When one finds their life’s passion it’s easy to see, a person simply comes alive when they’re doing what they are destined to do, the tricky part for many is figuring out how to turn that passion into a career and take decisive action to make it happen. Anyone who’s had the chance to watch UK actor Darren Higham perform would be hard pressed to think that Higham is driven by anything other than passion. His dedication and love for his craft oozes from his heart, magically bringing to life each and every character he portrays.
After honing his skills in the theatre starring in a plethora of productions at some of England’s most prestigious venues including the Redditch Palace Theatre, the Capitol Theatre in Manchester, and the Bolton Little Theatre in Bolton, Higham went on to land his first on screen role a little over a decade ago in the BAFTA and Royal Television Society Award winning drama “Clocking Off” created by Primetime Emmy Award winner Paul Abbott (“Shameless,” “State of Play”).
A high-profile production for any actor’s first television role, Higham lit up the screen as an aggravating police officer in the “Clocking Off” episode “KT’s Story” with ease. His believability as a police officer landed him a critical role as Police Constable in the BBC’s Edgar Allen Poe Award winning crime drama “Dalziel and Pascoe” the very same year.
Since then, Higham has gone on to amass an impressive repertoire of work that include playing critical roles in Daniel Percival’s (“Walking the Dead,” “Strike Back”) BAFTA Award winning film “Dirty War,” Brett Foraker’s comedy film “Buying Porn” and the 2010 western “Desperados.”
While Higham has proven his capacity to play everything from intense and layered roles in heavy hitting dramas to quirky characters in countless comedies, he admits that there’s a special breed of comedy that excites him the most.
“I’m comfortable in pretty much everything but I guess if I really had to choose one, I’d say comedy, more comedy drama than slapstick comedy though!”
While Higham has proven his knack for taking on comedic roles in multiple productions over the years, the one that he has become best known for is from his recurring roles on the “The Armando Iannucci Shows” created by Oscar nominee Armando Iannucci. A popular sketch comedy series, “The Armando Iannucci Shows” proved to the world that Higham is one actor whose improv skills have the power to tickle anyone’s funny bone.
To find out more about UK actor Darren Higham’s work and his upcoming roles, make sure to check out our interview below!
Hey Darren thanks for joining us! Can you tell us where are you from, and when and how you into acting?
DH: I’m from Wigan, which is a town in the northwest of England. I absolutely loved western films when I was a kid, they were an escape. I used to watch them with my Granddad. I was from a working class Northern family though and acting just wasn’t what people did. I did lots of different jobs after I left school and trained as a chef too. Then I spent a year in Hong Kong doing a few different things but I had the chance to do a few bits of work in the Hong Kong film industry, they liked my look! And once I’d had that taste, there was no going back. When I got back to the UK, I was offered a place at college and then a place at Manchester Metropolitan University where I completed my acting degree. This was a fantastic opportunity. Manchester Met is one of the best acting schools in the UK and has a brilliant reputation for theatre work.
You recently wrapped production on the upcoming film “The Quiet House,” can you tell us a little bit about the film and the character you play?
DH: It’s a futuristic film set in a world where pets are pretty much banned as they are thought to spread disease. The state looks to control this ban by way of daily scans on buildings. A drug has been developed that, when injected into the pet, means it can’t be picked up by the scanners and inevitably, a black market has developed around this. The film is pretty dark and mysterious. It has lots of underlying themes running through it such as state control, individual choice, quality of life etc. My character is pretty much a recluse, he lives alone with his cat. On the face of it, he is an upright citizen, employed in a government job, obeying all the rules – but he’s not really like that at all. His initial focus is on keeping his cat safe but then he finds himself in a much darker situation, there’s a bit of a twist to the story that I don’t think people will expect.
How is this character different from those you’ve played in the past?
DH: He’s a bit darker in the sense that you never really know where you are with him. I’ve played tough guys before but they’ve tended to be bad in a more obvious way. This guy is really chilling, you don’t really know where his loyalties lie.
You also just shot the films “Somnus” and “Modern Life is Rubbish,” can you tell us about those?
DH: “Somnus” blends sci-fi with horror. It’s about a cargo ship that is on its final mission working the monotonous Earth-Mars route. The ship malfunctions and the crew has to make a change of course to Somnus, a remote asteroid colony. It soon becomes clear to the crew though that Somnus has a dark past, which could affect all of mankind. It’s a really intriguing story and cleverly mixes sci-fi with horror. I play a medical droid who effectively is the wise old man of the ship, he’s a robot, sort of in the vein of Siri I guess. I haven’t really done any sci-fi before so this was memorable in that sense. Also, the way the story works means I didn’t have to have very much interaction with the other characters whilst filming which was also a novelty for me.
“Modern Life is Rubbish” is about a couple going through a break-up, which is played out against a backdrop of the songs that defined their relationship. It’s a really touching story, one that lots of people will be able to identify with. It’s a romantic comedy and very British! It was a lot of fun to film. I play a character called Solomon who is a friend of the guy going through the break-up. I play guitar in a band which at one point looked like they might be destined for fame but have ended up playing pub gigs. My band serves as a bit of a warning to the main guy as to what his future could look like if he carries on the same route as he is, so whilst he’s funny, he’s also a bit sad. This was a great project to work on, everyone got on really well and it was a tight crew.
Can you tell us about some of the other film projects you’ve worked on over the course of your career?
DH: I worked on a film called “Desperado.” I played the lead character who was called ‘Jr’, a wannabe cowboy living in a small terraced house in the north of England. The story revolved around this character, it was quite a simple storyline really but all of the other characters were linked to Jr, so his dad, his next door neighbour, his dad’s mate etc. I found the character pretty easy to play as his backstory was really quite similar to my own life, I really identified with his position, being in one place, feeling that you’re slightly trapped almost, but pining to be somewhere else! This was actually one of the most enjoyable shoots I’ve been on, it was a really tight knit cast and crew and we had a lot of fun.
I worked on another film called “Dirty War” which was centered around the aftermath of a bomb exploding in Liverpool Street station, one of the busiest stations in London. I played a fireman. He was important to the story as a large part of the devastation and human impact was seen through his eyes, so the audience was able to really feel what it was like through him. I found this role quite hard as it was such a difficult story – in London we had experienced IRA bombings before but this was being filmed in a post September 11th era so you felt a sense of responsibility to get it right, and to portray as best as you could the sheer horror of such a situation.
How about television projects?
DH: I’ve worked on a fair few TV programs, but the one that really stands out for me is working on the “Armando Iannucci Show,” which was a series of comedy sketches. It was written and directed by Armando and it was a privilege to work with him. I’d long been an admirer. There was a whole ensemble cast working on the shows and I appeared in a fair few of them, I built up a bit of a rapport with Armando, we have a similar sense of humour. This was a really fun project to work on, the cast was brilliant and there was a lot of improv which I love to do.
I worked on a TV programme called “Clocking Off,” which was a really popular show from a few years ago. It was an ongoing drama with recurring story lines and I played a policeman who pops up when one of the other characters gets into a spot of trouble when discovered drinking and driving. It was a serious drama, there wasn’t a lot of humour but it was one of my first TV appearances so I absolutely loved the opportunity, I got to work with some great people and the guy who wrote it (Paul Abbott) is just brilliant.
I also worked on a hugely popular show called “Dalziel and Pascoe.” Funnily enough, I also played a policeman in that too. My character is meant to be acting as security for a judge whose life has been threatened but he lets the judge talk him into letting him take some time out alone, and the judge is subsequently found murdered. This was an interesting role as whilst I was playing a policeman, I was also under suspicion of having played a part in the judge’s death so it was a bit of a dual character. This role gave me the chance to work with an actor called Warren Clark (who had appeared in numerous projects, including the film ‘Clockwork Orange’) who I really admired. He has since passed away so I feel pretty honoured to have had that chance.
You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?
DH: I love for each role I do to be different from the last, it keeps me on my toes and means I’m constantly having to adapt. This ensures I never get complacent. Acting is a craft and you have to work at it all the time to ensure you’re at your best. Ultimately though, for me, the story is key. Whilst it’s a privilege to work with well-known people, I’m not really concerned as to whether the director/producer/other actors etc are big names – as long as the story grabs me, that is the hook for me.
Do you feel that you get cast to play a certain type of character more than others?
DH: Because of the way I naturally look, and my physique, I do tend to find that I get cast either in the lawman/peace maker role, so things like policemen, military men, firemen or, on the other end of the spectrum, in the hardman role, so gangsters, ‘tough guys’ and the like! I don’t mind really – it gives me an opportunity to surprise people when they see what else I can do!
Out of everything you’ve worked on over the course of your career, what project has been your absolute favorite?
DH: I would probably say “Desperados.” This was by no means the biggest project I’ve worked on but it’s my favourite primarily because this was the first film I wrote, directed and starred in myself. I went through the whole filming process from start to finish – from formulating the idea, writing the script, getting finance in place, getting the cast and crew together, filming it, post production, getting it out to the market, going to film festivals and doing Q&A sessions etc. I learnt so much and I am so proud of the finished film. It received a lot of critical and popular praise and it did really well on the film festival circuit, it was shortlisted for both the Salford Film Festival and The End of the Pier International Film Festival and was showcased in the film corner at the Cannes Film Festival.
What has been your most challenging role?
DH: Probably Jr in “Desperados,” because of the fact that not only was I acting, I was also directing the film, my first. It was without a doubt challenging and stressful – you want to give the performance your all and you want to focus on the acting but, at the same time, you also have to be thinking about the direction, where the cameras are, the other actors etc. I found that it was best to let the acting just come naturally, I’d written the script so I knew my character inside out. It worked for me.
What separates you from other actors? What do you feel your strongest qualities are?
DH: I honestly think I have a natural talent for acting, I find it easy to fall into character. I love film and I love people watching, I find it easy to imagine myself in different positions so I think I can identify with characters quite instinctively. I also trained at one of the best acting universities in the UK, I am classically trained and I cut my acting teeth on numerous theatre productions so I am comfortable in my abilities as an actor and I know I can adapt my skills to suit any particular project. On a more general level, I’m also focused, determined, resilient and can laugh at myself– the latter two are both particularly good for an actor!
What projects do you have coming up?
DH: I have a lead in an upcoming film called “Hector & Myself” which I am very excited about. I am also working on another film of my own, called “One Hit Wonder” which I hope to start filming next year. I also have a couple of other projects in the pipeline but I can’t really say anything about those at the moment. It’s a pretty busy time for me which is great.
What do you hope to achieve in your career as an actor?
DH: Really my main goal is to continue having the opportunity to play interesting roles in a wide variety of projects. Acting is a profession where you never stop learning, it’s a continual process and I love that about it. It is often hard, but it is never boring.
Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?
DH: I love the creativity and that every day is different. Acting can have its ups and downs, it makes you dig deep but at the end of the day, you know you’ve given something that people are going to enjoy watching and it’s a great feeling. I also love the fact that researching different roles provides an opportunity to learn more about all sorts of different issues and topics, you learn a lot that way too. It’s not just a job where you go through the same old motions each and every day.