From the outside looking in, the world of TV is filled with glitz and oozes glamour. Being able to do what you love and be rewarded is extremely appealing. As I watch the male cast of The Brothers on set of the Flavour photo shoot, I wonder about their road to fame. ‘I’ve had to kick down many doors,’ Harvey reveals. ‘Sometimes I have to come in the side door, sometimes I go in the back. It all depends on what door you’re closing,’ he jokes.In the flesh, real-life Harvey is a little different from his on-screen version.
The cheeky boyish face is a little older than when he first burst onto our screens, in So Solid Crew back in 2001; but his larger-than-life personality is still intact. Although Harvey wasn’t part of the original line-up for The Brothers (he was the final addition, joining in 2007) the camaraderie between fellow actors Chucky Venn and Jason Barrett is one that’s really easy going – it has solidified in banter and a strong work ethic.
‘The hardest thing about acting is that it’s a closed club, so it can be very hard to get your foot in,’ Jason adds. A former preacher turned cage fighter, his route into acting is more unusual than most. Born in south London to God-fearing parents, his interest in acting as a young child was put aside for a more stable vocation.
Cage fighting at Wembley
‘I studied Theology and World Religion at university, then took on ministerial studies and was ordained in 1998. I’ve always been interested in martial arts so got into Thai Boxing; I ended up living in Thailand for a while and fighting professionally. When I came back to the UK, cage fighting was all the rage, so I joined an organisation and started fighting at Wembley
‘From there I was cast to play a small part in an independent film and that’s when I got the buzz for acting again.’ Having come full circle, Jason embraced his original career path with easily as much dedication and training as he had done previously. ‘I started going to the Identity Drama School – which is the first black British drama school, based in the Arcola Theatre. I went there to brush up on my skills; since then I’ve appeared in EastEnders and a few independent films.’
Hearing about Jason’s call to acting, I ask Chucky if his journey shared any similarities. ‘I wanted to be a stuntman,’ he explains. I was a fan of The Six Million Dollar Man and The A-Team,’ he tells me. ‘I would always act out scenes, but I didn’t harbour any ambitions to be an actor at that time, I was more into athletics.’
Chucky’s calling would come several years later, at the age of eighteen. ‘A friend and I were playing about with a video camera and we concocted this scene. At that point in my life I wasn’t sure what I was going to pursue career-wise; but doing that was like a eureka moment. That same year I went and studied performing arts; I was so driven and then it was time to venture into the world. ‘
For the next three years Chucky would throw himself into any form of performing arts: low budget theatre productions, commercials, music videos and modelling. ‘Then came the call for Dream Team, which I think was a defining moment,’ he explains. After staying in Dream Team for three years (as a character who was originally written for only two episodes), he went on to play Tremaine Gidigbi in Footballers’ Wives, acting alongside screen queen Joan Collins, and most recently with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Fast forward a few years and all three actors find themselves together at last in Angie Le Mar’s comedy-drama, The Brothers – a story about three close friends, Michael (Harvey), Richard (Chucky) and Kenny (Jason) whose deep friendships are tested through life, love and laughter.
Originally written as a play for radio, The Brothers success has enabled it to move into theatre (there was a successful run at the Hackney Empire) and now television – airing exclusively on MTV Base next month.
Harvey joined the cast at a time when he was not the nation’s favourite because of his much publicized affair with Javine. It would have been easy for him to shy away and become a distant memory in showbiz.
‘I was going through one of the toughest times of my life, with my business being out there and everyone having an opinion on it. But I don’t let people stop my work; before my daughter was born I would have said that was simply down to self-belief and persistence.’ And the opinions of the rest of the cast? ‘They were nothing but supportive, we were like a family. We were better than The Cosbys,’ Harvey laughs.
But unlike The Cosbys, the world of UK television is still reluctant to consistently feature black programming and indeed an all-black cast, on primetime television. ‘It’s about ratings, basically the amount of people you can get watching a particular programme – this is business at the end of the day,’ Jason says candidly. ‘I think also the publicity drive is not as strong; unfortunately we have to work twice as hard, using every medium possible to let people know about it and to get the ratings. Even with The Brothers; we have to be out there because that is the only way we’re going to get the support. On another note though, The Brothers is groundbreaking because of the process it has been through getting to the screen. It’s been an amazing journey because it’s about one woman [Angie] and her dream.’
Keeping the faith
Paralleled with the generally slow response from major television stations, in showcasing black programming and talent, are those moments when there is no work.
‘That’s the part some people aren’t ready for; when you’ve shown your heart and soul for an audition and later your agent says it didn’t work out – that’s a killer. If you haven’t got the mental aptitude to go back to the drawing board, you’re in the wrong business. Knowing I have to keep the faith I got myself into drama teaching, to keep me busy,’ Chucky reveals.
So how does one ensure they survive the industry? ‘If you feel depressed with the industry that’s not a big enough reason to stop,’ Harvey advises. It’s a subject he is particularly passionate about. ‘Write your own shows and be persistent; I did this with The Young Gods of Comedy so it can be done. The worst people can say is “No!”, but you just bounce back. I’m a follower of the old saying “There’s no such word as can’t.” Don’t think this was easy, this did not come to me on a silver platter; but you have to stay positive.’
With Harvey hard at work on his second instalment of The Young Gods of Comedy, Chucky in the midst of his theatre directional debut entitled Crossroads and Jason steadily putting together his debut film A Heart Divided, it is clear that the final curtain call for the journey of these three brothers, is a long time coming.
The Brothers, begins airing on MTV Base from March 24.
To see the Brother’s exclusive Flavour Cover shoot gallery click here
Words by Rachelle Hull, photography by Tlsphoto.co.uk, make-up by Lea James, Styling by Gemma Swan.
To get The Brother look check out the following designers:
jacket Saviour, jeans Soone, tshirt Joystick Junkies.
Jacket Hugo boss, knitwear Luke, belt Soone
Leather jacket Luke, tshirt pepe london
Cardigan and tshirt Hugo boss.
Suit and knitwear Feraud.
Own clothes and Feraud tie
Full list of THE BROTHERS show dates;
Ep 1 and 2-22.30pm
The Brothers Ep 1 – 2230
The Brothers Ep 2 – 2230
Tuesday 31st March:
The Brothers Ep 3 – 2230
The Brothers Ep 4 – 2230
Wednesday 1st April:
The Brothers Ep 3 – 2200
The Brothers Ep 4 – 2200
Thursday 2nd April:
The Brothers Ep 3 – 2200
The Brothers Ep 4 – 2200
Monday 6th April:
The Brothers Ep 1 – 2300
The Brothers Ep 2 – 2330
The Brothers Ep 3 – 0000
The Brothers Ep 4 – 0030