Ahead of his documentary, we talk to Ross Kemp about JuJu, Valium, and Tiffany Mitchell.
Ross, thanks for your time.
Don’t be silly. Thanks for your time.
Tell me about Ross Kemp Behind Bars – Inside Barlinnie.
Barlinnie is one of the most iconic prisons in the United Kingdom. It’s the main prison for Glasgow. Some people say it’s the most frightening square mile of the United Kingdom. The film doesn’t just look at what it’s like to be in prison in the United Kingdom; it’s about asking bigger questions.
For instance, the impact of drugs on society, which is mirrored and actually magnified inside prison. NPS [new psychoactive substances] are now being sprayed onto letters and being sent into prison, where you cut them up into postage stamps and put them in your rollie. But you don’t know what you’re getting: you could get five squirts; you could get half a squirt. Fentanyl’s an American drug – they think it’s the drug that Prince had taken. It’s a surgical painkiller but you can absorb it through your skin. Prison officers have to be very careful about what they’re touching when they’re searching people. Also, there is a prison within a prison. There always is. So there’s a prison that’s operated by the prison staff, but there’s also a prison that’s operated by the prisoners. And the one you don’t want to fall foul of is that one.
Tell me about the smuggling of Valium.
Basically, Valium can be liquefied. You wash underpants and socks in it; you dry it out; you send it as a Christmas present; you soak it in a bowl; liquid comes out; you drink it.
You’ve got to admire that.
Well, you have. The ingenuity of human beings. That’s why a lot of people say, “What did I learn in prison? I learned how to become a better criminal.” [ROSS KEMP IS HANDED A COFFEE.] Thank you so much. This is my drug of choice.
You’ve been all over the planet in your documentaries. What’s the best food you’ve had?
The prison food in Glasgow was a damn sight better than the food I’ve had in National Health hospitals. A choice of three foods, one of them halal? That’s pretty good, right? I made a lasagne with a paddle that you could have used on the side of a rubber dinghy. I ate it; it was fine. Brazil was pretty good, but I’ve been ill in Brazil – D and V. In Syria the food was good…but there were too many kebabs. Chicago! Chicago has to be the best food I’ve ever had.
What did you have?
Managed to get snow crab. We were filming with junkies in Cicero. The worst lately was Madagascar. I got so fucking ill in Madagascar. We had soup, and fuck me… Because of JuJu – black magic – you’re not allowed to go to the toilet in the villages. And I went around the back – I had to go…you know when it’s uncontrollable – you get that pain. And I had my pants around my ankles. They’d never seen white people before, so these two or three little girls came out and started looking at me – at a distance, I hasten to add. I’m in a maize field trying to go to the toilet – well, not trying-
I always have my wet wipes in my right pocket. Always make sure you’ve got your wet wipes. And I suddenly had a horseshoe of about 30 people around me. When I finished, the clapping happened.
Clapping the crapping.
What an image. That’s lovely. You’ve just become a dad again; I wondered what the Ross Kemp Dad Ethos was?
There isn’t one. Deal with it.
Just deal with it?
I do change the nappies; I do get involved. Children are brilliant. Children make you grow up. I mean, Afghanistan made me grow up as well…
Did you ever see the Jon Culshaw parodies of your programmes?
That’s partially my fault, because I met him socially and I went, “You’ll never be able to do me, I’m very difficult to do.” Incorrect. It’s a reverse compliment, I guess.
And you in Extras – that was superb.
Yeah. Two and a half days of my life and people remember that more than they do 15 programmes made in fucking Afghanistan.
Now – Eastenders. Favourite Eastenders death?
Tiffany it has to be, for me, because obviously I was there and it was very emotional. There are no ‘favourite’ deaths of anyone.
Barry pushed off a cliff?
I never saw that. Poor old Barry. I liked Barry.
When inevitably you die on Eastenders-
Inevitable? Why’s that inevitable? Grant will live forever.
When inevitably you die, how would you most like to go? a) Of a rare tropical disease; b) Punched to death by Phil; c) Incinerated in the Old Vic; d) Other (please specify)?
Grant would have to fight the law. And the law would win.
In a shoot-out, do you think?
Oh I don’t know; it could be just a massive brawl. He’d hold a bank up. He’d have to go out in a blaze of glory.
Ross Kemp Behind Bars – Inside Barlinnie is on ITV on 2 November, 9pm.