The boys are back in town as movie team searches for the spirit of 1986

When he made This is England, Shane Meadows scoured the country looking for actors, searching for a special something.

He found it when he brought together the cast for the film which was a nostalgic look at the Eighties and his childhood.

Once filming was finished, Meadows clearly felt it would be a waste to not do more with the chemistry he found within the cast – and This is England the TV series was born.

On a sunny Sheffield summer day, the serious business of filming is taking place on an estate on the outskirts of the city. This is England '86 is being shot entirely on location in Steel City.

Joe Gilgun, Woody in the movie and the upcoming Channel 4 series, is talking about his process as an actor. At least, he's trying to.

Someone hangs out of the window of a staircase four floors up a block of flats where filming is taking place and shouts: "Oi, don't forget he was in Emmerdale for four years."

Gilgun refuses to rise to the bait, saying quietly: "Ignore him, he likes to get attention. It's 'cos he's ginger." The boyish face appears at the open window again, correcting his earlier statement.

"No, it were four and half years. Write that down."

The shouting young man, looking older than when we last saw him in This is England, is Grimsby teenager Thomas Turgoose who shot to

international stardom when he was cast in the role of Shaun in Meadows' movie.

"It's like this all the time. We are like a proper gang," says Gilgun, who plays lovable rogue Eli Dingle.

The ribbing between Gilgun and Turgoose – Thommo to everyone – is a feature of the set. Each member of the cast wastes little time in saying that one of the reasons for the success of the movie – and the subsequent adaptation into four, hour-long TV dramas – is because they really did gel. Gilgun says: "It's amazing how much we all get on. We don't really have to act, we're just being ourselves. Much more than on Emmerdale, we're a really compatible group. We're quite a clique like that."

The four episodes that make up This is England '86 have been penned by Meadows and hot young TV writer Jack Thorne. Meadows directed the final two episodes, shot first, while Tom Hooper directs the first two episodes, including the one being filmed today in which Woody is moving into his love-nest with girlfriend Lol.

The Channel Four and Screen Yorkshire funded series, produced by Sheffield's Warp Films, will screen on Channel 4 next month.

The series picks up four years after the end of the movie, which introduced us to the gang of Woody, Shaun, Lol, Smell, Gadget, Meggie, Banjo and Milky. The disaffected skinheads, the underbelly of

Thatcher's Britain, were taken into the hearts of audiences

internationally.

Turgoose, who won the part of Shaun in an audition at a youth club for excluded youngsters in Grimsby only after he had made the director cough up 5 to get him to audition, is delighted to be back.

"Shaun's grown up a lot, he's a lot more streetwise – he still doesn't want to get a job or anything though," says Turgoose, sitting in his trailer – which unsurprisingly resembles a teenager's bedroom – during a break from filming.

"I was surprised at how well the movie did, winning a BAFTA and everything. People thought it was going to just be another British film, but it's turned out to be iconic. Kids are studying it now – it's weird when people come up to you in the street to tell you they've written an essay about your film."

Thanks to the success of the movie across the Atlantic, Turgoose reveals that his name carries weight in America and that he has even had a close call with movies like Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

"Yeah, I got quite close with that one, but I think I was a bit too old in the end. I've met some amazing people, meeting with casting directors, producers and directors and people like that. Hopefully, they remember you and something comes out of it."

Despite this international standing, Turgoose, when he isn't filming, still lives at home with his parents in Grimsby.

Asked what it's like to find himself auditioning for roles in big budget movies, he says: "I'm still just a lad from Grimsby. When I go back home I go around with my hood up and get kicked out of the town centre on a Saturday and get chased by security guards."

While the movie followed Shaun's coming of age as he dealt with the death of his mother and tried to find his place in the world, the TV series is much more of an ensemble piece, allowing viewers to delve deeper into the lives of the extended family who make up the gang at which Woody and Lol stand at the head.

Vicky McClure, who plays Lol, has spent the morning filming the scene in which Woody introduces her to their new home. A guided tour reveals that the flat looks like a bomb has detonated in it. Little wonder that the film set saw Lol at Woody's throat for most of the morning.

"There's a lot going on for Woody and Lol in this one. That's the pad he's bought for the two of us to live in – it's hideous, like a crack den," she says.

"The film was Shaun's story, now it's much more about telling the stories of each of the characters in the gang – everyone has their own stories going on in this. There's a love triangle, we see a lot more of her in a family setting and get to know her a lot more."

She agrees that the chemistry between the cast helps to make filming a fun experience for everyone involved.

"We've been going out together, going to the pubs in town, we look like a proper gang," she says, before remembering the period in which the TV series is set, and adding: "Although a gang with funny haircuts."

The actors also reveal that, during filming they have all been living in the same apartment block just outside the city centre.

"We're a bit like the Waltons – actually, we're nothing like the Waltons, but we do all live together in that same block and we're all shouting 'goodnight' to each other," laughs McClure.

This mentality has also seen this bunch receive some strange looks when they have been out in Sheffield, enjoying themselves at the end of a day's filming.

Gilgun says: "We all stick up for one another. There was a lad laughing at some of the girls' haircuts in the pub the other day. I didn't like it, so I had to have a little chat with him."

Aside from the shared experience of having to sport bad haircuts out and about in the city, another bonding experience came when Gilgun brought his friend Ian on set.

"I asked Shane if I could bring my mate Ian down and he said it was all right. I think he was a bit surprised when I turned up with my parrot the next day," says Gilgun.

"I said 'would it be nice if Woody had a parrot?' and Shane said 'yeah, get him in'."

Unfortunately, Ian flew off one day, leaving Gilgun heartbroken and the whole cast and crew out looking for him.

The good news was that Ian was later found and returned – and despite the trouble caused, kept his part in the TV series.

Gilgun says: "It's just that sort of film set."

n The four part series This is England '86 is on Channel 4 from Tuesday, September 7.

Back to the top of the page