By David Hennessy
The only way you could not have seen Craig Parkinson over the last two years could be if you didn’t have a TV as the Blackpool born actor has appeared in Whitechapel, In with the Flynns, Misfits, Line of Duty, The Secret of Crickley Hall and Great Night Out. So it is quite ironic that the actor currently appearing as Charlie Crout in Channel 4’s period drama The Mill doesn’t own a television himself.
His latest role is darker than most of the characters he has portrayed previously as he plays the chilling and menacing Crout, the overseer who watches the mill’s apprentices a little too closely. The gripping new drama was only minutes old before one of his charges lost a hand while Charlie had followed young Miriam off the floor intent on making an unwanted advance.
“I think one of the reasons I wanted to play the role was because he’s a product of those times,” the actor begins. “It’s the whole case of the abused becomes the abuser: It’s passed down. He has a great line that John Fay wrote. I think it’s something like: ‘I’ve done nothing that wasn’t done to me first’. Just in that small line, you get a bit of back story. Not that you should feel any amount of sympathy for him but at least you should try and understand what it was like for him growing up because he started at the mill when he was very young as well. He’s obviously been given too much power and he sees it as his right.”
His latest role couldn’t be further away from his work in ITV’s Great Night Out and Craig is delighted to be able to show such versatility: “I absolutely adore doing comedy. To be honest when I started out, back when I graduated in 1997, I started doing little bits on telly and they were always kind of the sidekick or the gormless best friend, which I absolutely loved.
“Then all of a sudden, it kind of changed and I was getting some quite dark stuff, dark characters to really get my teeth into. I feel very lucky to do really subtle and truthful characters across the spectrum. When you’re an actor, what you want to do is try not to get pigeon holed but sometimes it’s inevitable, there’s nothing you can do about that but obviously people see me in a lot of different lights which excites me.”
The Mill is the latest in a long line of prominent television roles for Craig in the last two years but the actor is not one for watching himself on television: “I try not to go back and watch any of my stuff. From the first time I read the script and the actual shooting process is the exciting part for me. I think I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been trying to choose lots of different stuff that I get excited about and tending to work with directors who want to tell a great story. I just think a lot of this business is about luck. I just try and do different things but luckily the quality is right up there I think.”
Craig played Tony Wilson in the 2007 Joy Division biopic, Control. Playing such a renowned figure meant a lot to the actor: “I grew up with Tony Wilson. I used to sit having my tea in front of Granada Reports which he presented. Of course Tony comes with a great amount of history for you to dive into. Also, I was fully aware of the kind of film that Anton (Corbijn, director) wanted to make. We weren’t making a film about Tony Wilson, we were making a film about Joy Division and he’s one of many cogs in that Joy Division wheel. Because I had the utmost respect for Tony because I grew up with him, I just delved into loads and loads of research. He’s been portrayed as a great leader by Steve Coogan (in 24 Hour Party People) who did an amazingly brilliant job, but I just wanted to show a slightly different side to him which hopefully we did. That film’s very close to my heart.”
Craig is married to Susan Lynch, the Northern Irish actress who is known for films such as Waking Ned and Beautiful Creatures. The couple have a son together but remain private away from their work: “Doing what I do for a living, the less people know about your personal life the better: They can take you seriously and I can do lots of different roles which I can do. Everybody’s different in this business. The focus for me is always about the work.”
For the full interview, see the August 10 print edition of The Irish World.
The Mill continues this Sunday at 8pm on Channel 4. Also available on 4 on demand.