Whitechapel Interviews: Craig Parkinson

Title: Whitechapel II
Interview: Craig Parkinson
Airdate AU: Unknown
Original airdate UK: premieres Monday 11 October 2010
Comments: can be made here >>
Network AU: Unknown
Network UK: ITV

Next interview: Leonard (Nipper) Read Detective Superintendent (retired) >>

Interview: Craig Parkinson is Jimmy and Johnny Kray: Playing two characters or, in the case of Whitechapel II twins in the same drama must be a tall order for any actor however experienced, but one would be forgiven for imagining that playing two psychotic killers must take it’s toll. Actor Craig Parkinson threw himself into preparing for the roles of Jimmy and Johnny Kray with a diet and exercise regime that saw him lose weight and learn to box. With a boxing scene that involved spending all day in the East End’s Repton Boxing Club, trying to knock the daylights out of fellow actor Rupert Penry Jones, training began in earnest for Craig weeks beforehand.

“I began a ‘no carbs’ diet and took up boxing lessons and I feel absolutely brilliant, fitter than I’ve ever felt,” he remarks. “I’d really like to try and keep this up afterwards because it really sharpens you up.”

Craig plays Jimmy and Johnny Kray, whose nasty crimes appear to have gone unnoticed by the police.  When a brutally murdered body turns up by the Thames, it is Chandler’s team who are tasked with solving it.  They haven’t had a big case since the Ripper copycat but they are about to embark on a battle with the most notorious killers in London.

“I play Jimmy and Johnny Kray who to me are a couple of misunderstood East End businessmen,” hints Craig.  “To others they’re villains, gangsters and fame hungry monsters.”

As Chandler Miles and Buchan delve deeper into the murder case they begin to uncover a lot more than they bargained for.  Theirs is not an open and shut case.  Similarities and coincidences begin to emerge that bring a shockingly violent discovery to light.  The legend that Ronnie Kray has heirs to the Kray Empire appears to be true.  Not only that but history seems to be repeating itself with police cover-ups and collusion that puts fear and tension at the heart of Chandler’s investigation.

“I think Jimmy and Johnny are caught in this 1960s bubble,” explains Craig.  “They are power crazed individuals who have become minor celebrities through their unwavering belief in the legend.  If you look at the Krays at that time they were seen at the coolest clubs, being photographed by David Bailey, hanging out with aristocracy, models and actors and making lots of money through organised crime and that is the life that Jimmy and Johnny aspire to.”

Despite not having met Ronnie and Reggie there are plenty of people surrounding the twins who remember the power of the Krays and the fear their presence could instil. 

“The twins have had this sort of kid glove treatment all their lives.  Influences like the way they dress, the shirts they wear and the way they wear their hair show they have always tried to be like their father, so it is no wonder the more violent characteristics of their dad have crept in as well.”

Playing identical twins with two different yet extreme personalities brings its challenges.

“I did think it was a fantastic opportunity but I just didn’t know how it could be done,” he explains.  “Then when I read the scripts and discovered how fantastic the story was that was half the battle over.  The rest was about bringing them to life.”

“I first approached it as one different character in two moods,” he recalls.  “But the more work I did and the more we shot, it became very clear that they were two very separate beasts, albeit with one goal and one head.  Jimmy wants the fame, the power, the glory and the bullying whereas Johnny approaches everything in a more sophisticated and calm way.” 

“When you’re dealing with a story that has elements of truth whoever was there at the time, will have two very different tales of the same evening,” explains Craig.  “If you go back to a Sex Pistols gig, apparently there were thousands of people there but in reality there were only three hundred.  So it is with the Krays, you have to take from all that is reported and written what is going to be useful to you as an actor and Jimmy and Johnny are not Reggie and Ronnie however much they idolise them.”

For Craig one of the key attractions of the series was that all the main cop characters were flawed which he found refreshing.  Together with a story that is both challenging and tense and an opportunity to play two vicious characters in one was not to be turned down.

“I thought the script was brilliant and for an actor that is the most important factor when thinking about jobs.  It was really exciting.”

Like their namesakes Jimmy and Johnny have their business interests set firmly in the East End. 

“All their business plans are formed firmly in the heart of the East End, and it doesn’t matter who gets in their way.  Jimmy and Johnny will either pay them off or take them out of the picture. It doesn’t matter if it’s a posh copper or an East End copper, a rival villain or a petty thief, these are just people that are going to get in their way and that won’t do.”

Next interview: Leonard (Nipper) Read Detective Superintendent (retired) >>

Source: ITV

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