Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

My Mentor: Stephen Graham

stephengrahamhero1.jpg

The Boardwalk Empire star remember the teacher who opened his eyes to acting

I wasn’t allowed to do drama at school.

Why? I accidentally set fire to the toilets. When I was 18, I went to the Everyman Youth Theatre in Liverpool every Wednesday, and that’s when I started getting into drama. Our teacher while I was there was Jerry Pantomime – he was also our confidante, our friend. A lovely man.

Jerry gave us a voice.

He was a young, gay man who died of Aids in the end, but he wrote plays and was a big influence on a lot of young people. We were mostly kids from council estates and many of us had never done theatre before. In a similar way to my parents, he made us believe we could do whatever we wanted. We thought we were changing the world, but we weren’t – we were just making pieces about society, the rainforest, that kind of thing.

He really opened my eyes to the possibilities of drama.

I fell in love with acting because I realised you can make people think and feel – it isn’t just a source of entertainment. If you’re lucky, like I’ve been later on in my career to work with the likes of Peter Bowker on Occupation and Jimmy McGovern, you’re able to come into people’s living rooms and make them think: about themselves and society.

The play that really made an impact on me was called Easy.

At the end of the summer holidays before I went to university, we put on our own show. Jerry wrote it and I played Joel, the lead character, a boy that contracted HIV from a one-night stand at a party with a young girl. We were showing that it wasn’t just gay people or drug addicts [who contracted the disease] back in the day, like the fear propaganda said. We made people aware it could happen to anybody.

It had a real impact on my parents, too.

My dad’s always been very complimentary, and he’s very proud – I know he is – and he’s never been one to overly go, “My son’s amazing.” But he came over to me at the end [of Easy] and said, “I’m really proud of you – I’ve just seen my son grow up and become a man on stage.” It was a beautiful moment. I was leaving home, and that gave me the confidence to live my life and be me. My parents used to come and watch everything I did, they were supportive from day one.

Sign up to mentor young men in need here

Season 5 of Boardwalk Empire continues Saturdays on Sky Atlantic HD, 9pm

(Image: Rex)

Related

mentor-p.jpg

Join ShortList's Mentor Project

rexfeatures_683273b.jpg

50 Best Movie Mentors

dermot-mentor.jpg

My Mentor: Dermot O'Leary

braff.jpg

My Mentor: Zach Braff

key1.jpg

My Mentor: Tim Key

BWE Ep01 44.jpg

Get the Boardwalk Empire look

Comments

More

A new Amazon Fire stick with Alexa is coming to the UK

You'll never have to leave the sofa again

by Alex Finnis
21 Feb 2017

'This Is Us' praised for honest portrayal of an anxiety attack

It's really spoken to a lot of people

by Alex Finnis
20 Feb 2017

Teaser to Stephen King and J.J Abrams new show 'Castle Rock'

Things are about to get weird

by Emily Badiozzaman
20 Feb 2017

Brilliant new Simpsons couch gag takes aim at South Park

It ranks as one of the best yet

by Joe Ellison
17 Feb 2017

The trailer for Apple's Carpool Karaoke is here and it's epic

Will Smith singing R Kelly in a helicopter? Sign us up

by Emily Badiozzaman
15 Feb 2017

The world's most popular BBC character has been revealed

And the most iconic scenes were also found by BBC Worldwide

by Emily Badiozzaman
15 Feb 2017

Yes, Tom Hardy’s latest bed time story on CBeebies is brilliant

The Hollywood star made a triumphant return on Valentine's Day

by Joe Ellison
15 Feb 2017

Every Tom Hardy grunt in Taboo in one wonderful supercut

It's enough to make Bane sound coherent

by Gary Ogden
14 Feb 2017

FYI Tom Hardy is reading another CBeebies bedtime story tonight

No Valentine's plans? Hardy's here to save the day

by Joe Ellison
14 Feb 2017

John Oliver is running an ad campaign to educate Donald Trump

It's trolling of a good kind

by Gary Ogden
13 Feb 2017