Aneurin Barnard (‘We’ll Take Manhattan’) interview

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Coming to BBC Four later this month, We’ll Take Manhattan stars Aneurin Barnard as iconic photographer David Bailey.

Written and directed by John McKay (Life On Mars, Robin Hood), the new one-off drama explores the explosive love affair between Bailey and 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton.

Focusing on a wild and unpredictable 1962 Vogue photo shoot in New York, the drama brings to life the story of two young people falling in love, misbehaving, and inadvertently defining the style of the Sixties along the way.

We’ll Take Manhattan airs at 9pm on Thursday 26th January on BBC Four.

What is the drama about?

“The drama is based on the love affair between photographer, David Bailey, and model, Jean Shrimpton. At the beginning of the story you’re introduced to them individually, but then get to see them meet for the first time and witness their relationship develop.

“Bailey gets a job in New York and convinces Vogue to use Jean as a model, who is an unknown at the time. The Vogue executives are against using her, but Bailey convinces them otherwise as they’re interested in the way he shoots.

“It’s in New York, a very romantic and beautiful city, where Bailey and Jean fall in love with each other. Overall, the programme is very romantic, charming, funny and old fashioned.”

What made you choose the part?

“Bailey was a phenomenal role to take on, mainly because he’s still alive. It was challenging and hard work but exciting at the same time.”

Did you know much about Bailey before you got the role?

“I knew a lot about Bailey’s later work, such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s black and white photographs. I love the Beatles, so that was iconic for me. I was also aware of his photos of Mick Jagger, the Kray twins and Michael Caine.”

What research did you do for the role?

“My research was mostly about where Bailey came from in East Ham. I also researched several of his key influences, such as Stravinsky and the Picasso painting ‘Jacqueline’. I’ve fallen in love with a lot of his work.

“As well as researching Bailey’s history, I looked into the technical aspects of using the cameras (Pentax and Roliflex), lenses, lights and films that he used in his shoots and how he would frame his pictures.

“I did lots of work on Bailey’s voice because he has such a distinctive accent. I wanted to make sure my voice was as close to his accent as possible, which I’ve hopefully achieved.”

What was it like filming in New York?

“It was such an overwhelming experience, a real privilege to be filming there and one of the highlights of my life. I was having a beer on top of the hotel one night and I remember looking over the city thinking “if my Grandfathers could see me now…!””

How did you cope with the weather?

“It was absolutely terrible. I love warm weather, but only when I can wear a t shirt! We filmed in 90 degrees heat, wearing layers and layers of clothing pretending to be cold.”

What was it like working with your co-star, Karen Gillan?

“Karen is a diamond to look at and be around; she’s such a lovely person. We got on really well and became good friends. She’s a great actress and it would be nice to work together again sometime in the future.”

You were photographed by David Bailey for Vogue Magazine. What was that like?

“It was incredible, you couldn’t ask for anything more. I had so much fun. We got on really well and it was a big relief to hear him speaking the way I’d been speaking for the past six weeks. He said to me “at least they’ve got a good looking actor to play me”. I think that was a compliment!”

What other projects can we expect to see you in?

“The other films I’ve done are completely different to We’ll Take Manhattan. I recently shot a movie which was set in the summer of 1976, directed by Marc Evans and produced by Working Title.

“It was set in Swansea, which was nice for me because I’m a Welshman, and my co star was Minnie Driver. It focuses on society within a school environment and follows the relationship between characters in the school. We wore some great costumes, such as flares and platforms!

“I’ve also filmed a movie in Glasgow called ‘Citadel’, directed by Ciaran Foye. It’s a thriller and the character I play is a single father suffering from agoraphobia. It was lots of hard work and emotionally draining, but in a positive way.”

> Buy Jean Shrimpton’s autobiography on Amazon.

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