualty as Mark Davies?
Casualty was great fun! It was shot in Wales and was the first time I’d been to one of the other countries of the UK besides England. I remember a large proportion of it being on location in a quarry with me lying at the bottom of a cliff, rather cold and wet. But because of that, coupled with the SFX makeup and not-so-everyday costume, it really allowed my imagination to come into play. It was a great experience to have.
Can you tell us about preparing for your role of Martin Dunbar in Waterloo Road and what was this character like to play?
Playing Martin involved a lot of preparation and research. I wanted to educate myself on transgenderism as much as the information available to a fifteen year old in 2010 would allow. I read case-study after case-study so that I could really imbed those ideas and nuances in my head and we worked with the charity Mermaids to ensure that we told the story as realistically and best we could. Waterloo Road was my first ever pro job and will always have a special place in my heart. It was honestly one of the best times of my life. Martin was great fun to play, but also very emotionally wearing. I had to carry those thoughts they were thinking and those emotions they were feeling around with me for months. And the experience taught me a lot about having them available to you but learning how to put them ever-so-slightly to one side so you don’t end up being completely miserable in every waking moment of your life.
Last year, you played Vicky in Call Me Vicky, can you tell us about working on this production?
Call Me Vicky was another one of the best experiences of my life. It was a lot of work and a lot of pressure. We had a very short amount of time to put the show together, but it was made so much easier because of the brilliant cast and crew. It was a dream project and I’d do it all again tomorrow.
What was it like reading the script for the first time and what was the atmosphere like on opening night at the Pleasance Theatre?
Reading the script for the first time I thought, “this is brilliant”. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting. And then read it all again. I couldn’t wait to delve into this woman’s life and experience even just a glimmer of it. The atmosphere on the opening night was buzzing – but I was sick to my stomach with nerves. We’d had a terrible final rehearsal; everything that could have gone wrong went wrong and there was nowhere for me to hide if it happened again because I was on stage pretty much the whole time.
How was the experience working on a new play based on a true story?
It was amazing to have a brand new story to tell, because I got to experience being there almost in its infancy and being the one to let it fly the nest. The fact that it was based on a true story, and there was the very real possibility that the person who I was playing and whose story I was telling was going to be sat in the audience, made it all the more special but even more terrifying. I had to do Vicky justice and that was the most important thing to me.
You were nominated for Best Male Performance at The 2019 Off-West End Theatre Awards for your performance, how did this feel?
It was a shock. I got the news sat in the dressing room as I was getting ready for the night’s show and, without warning, I screamed “Oh my God!”. It was a lovely honour to be nominated.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
I initially started not through my own volition. I’d always put on ‘shows’ for my family at home. But I was also a very shy kid. So, my mother sent me to drama classes after school from the age of six. I was so shy I wouldn’t even say “yes” to my name on the register before each class for a good four to six weeks. Once I started to come out of my shell, I very quickly fell in love.
Can you tell us about your training?
Training has always been something very important to me. I don’t believe in the idea that you spend a few years at drama school and then you’re done. I believe in constantly working on your craft, evolving your techniques and attending classes when not working. Which not getting into drama school has probably served me well for. I spent years and years auditioning for the top drama schools, shredding my self-esteem to pieces in the process, and they weren’t interested in the slightest. Which goes to show that there isn’t one way of getting into the industry. I like to refer to myself as an Apprentice, as opposed to others who are Graduates. I began acting at the age of six, starting at the Helen O’Grady Children’s Drama Academy where I trained up until the age of ten, and then from ages ten to sixteen I trained at the Carol Godby Theatre Workshop. It was during this time that I began working professionally as an actor. I then went on to train at The Manchester College – Shena Simon Campus, the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, and the Manchester School of Acting, whilst continuing to act professionally alongside my studies. I still receive coaching from Mark Hudson of the Manchester School of Acting and still attend classes there every week. I even spent some time training with Ivanna Chubbuck in LA earlier this year – now that was an experience, I’ll say.
What are some of your favourite TV and stage shows to watch?
I’ve recently gone back and rewatched some classics that I adored growing up, like The Royle Family, Absolutely Fabulous and Dinnerladies. I also LOVE horror and zombie films/shows so I recently rewatched the fictional Big Brother zombie series Dead Set and the BBC Three show In The Flesh (BBC Three, if you’re listening, you need to bring that back. You can’t just leave the story there!). As well as some things I never got around to watching, like Ricky Gervais’ Extras. Of the more recent shows to come out, I’ve also really loved Sex Education and Derry Girls. Of the plays I’ve seen recently, I absolutely adored Hobson’s Choice at the Manchester Royal Exchange, the West End play Home, I’m Darling and the stage adaption of Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold.
What are you up to next? Can we see you in anything soon?
I’ve just finished shooting a monologue as part of a new mini-series for an online channel that I can’t say much about. It was a full-scale production, but shot completely in isolation with all the crew on Zoom and with me operating all of the cameras, lights, mics etc myself. That should be coming out in the next couple of months hopefully. And there are other projects floating about in the peripheral but nothing concrete. So, until face-to-face auditions start up again post-COVID, it’s back to self-taping which I’ve been lucky enough to do a decent amount of during quarantine.
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