After ten years away from acting, Jerome Flynn explains to Stephen Milton why he rediscovered a love for it and feels like a kid at Christmas again
Jerome Flynn scratches his chin as he stares past my shoulder. ‘What job have I portrayed on screen that I would like to do in real life,’ he ponders in meticulous thought. Furrowing his brow, there’s a decidedly long pause.
Breaking the silence, I ask if he could have hacked it as a Victorian copper like his character Detective Sergeant Drake in smash BBC series, Ripper Street? ‘No, I couldn’t,’ Jerome smiles with a set of rugged laughter lines, ‘although I think I’d be more attracted to it than working for the police force now because modern law compared to the past, it’s seemed so much more fair. You broke the law, you were punished accordingly.’
There has to be one, I push. Maybe a plucky fusilier like Soldier Soldier? A sword-wielding mercenary a la Games of Thrones’ Bronn? ‘I did play a chicken farmer once in a film I did with James Wilby [A Summer Story]. I was falling in love with Imogen Stubbs, raising chickens on a farm. I felt quite at home doing that.’
Maybe that’s part of his grander plan after splashing out on a Georgian farmhouse he’s currently restoring on the Welsh coast of Pembrokeshire? ‘There’s certainly the space, but I think I’ll leave it one step at a time,’ he smiles.
A familiar face on the small screen since the early 80s, the Bromley-born performer became a household name thanks to a Righteous Brother’s cover and the wily prowess of one Mr Simon Cowell. Performing alongside Robson Green, under the imaginative guise of Robson and Jerome, the pair sold over two million copies of Unchained Melody after performing the classic track on ITV series, Soldier Soldier.
I wonder how the genial actor, who owns a pad in Crouch End, looks back on his days as chart-topper? Recently I interviewed Green, who branded the period, ‘his own personal [Viet]Nam.’ ‘Did he,’ Jerome smirks widely. ‘That’s certainly one way of looking at it. It was a roller coaster ride that left us financially secure so who am I to complain. We had our fun, it was an adventure.’
After a decade away from the small screen, where he focused on business ventures and reportedly spent several years living in a spiritual commune in Belsize Park, Jerome wasn’t sure he ever wanted to return to acting till the double opportunity of Game of Thrones and Ripper Street came along.
‘I was more than done with it, I wasn’t excited anymore. But then the opportunity to play Bronn in Game of Thrones landed in front of me, and that in turn lead to Ripper Street and it somehow revitalised my love for the game.’
In the BBC period drama hit, the star plays Drake, opposite Matthew Macfadyen’s Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, a powerhouse duo who police the streets of Whitechapel, traumatised in the wake of the Jack the Ripper murders.
This chilling atmosphere permits a ‘rawness’, Jerome describes, that appeals to the shows growing audience. ‘It’s what I was speaking about before, when asked if I would, or could, be a Victorian copper and that would appeal to me over a modern policeman. That era speaks to me because the law was dished out as per the crime, fair and simple.
‘It appeals to me and the audience as there was no complicated legal system, allowing criminals to slip through loopholes and cracks. I think we all want to see retribution in its purest form.’
No word yet has been given on another series but it’s looking more than likely. ‘We live in hope,’ he chuckles, ‘and I certainly never count my chickens but I’m definitely revved up for another crack at the whip.’
While Ripper Street shoots primarily in Dublin, a return to acting has seen an increasing frequency of London and his city home, nestled on the outskirts of Crouch End and Harringay, offering a contrast to the country spoils of his Welsh estate.
‘I love coming back to the city. I spent such a long time here so it’s wonderful to be able to reconnect as it were. But the odd thing is, I still really appreciate the green open spaces in North London, which you’d think I would be, well not sick of, but certainly had my fill in Wales.
‘There’s this stunning parkland walk that runs from Finsbury Park all the way up to Alexandra Palace that you can do in maybe 90 minutes. Couple of kilometres, but there’s nothing like it. Getting to the top of the city, staring over the skyline, it’s remarkable.’
While no single individual establishment speaks out for the 50-year-old, seems he appreciates an overall fondness for the North London borough. ‘I wouldn’t really be a pub or restaurant man but there’s something charming about strolling through Crouch End, especially round Christmas time,’ he grins. ‘All twinkly lights and pretty special with a dusting of snow. I’ve always felt very at home in the area.’
Ripper Street Season Two is on BBC one now and the DVD is released in the New Year.