Rising star

“I get a kick out of convincing people I’m someone else” – The Gold star Jack Lowden is getting better and better
By Ella Joyce | Film+TV | 15 February 2023

Still, ‘The Gold’ by Neil Forsyth, 2023

In 1983, six men broke into Brink’s-Mat warehouse near Heathrow with the intention of stealing the equivalent of £3.2 million in foreign currency but were faced with an almighty three tonnes of gold bullion worth £26 million. At the time the robbery was the biggest in the world, now going down as one of the largest heists in Britain’s criminal history it has been subject to a myriad of screen dramatisations, with Neil Forsyth’s new six-part BBC series The Gold the latest contribution to the conversation. Inspired by these astonishing true events, Forsyth’s narrative maps the crime from start to finish as the cat-and-mouse chase between criminals and detectives unfolds across South London.

Jack Lowden is at the centre of it all as Kenneth Noye, the fence (the person brought in to move on stolen goods) recruited to melt down bullions and mix them with copper coins to dilute purity in order to make them less traceable to police, before selling the gold through jewellers and depositing large amounts of cash in banks around Bristol. Starring alongside a stellar cast of British actors including Hugh Bonneville, Dominic Cooper and Charlotte Spencer, Lowden’s wheeler-dealer character is every inch the charismatic lawbreaker, seamlessly moving between social ranks, socialising with white and blue-collar criminals against the backdrop of 80s Britain. Fuelled by greed, ambition and blind belief in the idea anyone can be whoever they want to be, in a decade synonymous with individualism and wealth, Noye’s delusion immortalised in his closing line – “I’ll be remembered for what I did.”

In the conversation below, Lowden speaks to us ahead of the series’ release, discussing his character’s infamous smirk, shapeshifting accent abilities, and why he simply wants to keep getting better and better.

Ella Joyce: The Gold brings to life the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery, what was it like preparing the story for screen? Did you get to delve through case files or watch interviews as research?
Jack Lowden: This one was strange because we didn’t do any of that, normally I would do but because it’s based on a true story we always have to be careful and fiddle around the idea it’s ‘inspired by’. This didn’t happen too long ago so whenever you deal with something which is still present in a few people’s minds, you’ve got to stick by the notion of inspired by. I tried to take everything I could from the script itself because I didn’t know about the robbery, I didn’t know about this at all until I read the script. The characters and scenes Neil [Forsyth] had written and the character I play in particular, I just thought it was fantastic. They’re so beautifully written, and funny – I badly wanted to do it. There was very little around looking into the actual case, which in a strange way meant we could be as sensitive as possible and really hook ourselves onto the inspiration rather than trying to portray anyone as realistically as possible.

EJ: You play Kenneth Noye, he’s a very self-assured and charismatic guy with a constant smirk on his face, how would you sum him up?
JL: I think that’s quite a good start actually because there has to be a certain element of danger with him along with the two or three others who are in the gold chain. What I like about The Gold is there is this threat running through it all, but you don’t necessarily see it. There is a paranoia folding down on everybody because of the sheer amount of gold taken and the importance of the case to the justice system and the police – there was paranoia everywhere. There is a lot of front so to speak, and with my character in particular, Neil was always very specific about him having a lot of front. He’s a bit of a chameleon and you see that when he’s interacting with the police, but also the white-collar criminals, it was important for the audience to see how many different strands of society were involved in this. You had to have someone who was able to move around it all, I’m glad you picked up on that – and on the smirk in particular. [both laugh]

“…the 80s in our story is all about saying, “Fuck who you are, who could you be?”

EJ: You’re quite a chameleon yourself when it comes to accents. We rarely hear your own Scottish accent in your roles, is changing it up something that comes naturally to you? 
JL: It’s interesting because I’m in Ireland now, I was literally just in a petrol station and I find myself half doing the accent – it’s weird. A lot of stuff made in the UK is down south, there just isn’t as much made about people who speak like me. [laughs] On one hand it’s quite cool because I’m still a kid in my head and to me acting is just about trying to be someone you’re not, I’m still quite childlike about it. I get a kick out of convincing people I’m someone else and seeing what I can get away with. When this character was offered to me I was like, “I would not have cast me as this,” so I really loved the challenge of it. The fact he’s from South London just made it even more exciting, but I would absolutely love to work in my own accent as well because I think you develop a lot quicker as an actor. The thing I love about my job is the ability to keep getting better. I really enjoy thinking about the first few things I was in and how my work is changing.

EJ: The court scenes in The Gold are really interesting because they portray how the justice system treats people in such varying ways. The social context of the 80s can be felt throughout, what was it like to tap into that from a modern perspective and translate it to an audience? 
JL: The whole theme of greed and self-improvement is nothing new, humans have done that since day one and I think it’s quite interesting when you put it in the current context where self-care is more the mantra of today. Our generation is very focused on self-care and self-promotion, so it is really transferable because the 80s were about how suddenly anybody could become rich. The dream sold to everybody was that anybody could be anything all of a sudden. I think it’s strange when you think about how now everybody loves talking about trying to be yourself, the culture at the moment is all about being comfortable with who you are, what you think, what you look like, where you’re from, what you wear. Everything about self-advancement from the 80s has sort of fallen out of fashion because it’s all about accepting who you are, whereas the 80s in our story is all about saying, “Fuck who you are, who could you be?” It’s quite interesting to see how people respond to that these days. The mad fashion is sort of in a renaissance now as well.

EJ: Speaking of fashion, your hair and clothes are very 80s. I imagine that helps when getting into character. 
JL: It always helps, no matter what part you’re in. For me, it’s one of the biggest things and it’s the thing that makes it fun because it makes it feel like playing dress up when you’re a kid.

Still, ‘The Gold’ by Neil Forsyth, 2023

“I don’t really care what parts I’m playing in ten years time I just think as long as I’m better than I am now that’s cool.”

EJ: Your career has been so varied but you’ve done quite a few period pieces and played a variety of real-life people, I was wondering if that’s something you’re actively drawn to or if it’s just the way things fall sometimes?
JL: It’s genuinely the way things fall, I don’t if I just have a period face… I don’t even know what that means but it’s amazing how few times I actually get to act in jeans. [laughs] Whenever I put a pair of jeans on to act its a novelty and to not have to think, “How would they speak in those days?” It’s quite nice to play yourself but I have no idea why it seems to be the way things have fallen. It goes back to the fact we are obsessed with period pieces in the UK, there is such a huge history and a tonne of stories from days gone by.

EJ: The show itself also brings together a brilliant cast of British actors, what was the atmosphere like on set? 
JL: It was interesting because I was actually on my own quite a lot, but I did have particular fun with the character Jeannie Savage who Dorothy [Atkinson] plays. She’s a wonderful actor, I loved her in the BBC show Mum she did with Lesley Manville – she was great fun. The world Neil created subverts the serious things these people are doing so perfectly with the ridiculousness of it all, also the fact nobody really knew what they were doing. I think the relationship her character has with mine is a perfect representation of that, it’s serious but it’s ridiculous. You’re sort of poking fun at it and people recognise what humans are capable of when pushed by greed, but also the massive mistakes and idiocy they’re capable of as well. Scenes with her were a complete joy, but as you said, the cast was just hugely brilliant across the board. I didn’t get to film anything with Charlotte Spencer, but I’ve just started watching bits of it and she’s just so bloody good, she’s fantastic. It’s great to see a lot of Scotts in it as well, one of the most famous South London stories has been told by a Dundonian which does make me laugh. [laughs]

EJ: Finally, as an actor working today what kind of stories or roles excite you? Is there something you’re always on the lookout for in a script?
JL: I’ve been quite lucky as I’ve done a lot of different things and played a lot of different characters, which is always the aim. I will get offered things and think, “I have kind of played that part before,” but I’m lucky I still get things come along which make me go, “Christ I’ve never done that!” I really do love the idea of getting better at what I do. I think because this job is so much about you as a person, the older you get, the better you get. You develop as a person because your job is representing people to an audience, you’re going to change and evolve, I get excited by the idea that in ten years time, if I’m lucky to still be doing this, then I’ll be a totally different actor. I don’t really care what parts I’m playing in ten years time, as long as I’m better than I am now that’s cool.

The Gold is streaming in full on BBC iPlayer now. 


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