Ricky Tomlinson has long been a familiar face on British television so now he has the luxury of picking and choosing those roles which appeal to him as well as the chance to promote young talent.
One of those hand-picked projects is Him Upstairs, which gets its Manchester debut this weekend as part of the Manchester International Film Festival.
While the film is making its first trip down the East Lancs Road from Ricky’s native Liverpool, it’s already been on quite a journey.
In 2013 the screenplay won Best Unproduced Screenplay at the British Independent Film Festival and in February last year it was finally brought to life at the nearby Lime Studios in Liverpool.
Veteran actor Ricky, who has lived nearly all his life in the city said the Liverpool setting and filming brought back childhood memories of the way things were.
And, perhaps predictably, Northern filmmaking and creativity is something Ricky feels strongly about.
He said: “There’s a big difference [between the North and the South], I find films made in the North of England are more realistic and my favourite roles have been when I’ve worked in the North of England.”
Ricky is probably best known for his role as Jim Royle in The Royle Family and his activism, both political and charitable, including a £1million donation to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in 2010.
For the 75-year-old, Him Upstairs was a chance to support new talent, something he believes all established actors should do.
That new talent was young filmmaker Zoe Guildford who produced Him Upstairs and you may know from Lemon La Vida Loca where she played Keith Lemon’s agent.
Zoe approached Ricky to take on the role of Frank opposite Gwen Taylor’s (Heartbeat, Coronation Street) Margaret.
Kieron Richardson – better known as Ste Hay in Hollyoaks and Benidorm star Michelle Butterly make up the rest of the cast.
Ricky said: “My role was secondary to the lead, Gwen, I really enjoyed making the short and working with Gwen.”
Him Upstairs invites you into the world of Liverpool fortune-teller Margaret (nd her husband Frank as they live somewhere between Her Next Door and Him Upstairs.
According to Ricky ‘there is no difference’ in the making of a short compared to his more well-known TV work.
He said: “They are produced and directed in the same way and I put the same amount of effort into a short as I would any project.
“I get approached often to take part in shorts.I have recently completed a part in a short called The Hound and the Rabbit made by students at the Liverpool Media Academy.”
The film was director Joseph McLean’s first project, a character-driven piece set in one location to explore how ‘everything can happen within a small location’.
The 21-year-old wanted the audience to really have to pay attention.
Joseph who has known Ricky for nearly three years, through working at Ricky’s Liverpool cabaret bar The Green Room, said: “The actors had to suit the characters. I had to make sure the cast fit what I needed.
“With Ricky, I felt he really suited the bar owner.”
Him Upstairs will be shown at the Manchester International Film Festival on Saturday July 11 during the first British shorts session at 6.15pm.
More information and tickets to the Manchester International Film Festival 2015 are available form their website.
Image courtesy of holidayandcruise via YouTube, with thanks.