Today we are joined by actor Barry Ward who you may well recognise from when he starred in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall. He is here to talk about his latest film Blood Cells. We talk about many things including how he views the film’s poltical elements, how he approached the role and what he would particularly like to do in future roles. Read on for our interview…
Hello Barry, thanks for taking some time out with me today. How are you?
I am very well, thank you. Happy to report I’ve no cause for complaint right now.
Firstly could you, in your own words, just tell the readers a little about Blood Cells and your role within it?
Blood Cells is a bleak British road movie about a young (ish) man, Adam, who we meet ten years into his drifter existence following a domestic tragedy. We follow him around the fractured fringes of a broken Britain, encountering various other marginalised folks on his attempted trip home.
Do you see the film as being equally as personal story as it is a political and social document? If not which element do you see as being more prevalent and why?
I see it as equally so. Not everyone may see it this way but I guess it depends on the prism through which you view things – politically-minded people will always see the political and social elements of any story.
As it concentrates largely on one individual it is of course a very personal story, but as Ken Loach says, ‘nobody exists in a vacuum’. The supporting characters make Adam who he is, who we come to know.
My concern when performing can really only deal with the personal side as it is impossible to play a society, or a political climate! We did discuss those elements at length in rehearsals, so they certainly do feed into character development but ultimately they are unplayable.
What sort of things did you discuss in those sessions?
We discussed notions of alienation, displacement, despair, existentialist angst. .. guilt … Father son dynamics… alcoholism…With the other actors a lot of our chats centred around the mutually destructive nature of our relationships- saving a few glimmers of hope the characters are almost exclusively bad for each other in this movie. We watched a lot of footage of the foot & mouth crisis and the carnage of it all. As with any job, I read incessantly. I use literature to help me get into a particular mood or mindset.
It all amounts to a character/performance that reflects the larger political environment but as Adam is not conscious of this fact, I didn’t need to be either.
There seems to be a resurgence in British film to make films which are distinctively and uniquely British, which reflect the marginalised populations of the nation…to what degree do you find that to be true?
There is certainly a lot of brilliant fresh talent around at the moment and in an increasingly marginalised society there’s certainly no shortage of stories to tell. I’ve seen some really strong homegrown movies recently, for instance Catch Me Daddy, and Duane Hopkins’ films. It would appear that British film is in a very healthy and creative state in complete contrast to the society that inspires it. However, I’m not entirely sure I would class them as ‘distinctly and uniquely British ‘ as these problems and issues as depicted affect people the world over.
Of course you also starred in Ken Loach’s political film Jimmy’s Hall, are you particularly attracted to roles/ films such as this? And if so what is it about them which attracts you?
I am attracted to them as these kind of films tie in with my own interests, for instance politics, sociology, psychology, philosophy. But I’m also interested in a lot of other things so won’t restrict myself, there are plenty of other roads I wanna explore. Within the two you mention, although politically they exist in the same realm, character-wise they are very different. These two men deal with their problems in entirely different ways.
In Blood Cells your character’s very troubled and holds the world back at arm’s length, and yet he is also very relatable. How do you play such a character? Do you take steps to think about how to make him relatable or is it out of your mind?
It’s largely out of my mind when playing it, but as it was a character developed closely with Joe Bull & Luke Semore (writers/directors) it was something we knew we wanted and steered improvisations that way so as to achieve it. I think it’s an interesting observation you made and I hope audiences get that from it. He is clearly a character in need of help, reaching out and as you say, holding others and himself at arms length. In ways it is himself he fears, his past and the things everybody fears defines them. We also wanted to make such a character vulnerable not just to enlist sympathy but to highlight the real dangers that are present in such lifestyles. At times there is an innocence present in Adam and I think that’s due to arrested development as a direct result from his drinking.
I’ve played a boxer on stage and would love to do so on film. It’s more the training and research that appeals to me…acquiring new skills is a huge attraction. A front man for a rock band could be fun. Racing car driver. .. What else have you got?
And finally Barry what else have you got in the pipeline which we should keep our eyes open for?
An action movie called Pursuit which premiers in Galway, July. An Italian film called L’Accabadora.A Spanish movie called Project Lazarus, a sci-fi drama written and directed by the brilliant Mateo Gil. A short film called Insulin is due out soon too, and a recent short written and directed by the ridiculously talented Natasha Kahn aka Bat For Lashes, entitle I Do.
And that’s all folks! We hope you enjoyed this interview with Barry Ward. Before you go drop your thoughts off in the comment box below, we love to know what you think!