Most modest British superstar on depression and how his family keeps him sane
They will appear together in Help, which takes place during the pandemic at a retirement home in Liverpool, also Comer’s hometown. She plays the role of the caregiver of a patient with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, played by Graham. “It’s a beautiful piece,” he said. “ And it was great to work with Jodie again, to see how she matured. ”
The help was written by Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials) after Graham asked him to design something especially for him and Comer. At the onset of the pandemic, Thorne denounced the lack of PPE in nursing homes, tweeting last April: “Nursing homes for the elderly or disabled appear to be the lowest priority at the moment.
Graham believes his industry is currently facing a dearth of working class roles, which he attributes to the lack of diversity among writers. “As an actor, for us to play these characters, they have to be there,” he says. “There is a huge need for equality, but even more so if I’m honest, behind the camera, because it’s more institutionalized… There has to be the development of writers from different backgrounds. Where’s the next Jimmy McGovern? The next Steve McQueen? We have to develop these writers and find these writers who normally don’t have opportunities.
It’s a problem he and Walters plan to solve with their own production company, Matriarch Productions, “giving opportunities to new writers and new directors.” Their first project, Boiling Point, written and directed by Band of Brothers actor Philip Barantini, and starring Graham as conductor, will be released this year.
Over the next few weeks, Graham will be in Yorkshire filming Peaky Blinders, in which he will play Al Capone (reprising his role in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, 2010-2014, produced by Scorsese). “I don’t have the right to talk about it,” he said. “The only reason my wife knows this is because she helps me learn my lines. Because he is dyslexic, she reads all of his scripts first.
A fan of the show since its debut eight years ago, he adores Cillian Murphy – “ a wonderful actor ” – and the concept of a gangster story set in England. “I love its granularity.
He never had the chance to work with the late Helen McCrory, who died last month of cancer at just 52, after being set to return to the show as Aunt Polly. When Graham met her at the premiere of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (with husband Damian Lewis), she was excited they were working together, telling her, “You’re going to love it. We are a very lovely little family and it will be a joy to have you with us. “I thought she was an absolutely wonderful and wonderful woman,” he says, “a beautiful actress”.
As an actor who travels around the world, spending months on set, he always puts his family first. When he filmed Pirates of the Caribbean in Hawaii, he took them with him. When he shot Boardwalk Empire in New York, he traded the offer of first class flights to Gatwick for economy tickets to Birmingham, so he could come back more often. “My family kept me sane.