Colin Salmon star of BBC Three series Some Girls talks to The Hill Resident about his past life in north London, his political edge and being the next James Bond
Long before he was synonymous with BBC Three series Some Girls and became part of the Notting Hill pack, Colin Salmon helped make up the fabric of the north London community.
It’s a lifetime away now, but the Bethnal Green-born, Peterborough-raised actor came to London in the 1980s with dreams of making it to the bigtime, and, as he recalls “ending up living in the biggest squat in Europe, in Willesden Green. I don’t want to romanticise it, as it was quite a time in my life, but I saw how a community can work. I became a drama therapy worker, I helped adolescent boys. I got good at it, it was great to help these kids in need.”
Nowadays, Salmon has left the squat behind and he’s set down roots in west London. He wouldn’t leave the Notting Hill home he shares with wife Fiona Hawthorne and their four children “for anything, we love it here”. When Carnival comes round he “loves getting involved, it is part of who I am” and he retains that political streak. “I like being able to bring whatever to make sure these young people get across the bridge, whether that’s work or charity. It’s serious for me, I’m quite a political animal.”
And he is connecting with a youth audience in his work via Some Girls, the BBC Three sitcom based on four south London teenagers, which begins its third series in November. Known predominantly for his macho, burly roles, Salmon enjoys playing the polar-opposite in Rob, the sensitive father character in the show.
“Normally I play neutered men with a gun, which can make me a bit typecast,” he explains. “Directors always want to stick a suit on me! But it’s not like with Rob, he is more like me, as a dad and someone who’s naturally a bit cheeky, I recognise him.”
Some Girls has been the exception to the rule for Salmon over recent years, and not just because it allows him to display a lighter, more humorous touch. The 51-year-old has spent a large chunk of time over in America rather than at home, where he has enjoyed critical and commercial success on shows like 24: Live Another Day and Arrow. Circumstances, he says, have previously forced him across the pond.
“This is becoming the way it is for British actors, it can be hard to get work over here and I think it has made everyone get better. I know for a fact that I have had to up my game.”
Of course, having played Charles Robison in the Pierce Brosnan Bond trilogy, Salmon doesn’t struggle for work anywhere. He likens a major part in a Bond film as the acting equivalent of “getting your first England cap” – although not many Premier League footballers find out they are about to be called up when they are doing pantomime in London.
“I used to do a lot of panto in Notting Hill, which is a big tradition. Lots of local actors and people getting involved, and I really enjoy it. and that’s where what I got the call that I was going to be in Bond – dressed as in a turban and playing Sultan Pepper with Suggs from Madness!” He calls Robinson “one of his most rewarding roles”, but not just for the character itself.
“I am in that club now: the Bond club. Once you’re in, you’re in for life and it is a gift that keeps on giving. Not many actors have played that role and it’s given me so much recognition and an international profile. The choices I have had because of it, it has enhanced my career in so many aspects, and continues to do so,” he says
But will it ultimately land him the top job? Speculation refuses to go away that Salmon will one day follow Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore et al and succeed Daniel Craig in becoming 007. The significance of a black actor reprising the role of James Bond would be lost on no-one, let alone Salmon, and for that cause, Salmon has had no bigger cheerleader than Brosnan himself.
“I know he has said that,” Salmon says, “and I think the reason for that is he has seen me play James Bond before. I have played Bond loads of times at the screen tests, as it was my job to audition girls and play the part of Bond. He has seen this, which is why he keeps putting my name forward.” So does he fancy it? Salmon is remaining tight-lipped. “It’s an interesting time for Bond at the minute. Who knows what will happen next?”
Some Girls returns to BBC3 on November 17th
Written by Shaun Curran