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This Is England
Turgoose as Shaun in This Is EnglandPhotography Danny Garb

Thomas Turgoose on This Is England and being a teen tearaway

As he prepares to launch a This Is England club night, the lead star of the iconic show talks friendship and family

Before Brexit came This is England. For the last decade, it has been with us, amplifying the voices of the Thatcherite era’s malcontents. But augury aside, This is England’s magnificently sentient characters would be reason enough to call it the most important British drama of the century.

Shaun, played by the madly gifted Thomas Turgoose, has grown up in front of us, from the 12-year-old of the 2006 film through three TV series. Last time we saw young Shaun he was smoking cannabis in bongs, whiteying, and crying over his lost love Smell. Back to the future: it’s 2016 and the nation’s beloved tearaway son returns with an official This is England club night.

With Turgoose being all of 24-years-old-now, I was set to talk about some of the social messages of the film with him: racism, anger and disenchantment today. It turns out, however, that Turgoose is a total sweetie who wanted to talk more personally – about getting pissed up with the lads in Grimsby (where he is from and still lives), striving to be a better man and then a bit more about getting pissed up.

Do you still spend a lot of time with the This is England cast?

Thomas Turgoose: Yeah. Andrew Shim who plays Milky and Andrew Ellis who plays Gadget are like my oldest best friends. I’m the usher at Gadget’s wedding next year.

How have you changed together?

Thomas Turgoose: When my mum passed away when I was 13, a few of the guys were the first people I phoned. They were straight in the car to Grimsby to see me. So yeah, we’ve been through a lot together and we’ve seen each other change for the better. We’re like a big family. When we get together we don’t speak about anything other than just normal shit you talk about with the lads in the pub.

Are you still close with Shane Meadows?

Thomas Turgoose: Well Shane’s a Notts County fan and I’m a Grimsby Town fan, so we’re in the same league and when they’re playing each other we get together. Me and my fiancée Charlotte often go round and see him. He’s like Uncle Shane, really.

 You don’t seem much like other child stars. How has being on This is England affected your everyday life?

Thomas Turgoose: It’s crazy. You can go to London and end up at house parties getting up to mad shit with people you’ve grown up watching on the TV. But then you come back to Grimsby and then it’s like, you know, your mate who works in a fish factory.

What do you normally do on a Saturday night (when you’re not DJing a This is England club night)?

Thomas Turgoose: Last Saturday I went to the pub in the daytime and had my footy bets on. Watched the scores come in with my dad and all the lads. I was home with a chippy by eight o’clock, and then I was asleep. I didn’t even get to watch X Factor – I was sparko. This weekend a friend of mine who’s a boxer, he’s got a fight. I do like the boxing. The atmosphere’s good and everyone just gets pretty mashed, which is what I love doing.

“I wouldn’t dream of smashing someone’s windows or stealing cars anymore” – Thomas Turgoose

What’s your reaction to Fabric closing recently?

Thomas Turgoose: Fabric? What’s that?

The nightclub in Farringdon that was closed recently (then reopened), allegedly due to some drug-related deaths.

Thomas Turgoose: Oh I thought you said fabric clothing. I don’t think I ever went to Fabric ‘cause I don’t live in London. But it’s sort of the same here in Grimsby. Like my local, The Parity, that I’ve drunk in since before I was 18 with my dad – that was on the verge of closing down and it was fucking terrifying. I think I was lucky enough to just catch the arse end of the happy times, before the whole MDMA and M-Cat coming out. Before everyone fucking getting angry all the time and fighting and fucking taking 15 pills and getting off your head.

You’re known as the tearaway kid who got into acting instead of what you expected for your life. How long did your tearaway behaviour last?

Thomas Turgoose: I remember when I was sat in hospital the day my mum passed away it made me think: “You’re never gonna get a chance to apologise for that, for what you was doing, but what you can do is not fucking do it anymore. Just try your hardest to be a better kid.” Because then I knew the consequences when something drastic happens. So I said to myself in that room that I will not be a little shit anymore and I will respect my dad. And that’s what I did. Now I like to think that my mum would be proud of me for what I’ve done. I’m still a cheeky little shit, though.

So what’s changed?

Thomas Turgoose: I wouldn’t dream of smashing someone’s windows or stealing cars anymore. I was fighting from the age of 12 all the time, for no reason. Now I don’t like seeing it. We used to love getting a bottle of cider on a Saturday and sitting in the park, experimenting. I smoked weed when I was a bit younger. It (This is England) was a life-changing thing. I’ve got a lovely fiancée, a lovely house, some amazing friends, and I’ve experienced some things I never would have dreamed. I totally realise how lucky i am even to be on the phone to yourself. I really do appreciate where I am, you know.

Can I get on the guestlist for your night?

Thomas Turgoose:Yeah. When is it? We’ll have a drink. Let’s get fucked up!

Thomas Turgoose (Shaun), Andrew Shim (Milky) and Andy Ellis (Gadget) will be hitting the decks at The Garage, Islington on Saturday 10th December to launch This Is England's official club night