Brassic may be named after a slang term for being skint, but it’s a show that’s rich in originality and inventiveness. Co-created by lead actor Joe Gilgun (This Is England, Misfits) and writer Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless, Netflix’s The Stranger), it follows a motley crew of mates living in Hawley – a fictional northern town based on Chorley, where Gilgun grew up – and their rarely legal schemes to remain financially solvent.
Season one, which premiered on Sky One and NOW TV last August, found an infectious sweet spot between warm regional authenticity (one character had a pet pigeon named Nigel) and caper-based plots that made some very unexpected detours. “For season two, we’ve tried to turn it up a little and make the jobs the guys are doing a bit more ambitious,” says Brocklehurst. Because each episode has a 45-minute runtime, Brassic can afford to take tangents that shorter, more traditional British comedy series can’t.
This time around, Michelle Keegan’s character Erin – whom the Our Girl actress describes as “a mother hen figure who still likes to have fun” – plays a more integral role in the gang’s crazy capers. Ahead of the new season, we asked Gilgun, Keegan and Brocklehurst to explain why Brassic season 2 is such an essential binge-watch.
It’s firmly rooted in truth
According to Brocklehurst, writing Brassic involves “a lot of back and forth” between him, fellow writer Alex Ganley and Gilgun, whose real-life experiences inspire even the show’s wildest storylines. Gilgun says his character, likeable scammer and schemer Vinnie, is a “mirror image” of himself right down to the medication he takes for bipolar disorder.
“My dad was an alcoholic, and that’s in the show,” Gilgun continues. “So’s my mental health [issues] and weird unhinged things I’ve done over the years like pissing in bottles. It’s a sacrifice, man, and sometimes it does drain me.”
Still, Gilgun says that baring all for Brassic has also been a “very liberating” experience. “Part of me wondered, if I show everything, will people still like me? And they did, thank fuck. But really, I just want to be as honest as possible and if people think I’m a cunt at the end of it, then at least I’ll know I told the truth.”
Absolutely anything can happen
Brassic is real and relatable, but never mundane – episode one of the new season features an actual lion. “When I see the episode’s title on my script, I never have any idea what’s going to happen,” Keegan says. “Like, I’ll be reading an episode called ‘The Circus’, and halfway through there’s suddenly a lion in there. You just don’t expect things like this to happen in a TV series set in the north of England.”
You’ll want to be part of the crew
Like any ensemble comedy-drama worth its salt, Brassic centers on a gang of characters you’ll kind of want to join. “Even though some of the stuff we deal with is daft and disgusting, at its heart this is a show about friendship and family and wanting something slightly better for yourself,’ says Brocklehurst. “No matter how bizarre or filthy or crazy it gets, these characters love each other and I think that really shines through.”
It features characters you don’t usually see on TV
“Because our show is rural and northern, I feel like it’s serving a huge overlooked audience,” Gilgun says. “Everything I see is about cities, and every time I watch a show with working-class characters, they’re all fucking miserable and made to look like scumbags. That’s not cool – and it’s not accurate either.”
Keegan points out that Brassic doesn’t just spotlight underrepresented communities – it also portrays them in a positive light. “Too often working-class areas are shown as dark and gloomy with people fighting all the time because they want more,” she says. “Whereas in Brassic, people are generally happy with what they’ve got even if they’re working hard to make a better life for themselves. And they’re all mates who look out for each other.”
It stars The Wire’s Dominic West as you’ve never seen him before
West has a scene-stealing supporting role as Dr. Chris Cox, Vinnie’s distracted, randy and not very professional psychotherapist. In the new season, we even see him impersonating a dog. Was Gilgun nervous about asking West to get down on all fours? “No, no, no – Dom’s amazing, I’ve never met anyone quite like him.”
Actually, Gilgun credits West with helping to make Brassic happen. “When we first met on the set of [British comedy film] Pride, we hit it off immediately” he recalls. “I’d tell him all these stories from my life and he’d say: ‘These are fucking hilarious, man, have you ever thought of writing them down?’”
After Gilgun replied drolly, “I’m dyslexic – I can barely write down my name,” West introduced him to TV producer David Livingstone, and the idea for Brassic really began to flower. “It took one person to believe in me and make me realise I’m not thick just because I’m dyslexic,” Gilgun adds, “and that person was Dom.”
All episodes of ‘Brassic’ season two are available on Sky One with NOW TV from May 7