Interview: Lorne MacFadyen on playing Bobby Moore

Skye-raised actor Lorne MacFadyen tells Janet Christie about playing Bobby Moore and reveals whether blonds do have more fun

Lorne MacFadyen, who graduated from the Conservatoire last year, takes the lead in STV's Tina and Bobby in January. Picture: Debra Hurford Brown

“We had a lot of fun, driving vintage cars and dressing in a different costume for nearly every scene. Lots of times I’d walk out of the trailer dressed in flares and a big-collared ‘70s shirt and think ‘Is this actually my job today?’ Yeah, it was a great laugh. We went to Majorca for the honeymoon and got to hang out lying on the beach one day and that was amazing, like nothing I’d done before.”

MacFadyen is referring to his previous screen and stage outings, which include the stunning but often chilly Shetland, and Grantchester, the 1950s crime drama set in Cambridge.

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“Yes, Tina and Bobby is a bit different. It has a sunny, warm vintage look to it. It’s bright and colourful, optimistic, like the 1960s and 1970s look in photographs. They’ve done a great job with it, it’s looking good.”

Lorne MacFadyen and Michelle Keegan film 'Tina and Bobby' on location in Manchester. Photo by MCPIX/REX/Shutterstock (5850062b)

MacFadyen sounds like he’s still pinching himself at the trajectory his career is taking after graduation from the Conservatoire, the former RSAMD in Glasgow, only last year.

“Yeah, I only graduated from drama school a year ago and Grantchester was my first job. I filmed Shetland in my summer holiday when I was a student, so I’m still quite new to it all. And working in London, it’s a very different experience, even just living in London.”

Hailing from Uig in Skye, the 26-year-old now faces a very different commute from the 45-minute journey to school on the bus through the mountains, squeezing onto the packed Tube instead.

“It’s a very different life down here compared to what I’m used to,” he says, “a different pace and headspace. It takes a few days to adjust whenever I go up or down. Whenever I get off the train in Glasgow I think ‘why is everyone going so slowly?’ because I’ve still got my London head on. Then when I get to Skye, it’s like going back in time! No, it’s lovely, and it’s very important to get that space, the quiet and the calm of the scenery. I’m lucky to have somewhere like that to go to. In London, I enjoy the parks a lot, for their quiet and calm.”

Lorne MacFadyen and Michelle Keegan film 'Tina and Bobby' on location in Manchester. Photo by MCPIX/REX/Shutterstock (5850062b)

MacFadyen will be back in Skye for the Christmas holidays and sitting down to watch the Grantchester Christmas special with his mum and dad at home.

“I try to get back a few times a year and Christmas is one of those times. When I was a student I worked there in the holidays at the Talisker distillery, doing the tours, which was a good sociable job, speaking to people about whisky.

“My mum’s a nurse and my dad’s a mechanic, so the acting has come out of the blue really, but they’re really excited about what I’m doing. It’s all new territory, but I definitely get my work ethic from them – they’re very hard workers.”

All the more reason for the MacFadyens to kick back over the holiday, glasses of Talisker in hand, to enjoy watching Tina and Bobby when it airs in the first week of January. The epic love story follows the Moores from their first meeting at the Ilford Palais dance hall to their divorce, just short of their silver wedding and covers the drama both on and off the pitch. Tina Dean, an ordinary 15-year-old Essex girl falls in love with an ordinary 17-year-old boy who also happens to have a talent for football, and is about to make his first team appearance for West Ham. The pair marry in 1962 and as Bobby’s career takes off, the golden couple enter a new glamorous world with Tina becoming the first WAG, happy to be a stay at home mum to their two children.

But away from the cameras and football, Moore faces a battle against testicular cancer, when he is diagnosed in 1965, something he hides from his team-mates and the world and it is Tina who stands by him as he fights his way back to fitness. When England wins the World Cup in the summer of 1966 and Moore holds the trophy aloft, he becomes a national hero and his legendary status is secured. But the story doesn’t end there, and as Moore’s career as a footballer ends and subsequent business ventures fail, their marriage struggles to survive. When Moore has an affair, it is over, with the former player marrying his second wife Stephanie Parlane in 1991 before his death from bowel cancer two years later at 51.

Filmed mainly in Manchester by ITV Studios drama team, Tina and Bobby was written by Lauren Klee (EastEnders, Waterloo Road, Holby City) and also stars Patsy Kensit (Holby City and Emmerdale) as Tina’s mother Betty and David Bamber (Midsomer Murders) as Alf Ramsey.

“This was the first time I played a real person and I really had to do my research as he’s such a well-known figure,” says MacFadyen, “He was well-known and loved by many, so there was that added responsibility there. There’s a lot of information on the internet, factual football knowledge and for his family life, we had Tina Moore’s book to find out the personal things he was going through in between games abroad and the World Cup.”

MacFadyen also watched TV interviews with Moore to capture his mannerisms. “He was very polite and an old school gentleman, so everything was very clipped and very mannered,” he explains. “He did a lot for the East End of London’s image, showing that he was a respectable hard working man who could mix at all levels of society. But he was very reserved and didn’t express much emotion. Like a lot of footballers, he preferred to let the football do the talking.”

Although MacFadyen played football at school, he is relieved that the show is as much about life off the pitch as on, although he was still required to hit the gym as part of his preparation.

“I definitely had to brush up to play the little bit of football that is in it. Lucky for me there’s not too much. I’m sure if I told some of my team-mates from school that I was going to be playing one of arguably the best footballers of all time, they would laugh. I’m quite good at tackling, but in terms of tricks, not the best so it’s just as well I wasn’t playing someone like Lionel Messi and didn’t need to show off. Fortunately the football was more old school, just get in there and do the work,” he says.

While football is integral to the Moores’ story, Tina and Bobby is about the couple’s relationship and if you don’t know your 4-5-1 from your five a day, you needn’t worry.

“It’s the story of two people’s lives together, two very normal people that are thrust into fame. I think that’s a very interesting story. And it’s a very human drama, dealing with things that everyone goes through, a hard-hitting relationship drama at its core that just happens to be set in the world of football. I think that’s why everyone took to Bobby, because he was just an everyman who achieved these great things. He was referred to as Sir Bobby Moore, but he was never knighted. It was a term given by the people,” says MacFadyen.

“They were on a real rollercoaster and a lot of the relationship is very happy and passionate. They needed each other, and supported each other. They also brought out each other’s cheeky side, so it’s fun.”

We’ll never know what Bobby Moore would have thought of the show, but Tina Moore visited the set and gave it her blessing.

MacFadyen says,“I think initially before filming when she heard my Scottish accent she was a little bit unnerved, but when she visited the set and heard me doing the voice she seemed to approve. She kept pointing at my dimples and saying ‘it’s just like him’.”

MacFadyen finds that accents come naturally to him, which is just as well as he is required to use them in “nine jobs out of ten”.

“I do one in Grantchester and also in The Level, set in the Brighton underworld, I do a southern English one. I play an ex-army driver who works for a drug trafficker,” he says. The six part ITV drama aired this autumn and co-starred Philip Glenister.

“It’s modern day too, which is a change for me as I seem to have slotted myself into the 1950s and 1960s at the moment.”

Not that MacFadyen’s complaining. His young detective constable works a mean raincoat and smart collar and tie alongside James Norton, Robson Green and Morven Christie, and flannels in his London theatre debut in Peter Shaffer’s Five Finger Exercise. MacFadyen’s performance in the family drama about repressed homosexuality and desire saw the young actor winning rave reviews, with the Evening Standard saying “remember the name Lorne MacFadyen”.

“Everyone likes dressing up don’t they? I like doing period roles because you forget how things were, even 50, 60 years ago, in terms of what you could get away with. In Grantchester the amount of homophobia and sexism that’s thrown about the police station, it took me a while to get used to. It’s interesting, reminding yourself of these social norms and how things change over time.”

Which takes us neatly back to Tina and Bobby and Moore’s struggle with testicular cancer in a world where no-one would talk about such things.

“The stigma was quite heavy back then. There was a real sense of pride that men wouldn’t want to talk about that kind of illness. It was taboo. And that creates emotional problems in relationships with others if you’re withholding information. It was interesting playing that sort of illness at that time. Nowadays it’s so different. There’s a lot of information out there to help people, telling us to get checked, check yourself.”

As for the future, MacFadyen sees himself staying in London for the moment as things are working out there and he’s hoping the scripts will keep coming in after Tina and Bobby.

“I’d like to do a big part in a film, feature films. And I still love to do theatre. It’s a different challenge, different skill. There aren’t any particular roles I want to play, it’s more an instinctive thing if something has heart or provokes a response in me from reading the script, that’s what I go for.

“At the moment I’m working on the third series of Grantchester, another six episodes that will be out in the spring, so I’ll be on TV a lot next year.”

Grantchester fans will note that MacFadyen’s hair has returned to its normal dark blond after his Bobby Moore trademark white blond curls barnet.

“Yes, it’s back to my natural colour. It’s not naturally that blond. It was quite a shock. I had to dye it and my eyebrows too.”

Did he get more attention with his bleached highlights?

“More attention? I’m not sure about that, but I certainly had more fun.”

And did Michelle Keegan, who is used to the glare of the paparazzi flashbulb thanks to her days in one of the nation’s best loved soaps and her reality show husband The Only Way is Essex’s Mark Wright, give him any tips on how to deal with it all?

“No, not really. It was certainly all new having the paparazzi there when we were on set, but all she said was ‘just be yourself and you’ll be fine’. So I try not to overthink it too much. I think that’s a good way to be.”

The Granchester Christmas special is on Christmas Eve, STV, 9pm, Tina and Bobby starts on STV in the first week of January