How we met: Danny Brocklehurst & Max Beesley
‘I have a difficult relationship with actors. It doesn’t always do to be friends with them’
Interview by Julian Hall
Sunday, 10 June 2007
Danny Brocklehurst, 35 won a Bafta for his screenwriting contributions to ‘Shameless’. Among other credits are ‘Sorted’, ‘Clocking Off’ and a new series, ‘Talk to Me’. He is married and lives in south Manchester.
I first met Max at the Royal Television Society Awards, last year, when he was up for Bodies and I was up for Shameless. There was a bit of banter going on between both camps, being from rival stations, and when Bodies won they were jubilant. Since they were having so much more fun, I joined their table, got talking to Max and then ended up spending the whole night with him, as you do at these things. We began to see each other around more and more as we had friends in common including Iain B MacDonald, who directed Bodies and Sorted. The turning point was when we met to discuss Talk to Me. The meetings about the shows would turn into long sessions and the friendship went from there.
There’s a certain dynamic when two northerners get together, something to do with the sense of humour and a way of looking at life that feels similar, a kinship. We are both Manc lads, with the same kind of background and sensibilities, even though he is much more successful than me and hangs out with Robbie Williams and all that kind of A-list carry on. When I first met Max I did think that he was quite into talking about his famous friends, but there’s a lot more to him than that. He is so diligent when you are working with him; he cares passionately about the show and, socially, he cares about you – always asks you about what’s going on in your life. It’s not “me me me” like it is with some actors.
Max is a very infectious person to be around. It’s not just enthusiasm for work, but for life in general. We bounce off each other and take the piss, which is one of the characteristics of becoming mates. For example, I took the piss out of a film of his called Glitter, with Mariah Carey, which was a complete flop and something he doesn’t like to talk about. He takes the rise out of me for being a northern scumbag, spending a lot of time on my own, writing about pretend people.
A lot of the time I have a difficult relationship with actors. They always want certain things, like more words and better things to do. As a writer, it doesn’t always do to be friends with them. I’ve never felt this about Max. It’s always been about him trying to get me to give him quality work and making it as good as it can be. Working with him on Talk to Me I have seen Max pushed to dig deep into a vulnerable place.
When you meet through work you can feel that you have become friends with someone and then, after you have done the job and everything is finished, you realise you have drifted apart. The texts stop, you never hear from them again and you think, “Actually, we weren’t mates”. It’s not like that with Max; we have become close and this will carry on beyond the show. I could pick up the phone now and take the piss.
Max Beesley, 36 enjoyed a music career working with Robbie Williams and James Brown, prior to his acting break in 1997’s ‘The History of Tom Jones’. In 2001 he starred in Mariah Carey’s ‘Glitter’. Other TV credits include ‘Bodies’ and ‘Hotel Babylon’. He lives in Surrey with the actress Susie Amy.
After we met at the Royal Television Society Awards we would bump into each other at the Groucho Club now and then. I’ve always really liked Danny’s writing and wanted to do something with him, so when his script for Talk to Me came up it gave me the perfect opportunity.
Danny is a fully rounded northern guy, in touch with all of his female sensibilities. It’s not specifically the northern dynamic that underscores our friendship; you get the same thing everywhere – in the Gorbals in Glasgow, in Toxteth in Liverpool, or in Canning Town and Plaistow in east London. What we understand by this is being working class, because that’s where we’re from. If you come from that background and then go into a media or artistic environment, where you have to express yourself a lot, it helps your scope immensely. You have an array of emotions, emotions that you probably go through when you live in those areas, to draw upon.
Acting can be a difficult business. When I was younger, if my mates were doing better than me, I might be a little bit envious, but as I have got older I love to see actors cracking on and succeeding. The same goes for writers. With Danny there are no competition issues. We just want to do good work. Perhaps the thing that’s most relevant to us both being northerners is that we think nothing is precious. We respect what each other does, but we just get on and do it.
A lot of writers are very protective of their work, but Danny gives me a lot of space to give him feedback and he chooses what he wants to take on board or not. If directors, actors and writers have the ability to drop their alpha-male egos, you will always get better work. In terms of my own demands, I actually want fewer lines. If I can lose a line and do it with my face, I’d rather do that.
The great thing about Danny is that he doesn’t over-write stuff and he doesn’t extemporise. Though he wrote the script before we met, I am sure that, when script issues come up, he’s influenced by seeing me in the role. He trusts me in that role, which is great. He’s got me showing a more cavalier, Jacobean side.
We do take the piss out of each other a lot, which is the sign of a good friendship. When it comes to what we take the piss out of each other about, I expect that Danny’s answer would be the same as mine, which is: “I don’t know”.
Further browsing Manc workers unite at The Working Class Movement Library’s site www.wcml.org.uk