The Street: Joseph Mawle plays Kieran

Joseph Mawle plays Kieran, a bigoted, grumpy head chef. He’s a racist, particularly about the Poles. He blames them for, as he sees it, pouring into this country and stealing jobs from people born in the UK.

When his malingering mate Duffy rescues a Polish girl from a burning building, he insists that Kieran take the credit, so Duffy can carry on claiming invalidity benefit. Kieran is hailed as a hero, and the girl’s hugely grateful mother, Olenka, become close. Gradually Kieran starts to soften in his opinion of foreigners.

But will his burgeoning love for Olenka survive if the truth about his deception ever emerges?

Joseph is a rising star who has given highly-regarded performances in Freefall, Soundproof, Red Riding and Clapham Junction. He also received wide acclaim for his leading role as Jesus in The Passion. He begins by outlining Kieran’s characteristics. Is he is a racist or just very angry?

“It would be easy to see him as simply prejudiced – as others do in the drama – but the writing goes deeper than that, his bigotry has a reason. Kieran’s not a BNP member who walks around with tattoos and flying the English flag.

“He has no family, which brings up all these issues of identity and loss. He has been brought up by his grandfather who is forever slagging off foreigners. These are the attitudes he has grown up with. So we get to understand his limitations and arrested development. In short, why he is like he is.

“But then an incident causes a shake-up with deep tremors, he falls for this Polish woman, and he slowly begins to change.”

The actor reckons that Kieran is an utterly believable character, for which he credits the series creator, Jimmy McGovern.

“Jimmy’s so focused he just concentrates on the central character’s journey for an hour, we never really deviate from that.

“We get to live with that person, so to speak. It’s a chance for us to get to know those characters. There are scenes in this episode of Kieran just working as a chef. I see it as Jimmy writes people first rather than plot.”

Can you identify with these characters?

“We shot in a real street and the stories that came out there were eye opening,” Joseph recalls.

“One woman walked past with blood all over her face and announced, ‘My boyfriend just beat me up’. Another was seemingly dying from drug abuse.

“Meanwhile, yet another woman in the street cancelled a hospital appointment just so she could stay at home and watch her neighbour being evicted.

“You can find real-life drama on any street in this country. We may like to pretend that it’s nothing to do with us or that these people are outside our circle of life, these stories are all around us. We can’t ignore them.”

Joseph concludes that what Jimmy captures above all is the authentic texture of people’s lives.

“His writing is rich, sometimes with a touch of the classics or Greek tragedy about it and set in the suburbs. He’s thoughtful, sensitive and aware of other people. He’s wonderfully humane. He writes not about cardboard cut-outs but about real people. And that’s what makes The Street such an outstanding series.”

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