Former Robin Hood star Jonas Armstrong stars in the third episode of The Street, as a soldier returning from Afghanistan with horrific facial injuries. Here, Jonas talks about his shocking new look for the BBC1 drama
What happens in your episode of The Street?
“I play Nick Calshaw, a regular lad from Salford who joins the army at a young age, gets posted off to Afghanistan, then becomes a victim of a suicide bomber. Unfortunately for him he gets the brunt of the bomb and comes home with quite a severe facial disfigurement but he’s lucky to be alive. The story is essentially about him and how he adjusts back to his life and how he reintegrates himself into his life and relationships.”
What injuries did his sustain exactly?
“Nick’s face has been completely destroyed by the suicide bomb. His eye and ear are moulded into his face. It’s very hard for him because of the way people react to him. He’s acutely aware that children burst into tears when they see him. He’s a bit of a monster in some people’s eyes.”
How did you cope having to wear the prosthetics?
“It took four hours to do the prosthetics every morning. I’d be up at 4.45am every day, while the rest of the cast would be arriving at 8.15 for a nice leisurely breakfast. By the time filming started at 10am, I’d already done five hours! We tried to make it look as authentic as possible – that really helps you get into the part. My eyelid was pulled down and I could only partially see. The costume guy said he couldn’t look at me for long because it upset him. When I turned up on set on the last day with my own face, everyone was very surprised.”
What’s your favourite scene in The Street?
“There’s one where I’m in an Indian takeaway and I just go a bit mad and start wailing and shouting.”
This is your first TV role since leaving Robin Hood. What was it that appealed about The Street?
“The fact it’s a double Bafta-award winning drama kind of helped! And Jimmy McGovern is one of the best TV writers we’ve got. Also, the prestige of the show has in terms of actors who have been in it over the past few years. This year there’s Bob Hoskins, Tim Spall, Anna Friel, Maxine Peake, Steven Graham and more – to be able to work with those people was a privilege.”
So was it something you’d loved watching before?
“I remember having a chat with another actor on the set of Robin Hood and we both said we’d love to work on The Street. Within two weeks, both of us had auditions for it. At the audition, I really went for it and shouted the house down. When I was told I had got the part of Nick, I was so excited. The great thing about Jimmy’s scripts is that they’re so believable. Because the drama is set in an everyday street in Manchester, the characters within it are so real. The directors shoot it like a semi-documentary – it’s as if the camera just comes around the corner and finds these characters. Also, the writing is incredibly moving. You’re totally affected by these stories.”
What have you learnt most from playing Nick?
“It’s helped change my perception of soldiers. Making this film, I learnt so much about what they do for us. The script is so contemporary. Our soldiers are dying and losing their limbs out there because they’re fighting for us. These lads are risking their all for us and yet they don’t get the pay or the respect they deserve. We undervalue them. We should never forget the sacrifices they make for us. I feel very strongly about that.”
What souvenirs did you take from Robin Hood?
“I took everything. I took my bow and arrow, leather top – boots – why not – it’s only going to go into storage! So I took the lot.”
What next for you?
“I’ve just finished a film in Bucharest called The Glass House , which is about the plight of Jews during the Nazis invasion of Budapest. I’m also going to start work on a film in the UK but for the next few weeks I am having a break! It’s my first summer back in the UK for three years so I’m looking forward to it.”
Jonas will appear in The Street, BBC1, 27 July, 9pm
Interview by Donna Findlay