Anyone who’s seen AMC’s Preacher, the funny and frequently bizarre supernatural comic-to-TV adaptation, can’t help but have been bewitched by Joe Gilgun’s Cassidy: the fast-talkin’, fast-drinking, fast-fightin' Irish vampire that aids Jesse Custer in his extra-earthly endeavours. The question on many people’s lips: who is Joe Gilgun, exactly?
The Lancashire actor has, in fact, been acting professionally for over two decades, first being cast in long-running TV soap Coronation Street (aged 10), and since picking up well-received, award-nominated turns in the likes of This Is England and Misfits.
For an actor working in Hollywood, he remains stringently down-to-earth and emphatically Northern: beans on toast every night, aspirations to one day buy a bungalow, still the occasional bit of good-natured abuse in his home town of Chorley (“A woman accused me of stealing in Boots the other day!"). He chatted to Empire about the many memorable roles of his career – in a characteristically honest, occasionally shambolic and frequently sweary manner.
As Cassidy, an Irish vampire
I fucking loved it, man. I really, really loved Preacher. I can't wait to go back. It's one of the best times I've had filming. I think for the first series, we've had to keep it stationary, so people can invest in the characters. We needed to cater for those who haven't read the comics. We've all been finding our feet in this initial series, man.
There’s so much fake blood. Me house at home is like a fuckin' crime scene.
There’s so much fake blood. There's flavours of blood. We've found my brand of blood, I'm happy to say. I like the minty shit, with a bit of a eucalyptus vibe. There's tons of it, dude. It's everywhere: it's all over me trailer. Me house at home is like a fuckin' crime scene. Me bedsheets. Everything in my bathroom had blood on it. I found blood in the bit between me balls and me arsehole. Try and get fake blood out of that! I challenge anyone.
The second series? In the comics, which I think they're trying to stick to, the trio [Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy] sort of fuck off on this quest for God. It's kind of an adventure where all three of them try to find out who they are and what it's all about. Which is the eternal question for everybody, I guess. Fuck, it sounds corny, doesn't it?
This Is England (2006-2015)
As Woody, an East Midlands skinhead/mod
I was a plasterer when the job came up. I remember all the auditions – I was covered in plaster dust. This Is England was a huge deal, though. Just to be able to say I did that with Shane is remarkable. I mean, he's a mate of mine. I fuckin' love being with him, and I think the way he gets into your psyche – it’s produced some of the best work I think I've ever done.
There's a WhatsApp group for the cast. We're very close. I love that fucking gang with all me heart. It's almost like real life when we film it. We know each other so well now. Warts and all. It's like an actual family – and an actual family isn't happy all the time. That's genuine, real love – where you're actually like, “fuck off, mate!”
Ripper Street (2013)
If they make me stick to the script, we're all fucked.
As Carmichael, a Victorian gambler
I loved Ripper Street. That was only a tiny little role. It was a good one – playing a fuckin' lunatic. I think he might have even existed, Carmichael. I loved that job. They really trusted me with that. I think it seems to be when I'm trusted and someone just lets me have free rein, "do what you want, man" – that kind of confidence that directors instil in me always gets my best stuff out. If they make me stick to the script, we're all fucked.
As Rudy Wade, a young offender with superpowers
I like to be loose with the material. Part of the reason is I can't read too well. So I have to kind of compensate for that on the day. I think it's more natural to throw in your own moments. The jobs that stand out for me are the ones where the directors are brave enough to go, "I trust you to do your fucking job". Even on Misfits – which I loved – I remember there was a quiet meeting with me and a couple of the others where they said, "you're kind of doing your own thing. Stop doing that". I think I just carried on as I was before!
As Hydell, a psychotic prisoner on a prison in space
I loved that whole experience. That was insane, working in Serbia. It was a really silly film, but, fuck, that was a big deal to me back then. Again, it was like, “do what you want”. On the day, they were like, “do you want to make him Scottish?” I was like, “yeah, let's make him Scottish”. A Scottish space-rapist!
Coronation Street / Emmerdale (1994–1997; 2006-2010)
As Jamie Armstrong / Eli Dingle
I was a bad kid. I was a really naughty kid. I couldn't read or write. And that was me punishment – going to acting school. “You want to act the prat? You want to be a clown all the time? Fuck off to this acting class and see how you like that!” Turned out I liked it, and I was good at it. I didn't know anything about acting – I was just a twat – but one day, this guy, [acting tutor] David Johnson put me on the books of an acting agency, and spotted me the money for it. My mum said, “don’t let these people down – they really believe in you.”
I didn't know anything about acting – I was just a twat.
I remember going to the audition for Corrie. I wasn't an actor – what they're often looking for in these rooms is a character, not what's on the page. They want to see what you are going to bring. So somehow, I got the job on Corrie. For the first time in a while, someone really believed in me. And for the first time in a while, I wasn't a twat.
Preacher's Season 1 finale airs July 31 on AMC in the US and the following day on Amazon Prime in the UK.