Noel Clarke won the Laurence Olivier Award in 2003. He currently stars in Doctor Who as Mickey [Billie Piper’s boyfriend.] KiDULTHOOD is a very personal project for him, a lot of the characters are taken from real life people in his life and many of the scenes were created out of real life situations.
Describe your character; Sam…
He’s almost your typical villian. He starts off mean and he ends up mean. There is a point where he weakens slightly with his girlfriend Claire [Madeleine Fairly], but it’s just for a second. It’s a tough journey for him, because he’s all about male pride. He makes his choices you know. Sam is one of those people whose a bully because it happened to him. Pretty early on he probably had to make a stand, but instead of becoming someone who just went quietly about his business, he went the other way. It’s a case of “if you can’t beat them, joint hem!” There’s a specific guy that he is based on. He tried to bully my friend – who the Moony [Femi Oyeniran] character is based on – and me at school, but we weren’t having it.
He’s thick as shit. The oldest Sixth former there and now he’s overlord of the school. He knows he couldn’t go to college and do this kind of stuff. He knows he couldn’t behave like thias in the workplace. But at school he has a power that he will never have again. He relishes that! Sam is nobody outside of school. When he sees younger boys starting to look for a bit of power he has to constantly knock them down. The worst thing that could ever happen to Sam is for him to get dethroned at school. For someone to show that at the end of the day he is just another guy. It would be over for him. That’s the only power he has.
How did you begin to write KiDULTHOOD?
The week I started writing this, I read three things in the paper about kids killing themselves while their parents were busy arguing. The film touches a nerve. It’s on the pulse of what’s happening in society right now with young people. How they behave and what they do kids these days are growing up too fast. It’s accelerated because of technology and the media.
Why did you write KiDULTHOOD?
“You can’t say ‘Put money into your child,’ if you are talking about a single mother.’ You can’t say, ‘there should be more of a family unit’ if someone is just living with his father. You just have to highlight what’s going on and hope that people find the answers from their own families. Instead of writing a 90-page report or making wristbands for a stop-bullying campaign, I can probably be more use by saying this is what’s going on. I don’t believe anything [in the way of violence] is glamourised in the film. It has not influenced society. Society has influenced it. It can only exist because these things are already happening.”
Do you think people will be shocked by the film’s themes of bullying, sex and drugs?
The film shouldn’t shock people, because it’s in the newspapers every day! It’s constant. It doesn’t show anything that isn’t happening. I was collecting articles for a year or so about teenagers getting up to bad stuff. There’s at least three or four a week. It’s rife. I bet if I look in the paper today they’d be something about it. We can wear all the wristbands we want for bullying – or whatever – but that’s not going to stop it. What will stop it are people becoming aware of the situation. Society had encouraged the film because bullying in schools, kids in ‘hoodies’ ad happy slapping’ – whatever you want to name it – is happening already. The film is highlighting that. It’s not promoting. It’s not justifying. It’s not offering answers. It’s simply saying: “this is going on. Deal with it.” A lot of people see KiDULTHOOD as controversial but its not meant to be, my main aim for the film was for it to be as true to live as possible.
Who is KiDULTHOOD for?
It’s for the kids like the characters in the film. Kids face hard decisions early on in their lives and also for people from an older generation who want to understand and get an insight into what life ois really like for some kids nowadays. Because anything that kids get up to, they do when their parents are pout. All parents think, “not my kid!” I used to ask my mum – in all my sweetness – what shifts she was working for the week. If she said Monday and Tuesday, the girls would be round on Monday and Tuesday for all sorts of shenanigans in the house. They’re out the door at 8.30 `and Mum’s back at 9! It’s what kids do. It’s real.
Are these kids misrepresented in the media?
Definitely. The three main characters in the film all wear hoods, but their not really villains. They’re just kids. It’s just an item of clothing but people need something to latch on to when bad things happen. While this film represents kids in society today, it does not represent all kids. It represents this particular group of kids on this particular day. If you caught them on a Wednesday, they might just be going to the cinema. You just happen to catch them on a Thursday and it just happens to be a particularly bad day.
Has youth changed in the UK?
Oh My God, yeah. I can remember the day when you could have a fight with another kid and that was it. Now you have to come back the next day with your friends and a baseball bat. It’s a pride thing and it’s made worse because everything is much more out in the open: drugs, violence, sex. I’ve heard kids say things on the bus you just wouldn’t believe.
How important is the setting for the film?
Esentially the story could be told anywhere. Most kids in this age group will be able to relate to the themes within the film in one way or another, although it might not be through the specific situation shown in the film. I have seen enough from South and east London so I thought it was time that West London was represented in its own way. That’s why I was adamant that it was short around there. When you do see films about West London it’s all Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant! You know Notting Hill, Four Weddings, Actually Love…or whatever it’s called, and Jones. All of that stuff! I though it was good to show another side.
Just down the road there’s Victorian houses and two minutes away there’s a council estate. Because of all that these peoples’ social lives do inter-mix. I like that! Trife’s bedroom in the film was actually bedroom where I used to live. It gave authenticity to the film. Plus… it was all we could afford at the time! It was nice to see actors Aml and Adam sat on the bed where I used to sit with the real Jay years before.
What’s you greatest inspiration?
I think I take after my Mum. I’ve learnt how to treat people from seeing things. That’s all I’m saying. I’ve learnt how to treat a woman from seeing the way it should be done. I’ve got a lot of friends whose careers have just burnt out. But when they’re partying at 3 a, I’m in, reading my script backwards and forwards and sideways. I’m not interested in fame – you’ll never see me in Heat magazine – but I do want to be successful. If I was sweeping the roads, I’d be the best person doing it in Britain. If I was posting letters, I’d finish my round before everyone else. I don’t think I’m the best actor in the country of my age, but I’ll aspire to be the best and if I see someone better I’ll work hard to improve.