Sunday 16 Mar 2014
Marc Warren describes Blitz club host and Visage frontman Steve Strange as "an innovator" and "a very important person" in the era that Worried About The Boy focuses on.
"The New Romantics that came out of the punk movement, this new wave of people, it was a very small group – and Steve Strange was at the head of that."
Although he was a teen in the Eighties, Marc didn't know much about the man he plays before taking on the role. "I was born in 67, so the Eighties were round about my teenage years. I was very aware of Boy George. The first time I heard of Boy George I actually remember specifically being in the back of my parent's car on a Sunday, hearing him on the charts.
"But I couldn't really be that specific about Steve Strange – I was aware of Visage but Steve himself was kind of vague. Fade To Grey is the only song I know, but what an amazing song, and that kind of captured a generation didn't it?"
Marc, who is best-known on British television screens for his roles in dramas Hustle and The Vice, believes Steve's great skill lay in promotion – and that he was instrumental in 'marketing' the New Romantic movement.
"This is only my personal opinion but I wouldn't describe him as a musical talent – I guess I would say his talent lay in self-promotion. He was a very good club promoter, he kind of packaged this whole era and he created something. You've got to have a lot of self belief to do that."
Steve Strange was the host of the Blitz club in the early Eighties, a role that saw him admit only the most outrageously-dressed weird and wonderful revellers – amongst them a young Boy George and his entourage. Other 'Blitz Kids', as they became known, included Eighties band Spandau Ballet, magazine editor and fashion muse Isabella Blow, milliner Stephen Jones and singer Pete Burns.
George even worked for Strange at the club, and their relationship is depicted in the drama as a competitive one. Marc describes it as: "Very confrontational, one of jealousy. Steve gives George a job in the cloakroom, and is sort of lording it above him really.
"I think they were very jealous of each other – I think George was jealous when Steve got the Ashes To Ashes gig [David Bowie picked Steve Strange out to appear in his video]. Steve could kind of have anybody he wanted, sexually, and flaunted his power in that way. I think he could have had any of the boys in the Blitz club, but he couldn't have George, and I suspect that maybe there was, you know... I played it at the end that he almost fancied George – that there was a little bit of love there for him."
A large part of playing Steve Strange was the dressing-up, and Marc had a variety of elaborate costumes which he describes as "fantastic". He reveals: "Annie [costume-designer] gave me these control pants, for a start, to tuck everything in – it was almost like a corset – these tight control pants."
Talking through some of the looks he wore, he says: "I just had these crazy costumes, one was almost like a Robin Hood look. There was a retro cowboy look. My favourite one was probably these black wingspan leather trousers, with a leather black buckle, and a black buckle boot. And a peaked leather cap, and red and black top, which looked very bizarre. I thought it was a cross between Village People and Max Cady from Cape Fear. It was a good look!"
Getting Steve's voice right was especially challenging given he has a unique way of talking, so along with enjoying the dressing-up, the outfits also really helped Marc to get into his character.
"I was trying to gauge the voice because he has a quite specific way of talking. He's from Wales, but he doesn't sound Welsh – the impression I got was that he always sounded a bit disinterested, a bit bored, sort of above everything, and I just went for that. When I did the first scene I was trying to do the impression, and it didn't really work, so I just basically got on with it and said the lines. To be honest most of the work was done for me by Donald, who did a fantastic job in make up, and the costumes, which were incredible."
Marc has nothing but praise for his younger cast members, for whom the drama marks their first major roles. About the role of George and the transformation that goes with it, Marc says: "It's fantastic for Douglas. I think he's going to have a good career, Douglas, and this is a great thing to launch his career. I mean he'll never have a part like this, and the incredible looks that he's had – and he's such a good looking boy. Freddie Fox too, he's very good as well."
Whilst he embraced the period of the drama and the eccentricities of his character, Marc's experience of the Eighties are very difference to Steve Strange's – and the shoot hasn't made Marc nostalgic for the era.
Remembering the decade Marc says: "I was never really into that kind of club scene and going out and doing all that. I've never really been fashion conscious like that. I would feel too self-conscious – anything that draws attention to yourself I've never been comfortable with."
In stark contrast with Steve Strange and the Blitz Club Kids his club attracted, Marc adds: "I'm very comfortable with that at work, but out of work I just prefer to melt into nothingness."