Starring in his very first feature film, Elliot James Langridge discusses North Soul with our reporter, Tnielle Duncan….

The movie as you know, was directed and written by Elaine Constantine, and tells a story of the Northern Soul movement during the 70’s. Obviously this isn’t your era being born in the 80’s, but what was it that attracted you to this project and what research did you do in order to get up to speed?

The fact that it was a period piece was something that interested me as it was something that I hadn’t done before. Also having not known anything about Northern Soul, seeing Elaine’s passion towards her project and Northern Soul was a key element in me wanting to get on board.

In terms of research, one of the first things I did was go up and stay with Elaine’s parents, whom resided within the place where the movie is allegedly set. I did my best to pick up the accent! I also did my own homework and looked into the whole Northern Soul era. Any questions I had I’d just go straight to Elaine as it was all her vision.

The movie was made over a period of five years, can you talk me through the creative process of working on a movie for this length of time?

I met Elaine on my first modelling job in 2007, she was the photographer and at the end of the shoot she came up to me and told me I looked like ‘John Clark’ , I was 19 at that time and she explained to me that he was a character within her story which wasn’t complete at that point. She took my email address and a year later she sent me the finished script and told me to go over to her house once I had read it. After reading the script and realising ‘John Clark’ was the lead role – I felt overwhelmed by this and how great the overall script was!

I began voice coaching, I also took DJ lessons and then the dancing came into play! I went to meet Keb Darge the dance teacher, (he’s a DJ now and trained in martial arts) I remember meeting him for the first time and thinking he was scary and athletic with a strong Scottish accent. Every other word was a swear word with him but always in an endearing way! I get on with him really well. He taught me to dance over a year, in between shooting Hollyoaks. He taught me the foundations of Northern Soul. Further down the line we did group sessions taught by Fran Franklin and Paul Sadot – Fran sadly passed away a year ago. Her and Paul were the main teachers who trained the hundreds of extras that danced within the movie. The film has been dedicated in her memory.

I read in another interview with Elaine, that in order to make her movie which is obviously very close to her heart, she went to great lengths of remortgaging her house to have the budget she required to tell this story. Did you feel a certain pressure as the lead to create her vision?

By the time I found out about that situation and how much was on the line, we were already at the point whereby we had been training for years, so when the pressure hit we all felt ready. I was nervous as I had never had a lead role in a feature before, but I knew I was ready to do it.

In order to create her vision on my behalf I made sure I looked right for the role by growing my hair and losing the weight. Me and the other lead Josh Whitehouse (Matt) also did a lot of preparation beforehand, we took workshops together and really established our relationship because if we didn’t have that chemistry, the whole film wouldn’t have been believable….

We know you play the lead role ‘John Clark’ in Northern Soul, but you also have an amazing supporting cast, Ricky Tomlinson, Steve Coogan, Lisa Stansfield, John Thomson and Christian Mckay to name but a few! Did you learn anything from any of these actors?

Yes definitely, particularly Christian Mckay, doing scenes with him and Lisa Stanfield who played my parents was really nerve racking at first as these were tough scenes to film. Christian is a BAFTA nominated actor and me walking in as an unknown actor, I really felt the pressure, but they were lovely.

I really admired the way in between scenes Christian would tell jokes and create an upbeat and light hearted environment on set, which made me relax too. He taught me to have fun with it and not take myself too seriously. I learnt lots of tiny gestures from all of the cast which all works to create well rounded characters.

We see Coogan play a cameo role as the teacher, not his usual comedic genre, how was it to work with him, as he is a bit of a comedy legend!

It was unnerving, as we would be filming serious scenes yet he was still funny even though his character is still meant to come down pretty hard on the kids. Its his little mannerisms that made me laugh a lot on set.

One day we improvised a scene, where I storm out of the class room and this one time he decided to follow me, I was meant to keep on walking but decided to turn around and I got close up in his face and said my line and accidentally spat at him whilst saying it, my spit landed on his shoe! His reaction and the look of his disgust on his face made me corpse, a lot! Unfortunately that scene got cut as Elaine thought it was a bit forward of my character to act that way so early on in the story. But I felt like I was in an episode of Alan Partridge!

As well as being a successful actor and working on many projects since Northern Soul, your also a keen writer and director having just filmed your first ever teaser for the ‘No Hopers’ can you tell me a bit about that?

It came about because I like to keep busy in-between jobs, it nice to keep doing things industry related. I think I had quite a unique school experience, growing up I attended 6 schools and struggled with dyslexia, it was always a dream of mine to write a script but I never thought that I’d be capable of it, however I gave it a shot anyway – thats what the ‘No Hopers’ is all about. The first episode focuses on a kids first day at special needs school. I have now completed a teaser scene and we plan to shoot a pilot next year.

Having worked closely with Elaine and being a key part in helping her to bring her vision to life on the big screen, did you adopt any of her directing or writing skills when you came to approach your own project the “No Hopers”?

The good thing about Elaine is you know when your doing it right and you know when your doing it wrong. She wont let you move on until you nail it or “David Fincher it”, you trust her vision.

When going about directing the ‘No Hopers’ – I learnt a lot from Northern Soul, but it was more from the mistakes that were made (in a good way!) therefore I didn’t repeat them when I was directing, however I made a whole load of new mistakes. I definitely did learn from Elaine, she’s very good at dealing with people and thats very important to take on board when directing a cast and crew.

And finally, whats next for you Elliot? More directing, acting or dancing perhaps?

At the moment, theres definitely no dancing in the pipeline! I have a few jobs lined up, which is a long contract but its all under wraps at the minute, sorry! Im hoping to get ‘The No hopers” off the ground too next year. With regards to acting my agent Curtis Brown have been great so far and I’m just waiting to get involved with lots more exciting projects. I do want to direct properly one day when I have the right budget, project and time. But for me acting is number one and everything else comes secondary.

Northern Soul is out in cinemas now, and you can read our review here.