Interviews Television

Stonemouth: Christian Cooke Interview.

christian cooke stonemouth
A romantic mystery delving into love, loyalty and vengeance, BBC drama Stonemouth is the first TV adaptation of acclaimed author Iain Banks’ work since his death in 2013.

The two-part TV dramatisation focuses on the character of Stewart Gilmour played by Christian Cooke (The Promise, Magic City), who returns to the fictional village of Stonemouth for his best friend’s funeral. Run out of town two years earlier by girlfriend Ellie Murston’s criminal family, Stewart is forced to face up to his own past whilst uncovering the sinister truth behind his friend’s apparent suicide. Stewart resolves to find out what really happened, which means he must face the girl he left behind – Ellie.

Christian Cooke tells us more…

Tell us a about your character, Stewart Gilmour?

Stewart’s a bit of a dreamer. He someone who probably doesn’t ‘fit’ in a small town like Stonemouth. He’s got a greater perspective of the world and has big ideas and a big personality. He’s very similar to Ellie in that way. Their outlook on life is very similar.

What brings him back to Stonemouth?

He comes back for his friend, Callum’s funeral. It’s two years since he’s last been in the town and he’s given a ‘pass’ to return to Stonemouth – but only for the funeral.

Stewart’s return to Stonemouth is fraught with danger, do you think he knows the trouble he’ll stir up?

I don’t think he comes back with the intention to fully investigate his friend’s death and get into trouble. He comes back purely because his best friend has died and he wants to pay his respects and go to his funeral. He doesn’t deliberately set out to stir up trouble.

We he first arrives back in Stonemouth he’s very much got the attitude of “ok I’ve come back to do what I have to do”. He’s not sure how Ellie will react to him being back so he’s doesn’t plan to go out of his way to find her.

Do you think Stewart and Ellie’s love is eternal?

She’s his soulmate. He’s been away for so long, he can’t imagine being with anyone else. But he doesn’t come back thinking he’ll be able to start up their relationship again.

He’s respectful of her feelings. If anything’s going to happen in their relationship then Stewart knows it has to come from Ellie – he’s the one who’s made the mistake afterall. I don’t think he forsees them ever getting back together – not after what he’s done – but he’s hopeful.

What is it about Stewart and Ellie’s relationship that means so much to him?

They grew up in the small town of Stonemouth and getting together was very much a meeting of minds. Up until then, they’d never met anybody like each other.

They both grew up wanting to leave Stonemouth, to conquer the world together. They saw beyond the confines of their small town and Stewart messed all that up.

Do you think Stewart deserves a second chance?

I don’t think Stewart thinks he does. I think he’s hopeful Ellie will be willing to forgive him and maybe they can move forward but it’s entirely her prerogative. He’s fully comes to terms with the fact that he totally messed up. So whatever Ellie sees as reasonable is fine by him.

There’s a sense that while Stewart’s been away he’s not anyone who connected with him in the way Ellie does. And when he comes back he has the view that he’ll keep his head down, go to his best friend’s funeral and doesn’t think there’s any chance to make up with Ellie.

If ever there’s a chance of Stewart and Ellie reconciling he knows it’s not going to happen at her brother’s funeral. His return to Stonemouth is precarious enough.

Peter Mullan’s depiction of Don Murston is pretty scary, how did you find working alongside him?

Peter is one of my all-time favourite actors. It was an absolute dream to work with him. My agent called me and said “you’ll never guess who’s going to be playing Don Murston?” I was so excited – he’s a bit of a hero of mine and totally fulfilled all my expectations. He’s such a lovely guy, a really generous actor and I learnt a lot from just being on set with him.

Led by you and Charlotte, Stonemouth has a core young cast at its heart – what do you think this offers the tale?

It’s about young people. The novel has a youthful appeal to it as well. There’s a lot of positive feelings in the book and TV drama which I hope the audience take away. I loved working with Charlotte. We get on really well.

There’s an impressive cast attached to Stonemouth, did you make any friends?

As an actor you live a very gypsy lifestyle, you meet new people, travel about and move on and usually you take one friendship with you. I do feel as though Stonemouth brought lots of new friends into my life which I’ll keep.

You’re from Leeds originally, how did you find doing the Scottish accent?

It was ok actually. I kind of just threw myself into it which I think you have to really. During the shoot, I chose to speak in my Scottish accent for the whole time I was filming just so I could get used to my new accent, so my tongue was in the right place to create that unique sound.

Now that I’m finished, I probably couldn’t do it now!

My football coach growing up was John Hendrie, a Scottish professional footballer. He was my first exposure to the Scottish accent so I kind of mimicked him.

Any memorable moments during filming?

My last day of filming involved hanging from a crane which was pretty intense. Before I filmed the scene, I made the mistake of eating a big lunch that day which wasn’t the best move to be honest!

What was it like filming in Scotland?

I loved it. I love Glasgow and I’d never been before I started on this job. Now that I’ve been I’d probably say Glasgow is the best city outside London. It’s so beautiful with stunning architecture, amazing restaurants and bars and the people are so friendly. We didn’t have the best of weather while we were there but it was good fun. There was one scene where Charlotte and I were sat on a bench at night. It was all beautifully lit and looked amazing but it took all our energy to not look as though we were shivering on screen.

Were you familiar with of Iain Bank’s Stonemouth?

Once I got the role of Stewart I read the novel and really liked it. I was always very aware of the responsibility of making a TV adaptation and really wanted to make sure I did my bit in the spirit of the novel.

Aside from Stonemouth, what other projects have you got coming up in 2015?

I’m currently in Montreal filming The Art of More [working title] for Sony’s new network Crackle with Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth. I’m playing Graham Connor, a blue-collar man, who leverages his way into a lavish existence by exploiting his connections to antiquities smuggling rings he was exposed to as a soldier in Iraq.

Catch Stonemouth Thursday, 9pm, BBC Two.

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