Interview: Alex Lanipekun

Features

We chat to Big Bad World's Steve.

Posted 4th September 2013, 6:08pm in TV


Comedy Central’s original sit-com, Big Bad World, has been brightening up Wednesday nights for the past couple of weeks so we took the opportunity to have a chat with Alex Lanipekun who plays the impressively imposing copper, Steve.

Lanipekun has proven himself to be a hugely versatile actor, appearing in Being Human, Spooks and action film Blitz as well as playing Laertes opposite Rory Kinnear in the critically acclaimed production of Hamlet at the National Theatre.

An extremely amiable interviewee, we talk about Big Bad World and his upcoming film with Idris Elba. It’s important to point out that in the interests of fair play and so as not to alienate any non-Arsenal supporters out there, the sizeable mentions of the Arsene Wenger’s glorious army have been omitted. You’re welcome.

Steve could come across as unsympathetic as he's the stumbling block between Ben getting back together with Lucy...
He's the arsehole!

...how do make the audience empathise with him?
I don't know, I think it's all ultimately down to the writer and the director and the producing team as to how they want those characters to be played. Maybe making Lucy not so wonderfully buoyant and sweet as that character might traditionally be realised, to me I think is really clever. Because actually who is he [Ben] really chasing? Who is this girl? And I think there is something really interesting about that and we'll discover that as we keep watching and similarly is Steve that sort of typical archetype? Is there more to him? That, to a certain extent, is discovered over this series and that's part of the reason, if I'm honest, is why I liked it. I thought it was a nice twist that she [Lucy] can be a bit prickly. Like in the first episode where she says, "If we keep helping them how will they ever learn?" about people digging wells. Ben's like, "It's an ironic joke!" There's something about that isn't there? That when we fall for someone we often see past all that stuff don't we? But everyone else can see it.

Do you think Steve is that way about Lucy?
I was saying recently that I think Steve's a policeman for a reason, I like to think that he grew up in that area and wanted to contribute and that he's well known in the community and is trying to be nice. I think that comes across hopefully as the series goes on.

Can you relate to Ben's plight as a graduate waiting for life to begin?
Absolutely! I went to University and then I came out, couldn't get a job and I was on the dole. I was doing music and I wasn't very good at it so I thought I'd go and try acting. That was clever [laughs]. I was stupid! This is a pure, arbitrary twist of fate because the best actors in my year weren't the ones who left with big fanfares and trumpets. The best actress in my year had auditioned four times just to get into drama school and she was brilliant but didn't necessarily have confidence in auditions at that time. Talent is a fragile thing and success at any given time is fleeting and very difficult to sustain over a period of time.

So what was it about acting that attracted you?
My Mum had done a little bit of acting and hadn't been able to make it into a career. She was a music teacher and she had a big love for the arts and raised me to have the same. We'd go and see a movie and whether it was The Golden Child or Crocodile Dundee we'd talk about it. So I just wanted to give it a shot I guess and I got into the National Youth Music Theatre and that was probably when I thought, "Ok maybe I might be able to do this." I applied to RADA when I was 17 and didn't get in but I got into UCL and after a year of meandering I thought I'd give it one more try.

The music hadn't been successful for me. I guess I wanted to have a creative life, whatever that means. They say the industry tells you who you are; I wouldn't have necessarily assumed I'd play a type of role like this at all. I worked as a freelance journalist for a few years and worked for a music label writing content for them. The drive was always to be creative.

Did you ever picture yourself doing comedy?
I've just been doing this comedy called London Irish actually. I've done hardly any comedy and that was one of the main reasons why I wanted to do Big Bad World. I was always jealous of friends of mine that had gone off and done varied things, I think it makes you better basically. I really wanted to do more comedy; I did an episode of Beautiful People. It's so different from being in hell [in Being Human] or dealing with terrorists [in Spooks]!

You're acting among sit-com royalty like James Fleet and Caroline Quentin plus Blake Harrison who is obviously best known for The Inbetweeners. Did you learn anything from them?
Oh yeah. One of the main reasons I wanted to do this series in particular was that it was a great opportunity to just watch people and learn and steal as much as I can for my little Zelda bag! I grew up watching James and Caroline and they're both fantastic. Blake's a very brave actor, he trusts his instincts. It was a really lovely set and people were very supportive.

The show is set in Great Yarmouth but you didn't film there. However it did look pretty cold!
It was absolutely freezing. The word 'blitz' was invented for how cold it was. We had three layers of thermals, it was insane. The fish and chips were good and the people were nice! I had lots of Greggs and other bakeries [laughs].

How did you bond as a group? Obviously Steve is on the periphery of the friends in the show.
I knew David [Fynn – Oakley] and Blake [Ben] from before but they were the core group really. Scarlett [Alice Johnson - Lucy] and I had lots of mutual friends so that was easy. But the group of four friends made a concerted effort to spend time as a group together. They went on an outing and things like that to try and get a natural chemistry because you can't really fake that. Obviously they didn't invite me! We all did go and see Blake's play together and things like that.

So if you could take your pick of any other show to appear in what would that be? Something like Game of Thrones maybe?
Game of Boobs! It's cool; it's got basically every actor known in it. There are people I went to drama school with in Game of Thrones. It's one of the wonderful things about being part of the industry over here is that it's quite tight-knit and people all know each other. I've written a comedy with my writing partner that we have in development so I guess I am looking at a kind of comedy/drama role. But like everyone I love The Wire and Breaking Bad.

Speaking of The Wire you've recently worked with Idris Elba.
It's a film called Second Coming written by Debbie Tucker Green. I'd stand in the rain, naked holding a fucking sign post for Debbie, I think she's a brilliant writer. I did a radio play with her a few years ago and I work shopped a play I had written and I sent it to her to tell me why it was shit [laughs]. She sat down with me for about four hours and talked me through it. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life to have someone I respect take so much time to chat to me about it.

I auditioned for Second Coming; it's a lovely little film. I play one of Idris' mates who works with him. It's nice to see him doing a British film when he does such big Hollywood films and a big BBC show. Seeing him come back and support UK talent says a lot. He's very gracious, respectful and a leader. He led the set really well. He's someone that I look up to professionally but it's always nice when you turn up to a set and someone who you hold in such high regard actually is a nice person.

Big Bad World is on Comedy Central every Wednesday at 9pm.
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