Carving out a name for himself in the world of acting, former Muay Thai champ Warren Brown talks dedication, surreal moments and his go-to spot in Bexley for a brew
Lead photo by Tom Dunkley
Drinking coffee at Village East in Bermondsey, Warren Brown looks decidedly at ease. He’s glad to be back in London, having barely set foot on British soil this year thanks to a nearly non-stop filming schedule that has taken him to Budapest, Croatia and beyond.
‘It’s been a pretty intense 12 months,’ he grins wryly, before adding that he thinks he’s ‘getting away with it’.
Though he grew up in Warrington, sandwiched between Liverpool and Manchester, he now calls Bexley borough home and is more than partial to an aromatic Murg Palpali at Maharajah – the ‘best Indian restaurant around’.
While living up north he practised Muay Thai professionally before arriving in the acting world ‘a little by accident’. Since then he’s dipped into theatre – playing Kent in Neil LaBute’s Reasons to be Happy – but is best known for his stretch as the loyal, ever-ambitious DS Ripley in Luther, the psychological BBC detective drama in which he starred alongside Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson.
Establishing yourself as a professional fighter is a triumph in itself, but during Brown’s decade-long career as a Thai boxer he secured two world champion titles – a feat he speaks about in a decidedly relaxed, self-effacing sort of way. He retired from the ring after after making the decision to pursue acting full-time, but quickly drew parallels between his two crafts.
‘The level of commitment, dedication and drive required is very much the same,’ he explains. ‘And when working on a play, the rush you get when coming off stage is similar to the feeling you have following a fight.’
There’s a fine line between taking on the traits of the character and seeing where you can weave in a bit of yourself into the whole thing,
Speaking of what draws him to a particular role, Brown stresses the importance of a well-written script and likes to be in a position where he can bring something unique to the table.
‘There’s a fine line between taking on the traits of the character and seeing where you can weave in a bit of yourself into the whole thing,’ he says.
His time as an actor now exceeds the years he spent doing Muay Thai, and his CV spans spy-thriller series to light-hearted comedy dramas. He captivated viewers as revenge-seeking Sav in Good Cop, scandalised as the poisonous Andy Holt in Hollyoaks, and most recently, played Tom Bailey in Liar – ITV’s six-part emotional thriller penned by Harry and Jack Williams.
The dark mini-series is centred on two conflicting accounts of one evening’s events, and lays bare the ugly consequences of deceit.
‘It was a fantastic script,’ he says with true gusto. ‘I worked with Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd, who are both brilliant, and it was great to film back home in London, around Kent and Deal.’
His next big moment, set to land on Sky 1 later this autumn, is a reboot of Emmy-nominated military action series Strike Back, set in the Middle East and also starring Alin Sumarwata, Daniel MacPherson and Roxanne McKee.
I was getting up, going to the gym, doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and then learning to manoeuvre and fire live weapons. Every day was absolute carnage
While gearing up to play Sergeant Daniel ‘Mac’ McAllister, Brown trained with the Jordanian forces for a month at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, an experience he describes as ‘so far removed from anything I’ve ever done before’.
He notes that his role in the high-octane drama is the most physically demanding part he’s played, having done as many of his own stunts as the film team would allow.
‘I was getting up, going to the gym, doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and then learning to manoeuvre and fire live weapons,’ he says. ‘Every day was absolute carnage.’
Much of the savage on-screen combat in Strike Back mirrors the day-to-day real life events in war zones across Middle-Eastern territories. On the topic of the soldiers dedicating their lives to defeat militant extremists, Brown speaks with complete admiration.
‘I feel as though we have a duty to be as authentic as possible, so as to show our respect to the men and women working in military jobs in the real world,’ he says.
He describes his locale as a ‘proper little village’ and after a hectic few months on the road his first port of call is Yum Yums Cafe ‘for a brew’. In fact, he spent an hour there before making his way to this interview.
Next on the cards is ‘six months worth of unpacking’ along with a trip back up north to see his baby niece who was born shortly before he flew out to Jordan to film for Strike Back. And with that he’s on his way, but not before thanking the waiting staff and offering to pay the bill.
Strike Back airs on Tuesday 31 October at 9pm exclusively on Sky One and NOW TV