Wednesday, 20 June 2012
INTERVIEW WITH TERRY SUE PATT.
There's not too many kids' dramas that still have such a cult following thirty odd years after they were first aired, but Grange Hill does. Ask anyone our age and older who Terry Sue-Patt is and they'd more than likely be able to tell you. Ever the insomniac, I've been tuning into old Grange Hill episodes on dvd before bedtime -a shame they haven't released more really, they just stopped at Series 4, despite the fact it got bigger and better, now how's a guy supposed to kip?
These were re-ran in the early 1990's on a Sunday morning, I remember this because you couldn't get us up during the week for school, but we all got up early on a Sunday morning to watch other kids at school when we didn't have to! Up until the 1990's this was genuinely great, groundbreaking television, the one time kids would stop their playing out and come in to watch it before tea.
Forget the political correctness we are shackled with today, both a good thing and a bad thing I say, it was as it is, kids being kids, scrapping, shouting, playing up, playing footy, shoplifting, gobbing off to teachers and bunking off. Only foul language was a-miss.
Of course it had it's own pre-determined lessons in morality as was probably the whole point, but for every lesson learned in not talking to strangers and helping old ladies across the road and for every Justin Bennett, Andrew Stanton and Penny Lewis there was a Tucker Jenkins and a Benny Green, later a Zammo and a Ziggy Greaves and for that we're grateful.
The life lessons and after our school further education was subtle, it was done well, written well too. Every sore subject was tackled from drug use to bullying, shoplifting and smoking to sex pests loitering on the common on the way home.
Before it ended not too long ago, it was more likely to show kids actually doing their homework, and baking cakes for their favourite teacher (as fucking if...) but in the 1970's it was real authentic, gritty stuff with lots of familiar faces from the small screen starting out on Childrens BBC, one even ended up going to Hollywood. Many memorable characters are still talked of fondly today and with it many memorable episodes too, who can forget the likes of Gripper Stebson finally getting his comeuppance or when 'Bullet Baxter' the PE teacher put an abusive teacher on his arse, or the many face-offs with Brookdale, including sneaking into rival school Brookdale to get 'Benny's' blazer back, larking about in the school swimming pool on wooden benches.
Then there was the sponsored walk in the 80's - a real casual catwalk during the 80's sportswear boom. I can't find it on youtube, so take my word for it. Later it's biggest storylines as 'Zammo' fell by the wayside when introduced to skag! It even touched on football thuggery as 'Robbie' got in with some Gooners.
kids did that, we did it, we truanted off, we laughed at the fat kid who (still) had a hairless willy, during 'games', we got caught nicking a Twix from the local Circle K, that's what made it great.
The first ever face you saw in the first ever episode was that of Terry Sue-Patt, Benny Green to you, I and millions of seventies schoolkids, let's not forget we had just three TV channels in those days. The football mad kid who graduated from the school of hard knocks straight into an apprenticeship with the Inter City Crew in Alan Clarke's cult film The Firm as 'Yusef' the Under 5, keen as mustard for the match with his harrington and slacks and an ill advised choice of bobble hat. He was later taught a valuable lesson by the 'Zulu' leader Oboe outside the Bullring, but did it stop him? No.
As an actor Terry Sue-Patt pretty much grew up in front of the watching nation, starred in a Bob Marley and Pink Floyd video, featured on an album cover and not to mention that horrible public information film too. He then worked with such talent as one of our best thesps Gary Oldman and director Alan Clarke who brought us some of the best, and most quotable British films of all time.
We met Terry by chance, on the internet after we released our Bexy v Yeti t-shirt recently, just like all good modern day encounters. We thought we'd ask him a few questions...
1. You were famous to millions of kids back when kid's TV was genuinely great with Grange Hill, what was that like for you at such a young age?
I joined Grange Hill in 1978 and was lucky enough to do the very first scene. I'd been acting since the age of five, doing pop video's and films. I did a Bob Marley video called Punky Reggae Party, Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall too. I did a film for the Children's Film Foundation called Blindman's Bluff.
I basically played myself in Grange Hill and had a great time. Todd Carty was introduced to me on the first day and we hit it off straight away. Originally it was going to be called Grange Park.
There weren't many black actors about on TV at that time. I had a great time, getting time off school to play football. It was a bit of a dream come true really. I nearly turned the part down to do another project!
2. After Grange Hill it was perhaps a surprise to see you branch out into the world of hooliganism as Yusef Alan Clarke's The Firm, what was that like to do and how was it working with Gary Oldman?
Loved being in The Firm playing Yusef, I was a big Gary Oldman fan and meet him in the BBC rehearsal corridors. He told me he was playing Bex, and was going to take us out for a drink later that day. Being one of the youngest I think he took me under his wing. He wouldn't sit next to me on the catering bus when I had the scar on my face!
I asked him what his plans were after the Firm and he said he was off to the US to do State of Grace with Sean Penn, then play Dracula for Coppola. I was very impressed. Best actor I've ever worked with.
The scene where we discuss going to Europe we improvised and was genuinely shocked when he turned to me and said "What are you looking at". Top bloke
3. You were a keen footballer in Grange Hill, despite old Frosty's best efforts, were you pretty decent in real life?
I love football. I played for my school team (left wing) and played for Islington and Camden Schoolboys. Played for London schoolboys and had trials for Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea. I turned down a trial at Arsenal. Lots of my mates went on to become professional footballers,and I played with John Barnes for Camden schoolboys.
Can I play football? Oh yes.It's how I got the job in Grange Hill. The director spotted me ball juggling in the park!
4. With the West Ham connection in the Firm and it later being covered in Grange hill (Zammo years) were you ever tempted by the dark side of football in real life or what were your thoughts on that scene?
I've been going to matches since the late 1970's, both home and away. I support Tottenham Hotspur, and it was the beginning's of the Casual movement.
To be honest I've never really got involved in football violence. I've had a few sticky moments but fighting people because they don't support your team is just a difference of opinion. I appreciate there is always going to be fights. If you get thousands of blokes, add alcohol and football, it's bound to go off. I prefer to walk the other way, have a quiet drink and discuss the match. I understand if you're away you might have to take a stand.The reason I did The Firm was to show how nonsensical football violence was.
Peer group pressure as Bex might put it.
5. Do you still do a spot of acting or have you given that up these days?
I am still acting, but having been in the business forty years, I don't work so much. I think it is understandable. I'm just about to do a little cameo in something called Hold the Cloth, starring John Hannah and Suranne Jones. Todd Carty is also in it, getting shot in a bank.
Nowadays you will find me painting. I do a few stencil pieces which I exhibit from time to time.
6. Who had the idea for you to sport the half & half ski hat in the Firm?
I think the idea to wear the West Ham/Celtic hat was writer Al Hunter Ashton's idea. I do know that some clubs have affiliations north of the border. Tottenham Hotspur have a long time affiliation with Aberdeen. Think they were the original casual firm up in Scotland.
7. Aside from West Ham and Celtic, who's your real team?
I support Tottenham Hotspur, which is why I turned down the Arsenal trial. Sad to see Harry Redknapp go. It hasn't been a bed of roses watching Tottenham over the years. We've had a few great players, Hoddle, Ardiles and Paul Gasgcoigne. Always get a well fought game at White Hart Lane.
8. What did you think of the recent Nick Love Firm remake?
I think the re-make of The Firm by Nick Love was a piece more about fashion. It's a fair attempt. I still think Gary Oldman's performance will never be bettered. I've seen The Football Factory and Green Street. It's very difficult to portray that scene as we all have individual experiences. Manchester United fans have a totally different experience to Leyton Orient fans. I prefer the original Firm, then again I was in it!
Big shout to Tom and all at The Casual Connoisseur,thanks for the tee-shirts. Lovely to do this little interview. Very humbled. Terry Sue-Patt . Many thanks to Terry for taking the time out for us, a gent. CD