Friday the 9th of December see’s the release of the brilliant and socially impactful The Pass starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene.
The Pass is the story of three very different nights over 10 years in the life of a Premier League Footballer, Jason (Russell Tovey), at the beginning of his career, and on the night before his first big international match he and long-time friend and team-mate Ade (Arinzé Kene) share a hotel room, trying to beat the inevitable pre-match tensions with locker-room banter and teenage high-jinks. Out of nowhere, Jason kisses Ade. The emotional repercussions of this pass and the decisions that follow on and off the pitch have a major impact on every aspect of the public and private lives of both men across the next decade, in a sporting world where image is everything.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Arinzé – who is known for his work both on screen in Eastenders, E4’s Crazyhead, Younger’s and Hollyoaks as well as on stage and honestly one of the most underrated talents – to talk about the film and it’s social importance – and if we’re honest to have a little flirt – We just wish we had more time to talk further about this fascinating film.
The Pass tells the struggles of a closeted homosexual who just so happens to be a Footballer (Russell Tovey), What was it about this story that made you want to be a part of it?
It’s a very important story, It’s not your usual love story, not all of them are generic but this is very, very timely, very current. What drew me to it actually was this opportunity to be part of chipping away at this wall.
Also, the creative’s involved, Russell being one, I knew it was going to be good. Once I read I thought I had to be a part of this. It’s funny but when, in my experience, when you really want something it’s normally because it’s quite meaningful. This is a very meaningful piece, I think everyone has done a great job, and I think I was right about it. In the past when I bump into people who had seen things I had been in, television series or a play or film, normally what we speak about is ‘well done with the acting’ or I think that was a good story’ or ‘I really believed those characters’. With this, I feel like we continually talk about the politics of it. We speak about what these characters are going through, we speak about what it would be like today. Another thing is I believe that we are incredibly close to finding out what happens when a footballer at the top of their game playing in the premiership or a world class footballer/hero is openly gay. I think this is very brave of John (Donnelly – screenwriter) to write this because he is writing about something that is literally on the cusp.
Russell and I, All of us, we have had a responsibility to tell this story right, I’m very, very happy with what we have done. We are still supporting it in every way we can.
How did you approach your research for the role, where you aware of any gay Footballers or had you been involved with football and seen it first hand?
When I was offered the part I called up my friend who was a pro footballer, he fell just short of making a career out of it, his career was cut short but he put me in touch with one of his mates who is still a pro footballer right now, who is straight. I called him and my question to him was “What would it be like to be a gay footballer, in his opinion” and he actually gave me more than I was asking for. He told me there are gay footballers – which I knew already, everybody knows this – he said that all the other footballers know, everybody knows but you just don’t really speak about it. In a way they are OK with it, I know this is just one person’s point of view but he made it out it’s more an issue with the fans, it’s the fans who won’t be comfortable with it, it’s the fans who will make that footballer’s private life more important than their profession, what they love doing.
That’s gutting, I believe there is a lot of truth to that, I believe we are better than that, I’m an optimist and hopeful but I believe if there were to be a gay footballer, at the top of their game who came out there would be a backlash as far as we know that homophobia is still alive. One thing we try and do in this country is pretend that these things don’t exist, part of the problem is us thinking that it isn’t a problem, thinking that we are past it when honestly it still deserves addressing. I do feel there would be a negative response to a gay footballer coming out but I do believe as well, countering that, a massive positive response. There would be a lot of support. I do feel like we are close to that happening in the professional world of football.
The film is split into three parts with the first quarter seeing you and Russell practically naked frolicking around a hotel room, how difficult is it to film those types of scenes?
[Laughs] I’ll tell you what the challenge was, those things are a lot of fun, exciting, we get to play young footballers, quite immature people. The challenge was the undercurrent, that undercurrent that the fact you are wearing a mask. You’re not actually being who you genuinely truly are, deep down you know that. That’s where the art is, being able to play the complexities of those characters. Watching it back it’s kind of bubbling away and comes to a boil later in the first act. You could just get carried away and play just what’s on the surface but we are encouraged to play both and that’s where the story is told.
I have to admit I found it hard to concentrate on the storyline with both your nakedness taking the limelight – was that really necessary just to have you in your underwear?
[Laughs] To have us in our underwear, it’s a choice I guess. I think it’s a good choice because it’s quite visually disarming, it’s quite unapologetic. I’ve played national league basketball and played for England as well, the camera became a fly on the wall. We’ve showered together hundreds of times, so we can’t see the nudity that much anymore at the same time we sort of can. I guess it’s beautiful how it plays on the audience because we don’t make a big deal as in the characters never refer to it at all at any moment.
This is also the part where your characters first share a kiss, how did you approach this? Where there any difficulties surrounding getting this right?
We rehearsed it like we would rehearse any other kissing scene, in the same manner, I have rehearsed with previous love interests for the screen and for the stage, just with consideration asking if that was alright for you and everyone saying that alright and that’s the shot. To be honest it wasn’t any different at all to when it’s not a gay kiss. Our director, Ben A. Williams created a really comfortable atmosphere, so I find the kiss not challenging at all, Russell is a beautiful human being.
What was it like working with Russell?
Russell is very lovely and generous actor in the fact he is always checking in and always making sure you are fine. He plays the lead and it’s sometimes really tough being the lead. Russell would always find time to make sure everything was cool. If he has any suggestions he doesn’t let them fester, he’s just open and that’s a joy.
Russell has also been nominated for the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor and yourself for Best Supporting Actor.
He has, well deserving and we will all be there. Well Russell is filming in New York so I can’t speak for him but I’ll be there and so will Duncan Kenworthy. Talking about supporting it’s just great this film is garnering so much support because we have to talk about this, it’s a very important film, very important subject and I’m just excited that everyone is speaking about it right now.
The Pass hits cinemas December 9th.
Related Article: The Pass Review