British actress Sarah Solemani is best known for her roles in BBC comedy programmes ‘Him & Her’ and ‘Bad Education’, and this year she appears at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in ‘Hector’ alongside Peter Mullan and Keith Allen. Directed by Jake Gavin, the film provides insight into the UK’s homeless community, and tells the story of Hector (Mullan) who tracks down his family after years on the streets. I have been fortunate enough to discuss the film with Sarah, and this is what she had to say…
Hector is a beautiful film that boasts the established talent of the brilliant Peter Mullan. What was he like on set and to work with in the tender scenes you have together?
‘Thanks Garry! Peter Mullan is an actor’s actor. That is, amongst actors, he is considered the best. Best talent, best showbiz stories, best banter etc. Actors want to work with him because they know they’ll learn from him, and that they’ll get a training of sorts. He didn’t disappoint. On set he was relaxed and gentle, and when we weren’t filming we would be smoking in his room talking about Marxism and global politics – a fascination we both share.’
The thought-provoking film is effective in showing both the kindness and cruelty shown towards the homeless community in Britain. How do you feel about how homeless people are perceived in the UK and have your views changed at all following your role?
‘I don’t think my views have changed because I’ve always been aware of how fragile certain people are and how easy it is to slip through the net. I suppose the film serves as a reminder that the homeless aren’t just addicts trying to make you feel guilty to fund their habits, which sometimes gets caught in our heads. They often have heartbreaking, eye-popping, epic stories behind them, and could even be considered Job-like heroes if you think about what they’ve been through and survived. Perhaps because we physically look down on them, on the pavements or shop doorways there is a sense of them being lower, amongst the dirt and the stench, but what the film does in putting a homeless person as the protagonist is elevate them to a different status which I think is missing from common consciousness.’
When Hector is at his lowest, the introduction of your character Sara is a breath of fresh air to him, and to the film. What was the process like in bringing light to what at that point was a dark part of the film?
‘I didn’t really approach it in terms of light and dark, though I’m glad that is what was perceived. I met people who worked in the social system; support workers, social workers, volunteers etc. and tried to get under their skin a bit. What struck me was the hours a lot of these people work; the pressures, the low pay, the levels of paper work so there was a ‘busyness’ to her that helped me avoid sentimentality. A practicality – she wants to help Hector because that’s her job and there’s a process. Rather than do a Mother Theresa number I wanted her to always be on the move, rushing about from one person to the other so that when she does take a breath for Hector, we realise there is a special bond there.’
I have read that a Bad Education film is in the works. Can you tell us a little about that?
‘I could but I might not live to see another day! Ok, don’t tell anyone but it’s all shot, it’s fantastically funny and it should be out very very soon…’
Finally, I am a huge fan of Him & Her and thought you were excellent in it. Are there any plans to do another series or can we expect to see a big screen outing for Steve & Becky? If there was to be a film version, what would be your dream plot?
‘Thank you! I’d love to do the film. Becky announced her pregnancy in the last ep of the last series so I’d love to see how they’d cope with another little addition to their slobby family!’
‘Hector’ is showing at EIFF15 – my review will be published soon at Fortitude Magazine!