Billy Howle, who plays James Warwick, chats about starring on the new drama series Glue which begins on E4 on September 15th.
What is Glue, what we can expect?
It’s daring in the sense that it’s a first. It’s a youth-orientated murder mystery in a rural setting. Murder mysteries are something that we tend to think of for an older demographic and this is the first time, I think, that you have a more youthful vibe. It’s quite playful. And it’s about a bunch of kids who are kind of isolated in this village and obviously are quite bored. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are juvenile delinquents but they like to play games and have a laugh. Then things take a turn for the worse and it essentially becomes a ‘whodunit’. It’s about their relationships and how they change as a result of the murder.
Who is it that you play?
I play a character called James who is part of this group of six friends, and James lives and works on a farm with his Mum. The best way that I can describe him in a few words is he is quite the poet – he is very sensitive and he is a fairly intelligent chap and he is in this sort of moral dilemma in that he knows that he has a moral obligation to his Mum and his job on the farm, but he also wants to spread his wings a bit and take flight and become a young person in his own right.
How much did you know about the backstory of your character?
It’s an incredibly eclectic group of friends and they are all very different in their approach to life as well as personalities. In an ideal world – and also in Jack’s writing – James fits a sort of James-shaped hole in that group. I think they bounce off each other incredibly well. Each character brings something incredibly new and fresh with regards to this group dynamic. It’s a reflection on any group of friends. If you hang around with people that are very similar to you can imagine that life would be pretty dull. I think that people need or crave that level of diversity within in their friendship groups as it’s challenging, and it’s always good to have your perceptions of the world challenged.
What did you think when you first time that you read the script?
It’s quite interesting because the way that we did it, we were kind of fed bit and bobs as we went, so I never got a whole narrative arc to begin with. I learnt stuff as I went along. That was really interesting and the first time I have done that so I got to learn a lot and explore. The script when I first read it, I thought that Jack has this incredible ability to balance tragedy and comedy elements. I think that he does that really well and has captured the poetry of the landscape in Berkshire. It’s a very dramatic landscape. It jumped off the page for me, and I really understood the mentality of the people that live there – isolated and rural communities.
The countryside is an integral part of the drama. Would you say it was an extra character?
I would say definitely. It plays a role in its own right and because the geography of Berkshire is so diverse, that really adds to the eclectic mish-mash of people who find themselves living together in a village. It has resonance. It also informs decision that we make. I know this because I come from a smallish town – Scarborough – and I think that does inform your decisions. When you are isolated, confined, for a lengthy period of time, you can go one of two ways and get comfortable - or want to get out of there as quick as you can. The setting of Glue captures that notion incredibly well.
What was it like working with the horses/animals?
It was pretty hands-on. I had to get my hands dirty. I had been to petting zoos and a child – and had ridden horses – but there were a few things that we did regarding animals that were very challenging. It was a necessary evil. I’m making it sound mysterious. Parts of it made me want to be vegetarian again.
The trail has been playing out for the past few weeks, how does it feel to be part of E4’s big new show?
It’s sort of mind-blowing. Part of me is like sort of kind of ignoring it because it’s not configuring in my head. It’s incredibly exciting. I’m really excited and incredibly optimistic for the show.
Are you a fan of crime drama?
I love a good murder mystery. It has been imbued in me since I was a kid as my Gran used to watch Poirot. Agatha Christie that sort of ilk. I love it. We all have a morbid fascination with death – particularly murder. I loved Vera – which I also did an episode for –as I love Brenda Blethyn and her level of subtly.
Can you tell us a secret?
My lips are sealed. I think that’s the nature of secrets.
If you could sum up Glue – what is it that you think will connect with audiences?
It’s the rites of passage for young people who feel trapped or isolated in any way. Glue is spot on with regards to that. I think that is something that people will relate to.