keeping-rosy-maxine-peakeMaxine Peake feels like one of Britain’s best kept secrets – as the immensely talented performer still remains in lower-budget, independent productions, shining in everything she’s in, be it comedy or drama. There is always the danger that as she gets older the roles will start drying up – but she’s been given the chance to show off her credentials in the forthcoming feature Keeping Rosy – and Peake told HeyUGuys on the set of the harrowing thriller, that she believes characters of this ilk are actually more interesting.

“Women and men are far more interesting as they get older,” she said. “All that wisdom and experience is fascinating, and I don’t know why we don’t tap in to that more in Britain. We get trapped in what is quite an American thing, where it all has to be about youth and beauty, which is fine to look at, and I’m not saying they can’t be interesting stories, but sometimes the older somebody is, the higher the stakes are, which drags the story along at a pace and engages people. It’s also nice to have a female protagonist who is of that age. They’re usually very young. ”

In this instance, Peake plays Charlotte, a successful businesswoman who finds her life turned upside down when she accidentally murders her cleaner – in what is a compelling study of one woman’s descent into a naturalistic living hell. Peake was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to take on this heavily nuanced role, as she praises writer Mike Oughton and director Steve Reeves debut endeavour.

“The film just keeps within reality. It’s very human. I found the script really gripping. My character is flawed, she’s quite a tough woman initially. But the fine line that it beautifully treads just ensures that even when extreme things happen, they’re believable. It’s something you can relate to, and I just thought, great, two guys have written a story about a woman in her 40s and put her in the lead.”

Opposite Peake is Blake Harrison, most most commonly renowned for his portrayal of the loveable, dimwitted Neil in The Inbetweeners. However the young actor admits that comedy wasn’t always the path he had envisaged for himself, telling us that back at drama school, it was the more antagonistic roles that he was associated with – a type of role he has revisited in Keeping Rosy.

“When I was at drama school, I mostly played villains,” he told us. “Comedy was always something I loved to do, I love making people laugh and I always thought it was something I was capable of doing, but I definitely, over the last few years, have missed playing those villainous characters that I used to do a lot of.”

Harrison plays Roger – the twisted counterpart to Charlotte, who could potentially hold the key to her future – and he admits that given his comedic background, he was fortunate to be offered a role of this ilk.

“I’ve not done anything like this on TV or film before, it’s a new challenge which is a lot of fun to do,” he claimed. “They took a punt on me. When reading the script, the initial people that pop in your head are the likes of Neil Maskell. So to pick someone like myself, they’ve chosen a very specific way to go with the character, which catches the audience off guard a bit more. You don’t know where this character is going to go, or how far this character will go.”

Director Steve Reeves, however, explained to us why he chose to give this role to an actor otherwise associated with other genres – and what he saw in him that many others hadn’t (yet).

“We see a lot of the usual suspects, the tough, hard-nut East End blokes, but I was watching The Inbetweeners with my son and I thought, he’d be quite good, he’s tall and gangly and he’s got an interesting look,” said Reeves. “So we sent him the script thinking he probably wouldn’t be interested, but he did this amazing tape he sent us from LA and he really threw himself into it, and you can tell he’s a proper serious actor.”

Harrison did admit that this role was something of a challenge for him however, though allowed for him to be more expressive in his craft – in an experience he revelled in. “Neil in The Inbetweeners is so stupid, and after about two or three seconds he’s forgotten everything and moved on, which is one of his loveable characteristics. As an actor, when you’re doing that, you don’t have the opportunity to play anything too emotional, you just shrug it off and move on, and keep that happy-go-lucky attitude,” he continued. “Sometimes it can feel quite limiting as an actor, so when I get roles like this, it is a little more freeing and there’s more of a range of emotions, which is more challenging and a lot of fun to play.”

keeping rosyThat’s not to say he resents his work in The Inbetweeners (which has a sequel feature film out this summer) – admitting that he owes his career to the hit comedy series.

“I have done well, so far, because of that show. When I was auditioning for The Inbetweeners, I was doing an unpaid play in a pub theatre. Every time you were about to do an emotional scene, you’d hear a roar because somebody has just scored a goal in the football showing on the telly. So it wasn’t particularly glamorous. So I am incredibly thankful for The Inbetweeners, and I do think of it so fondly – but the key is, you have to try and hope that you can create a body of other work that can distance you from that. It’s a balancing act. I love the character, I love working with those guys. But you’ve got to make sure you can seen doing other things as well.”

What undoubtedly makes Harrison’s job just that little easier, is by starring alongside somebody as experienced and talented as Peake – who he was quick to praise. “Maxine is fantastic to work with, she’s just brilliant. She has something special about her, a really natural way of performing. She’s one of the few actors that I would like to emulate, in that they play both sides – comedy and drama. She can do both exceptionally well, and it’s something I’d love to emulate,” he finished, “I’ve had a lot of fun doing this, so I hope it can be the start of me doing more of this type of stuff, but you never know.”

When on set, which was shot on location in East London, we also had the pleasure of speaking to Oughton, the writer, who was keen on being present on the shoot throughout, to offer his input into proceedings – something he felt confident to do, given Reeves, the director, had been a close friend and colleague for a number of years.

“We started working together on a fast food commercial 15 years ago,” he said. “The great thing about working with Steve is that we have very similar sensibilities. We work together a lot. We have the same interests, so it’s been great working with him.”

The pair had worked in advertising, and decided to try their hand in feature films – and following an unsuccessful screenplay prior to Keeping Rosy, they decided to remain within their means second time around, and try to create something a little more attainable with a modest sized allowance. Oughton hopes that this could lead on to further projects, and turn writing into a fully fledged career.

“I would love to do it as a job if I ever got the chance to,” he said. “It’s just hugely humbling to see this come together. There are moments when you see three great actors saying my words, and I’m pretty awestruck by that. It was actually better than I ever thought it would be.”

Reeves also explained that the journey up until this point was a stressful one, but, similarly to his writing partner, is hopeful this vocation has more to offer him. “I was sent a few films as a director, Jean-Claude Van Damme ones where you go to Romania to make films for American high school kids, that sort of stuff. I found it really frustrating, so that’s why Mike and I got together to do it ourselves,” he said.

“We wrote our first film seven years ago, and it’s been a painful journey. But what’s lovely about this is there’s no clients to answer to, or someone saying ‘can you change the colour of that wall because it’s the competitors brand colour’ or anything. So it’s brilliant that the decisions are down to me. It’s unique.”

What is also unique, is to have a protagonist that is not only a middle-aged woman, but to cover a theme mostly ignored in cinema, despite being hugely common in real life – that of a woman triumphing in her vocation, and climbing the career ladder, so to speak, for the biological clock to then tick. It’s a premise Reeves hopes will be relatable to many members of the audience.

“A lot of women will emphasise with the lead’s situation,” he said. “They’ve worked really hard and come from quite working class backgrounds, and struggled to do well in a male dominated business, and a class dominated society, and get to a certain level, then to be fucked over when your biological clock is ticking. It’s something a lot of people will emphasise with. Our main character is a victim of that.”

However when asked if he spoke to any women for research purposes to help gage the more intimate, personal feelings of those who have been through a similar predicament, he laughed “No, I was too scared!”

Keeping Rosy is released in cinemas on June 27th. Check back on the site later this week for our review, and feature on Christine Bottomley, one of the film’s stars.