Mark Stanley

We chat to Yorkshire actor, Mark Stanley about his latest role in Dark River

by Northern Life

Mark Stanley

Mark Stanley worked for three weeks on a farm in complete silence, shearing sheep and castrating lambs to prepare for his latest role as Joe Bell in Dark River

Most actors’ careers start out with minor roles but in Mark Stanley’s case he finished his studies at Guildhall and was launched straight onto our screens as Grenn in Game of Thrones before even having an agent. He is also known for his roles in Broken and Dickensian and stars alongside Eva Green in upcoming title Euphoria.

Dark River, the latest offering from Yorkshire writer and film director Clio Barnard explores the darker side of the Dales. Filmed around Skipton and Malham, it tells the story of Alice (Ruth Wilson) who returns to her home village following the death of her father to claim the tenancy to the family farm. We chat to Yorkshire actor, Mark about his latest venture…

Can you tell me about how you got into acting/what inspired you?

I moved from my original high school to Prince Henry’s Grammar in Otley. I went there because it was a school that had a load of finance pumped into it from the Leeds Rugby Union Association; leading up to that I’d been screened for a feed group from Leeds Rugby to England Rugby. The drama teacher there was so personable and he asked me if I was thinking about applying to drama school. So, I thought if I’m going to try it. I got accepted to about five or six drama schools; one the London Academy and the Guildhall. I’d heard so much about Guildhall so I went there.

You played Grenn in Game of Thrones; what was it like being a part of such a successful show?

“It was amazing. Walking on to an HBO show where there are 150 people in the crew alone in a castle that they’d built in a quarry in Belfast; you’re flying over to play a medieval warrior who’s a bit stupid; I absolutely loved it. Everyone was so nervous and humble; we were all like the new kids who had been accepted into a team; a big sports team if you like. I think we all acted out of pure fear that day, just abject fear of anybody pointing at us and screaming that we shouldn’t be actors.

You’ve worked with fellow northerner Sean Bean three times now, what is it like working with him?

“The first time I was running late to set on Game of Thrones as my trousers had ripped down the crotch and I was trying to run back thinking that I’d get in trouble. I ran around a corner and smashed into Sean Bean and he was just wearing full armour and I think he said something like “watch where you’re f***ing going.” (laughing).

Can you tell me a bit about your character Joe Bell in Dark River?

Joe Bell’s been left in isolation for a good while; his father has recently passed away and he’s spent months looking after his father to his dying breath. Alice, his sister, returns after been missing for 15 years and the film is about a broken familial relationship between Joe and Alice. She’s haunted by a secretive and strange past with her father and you pick that up along the way. Joe bore witness to it all and bears the guilt of what happened to her. He lives on this totally dilapidated farm and he’s going to wreck and ruin along with the land; he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he’s drinking himself stupid to numb out the voices that come calling for him.

The film deals with a very dark subject matter of physical, psychological and sexual abuse within the family home. How did you tackle this subject within your role?

We spoke to a psychologist who explained to us trauma, guilt and helplessness. He guided me to where Joe would be in his mind. I think Ruth and Clio struggled with it. There’s something about the vulnerability of being a young woman living in a man’s world and that farming world in the early 80s it would have been very closed off.