Scroobius Pip will be the first to admit that he’s had a “scary and interesting” time in the years since focussing his efforts on a burgeoning acting career. While many music fans will recognise him as the vocal half of ‘Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip’, those who have been tuning in to the BBC’s latest big budget drama, ‘Taboo’, may have spotted him playing the role of the mysterious French Bill.
So how does someone go from doing one last live tour that ends at Bestival, to being Stephen Graham’s right-hand man in a drama masterminded by its star, Tom Hardy? It turns out a push in the right direction from two rather well-known friends is a good place to start.
Speaking to The Huffington Post UK, Pip explains: “I’ve had two people in particular along the way, Riz Ahmed and Simon Pegg, who I know through my music and stuff like that. They both know I’m a massive film and TV nerd, and they’ve kept saying, ‘So when are you going to start acting then? When’s that happening?’ And I’m always like, ‘well…I’m doing this, and I’d love to, but…’.”
Cut to early 2016, and his other projects had taken a backseat - well, apart from the small matter of running an award-winning podcast and writing a book to go with it - making way for Pip to land three roles in a row, the first being a part in Guy Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’, slated for release later this year, the second in ‘The Bastard Executioner’, and the final being French Bill, in ‘Taboo’.
Pip explains that he “didn’t know anything” about the show before auditioning, and chose to contact the casting director - a person he was already a fan of - himself, optimistically hoping that they might somehow have a suitable role.
“I was a fan of them so I hit them up and got a meeting with them,” he continues. “They had this project and asked me to audition for it, and obviously, I got emailed the list of people involved and it was Tom Hardy and Stephen Knight and Ridley Scott… People that I absolutely adore pretty much everything they have done, so I jumped at the chance.
“Prior to that, I’ve known Tom Hardy a little bit on and off, and we’ve emailed back and forth over the years, but that audition came through and I decided to not hit him up about it. I thought, ‘right, I’ve got the audition off my own back’, and I felt I got on really well with the casting directors so I thought, ‘well I’ll just go in and try and get it’.”
“I’ll save my one chance to hit up Tom for a favour,” he laughs. “I’ll save that for a really big one, if he gets cast as Bond or something, if Mad Max needs a bearded enemy then I’ll save it for then.”
The role Pip initially auditioned for was actually then cut entirely, but when a bit part needed filling, he found himself on the receiving end of an exciting phone call, for a role that gradually grew with each week of filming, during which time he was no stranger to staying late on set to “learn from the absolute best in the business”.
“It’s [been] awesome watching it as it’s started to play out, because on the first week I got a lot of tweets saying it was great to see Scroobius Pip having a cameo,” he says. “It was like, ‘right, that’s kind of nice’, because I know that by the end of it it’s very much not a cameo, it’s a legitimate recurring character.”
“But that’s nice, because that could have been where it ended, with me just turning up and I’m in the background, it’s cool for all my fan base and a few people who go, ‘Oh, I’m sure I know that beard!’ but it’s been nice in that it grows and grows.”
So what was it like working with Mr Hardy, an Oscar nominee, whose Hollywood status precedes him? It turns out he’s not as daunting as you might think.
“Stephen Graham described it perfectly, it felt like just a load of mates all making something exciting,” he says. “From Tom’s level to all the camera crew, to all the runners and everything, and the directors.
“It felt like everyone was just making things work. I felt truly honoured to be able to chip in ideas and thoughts, because the nature of a show like that is very fluid so it was exciting to be there when they had bits that they felt weren’t working, and if I had something to add, it got listened to. It was lovely.”
“A set is a set and the way Tom kind of acts and engages on set is as a friend and part of the team. I’ve seen a few points when out and about offset with Tom you kind of go, ‘oh yeah, you’re really famous, aren’t you? I’d forgotten about that’.
“Life’s probably quite complicated because of how famous you are, but on set I didn’t get any kind of… you’d forget that there was a ranking or hierarchy as such. Obviously there were people who were running the ship, but it was wonderful, everyone was pulling in the same direction.
“What you don’t realise is, this is a project that Tom and his dad were working to get on screen for nine years.
“They came up with this a long time ago, and enlisted Stephen Knight and it’s been a long process so it means the world to them. I don’t think even if he’d wanted to he could have been hands off.”
In just a few week, the first series of ‘Taboo’ will come to an end, and while viewers remain hopeful, there’s no official word yet on whether a second will be made, which leaves Pip facing the question of what to do next - and luckily, he has a cheeky answer.
“I’ve been going on a lot online recently about how I need to be in ‘Deadpool 2’,” he laughs. “I think everyone can agree it’s just necessary.
“I’m a massive comic book fan and Ed Skrein is a mate who was on my podcast and he was the main baddie in the first ‘Deadpool’, it makes sense, that has to happen.
“Anything I’d list would seem completely unrealistic,” he admits. “But two years ago, I hadn’t done any acting and the stuff I’ve got to be involved in so far…! So my sights are set unrealistically high.
“The fact is, I’ve got to audition for big shows and massive films in the last year, and it’s a big learning curve because you kind hear the bit that crushes actors is the rejection, but it hasn’t been the case for me so far.
“The chance to try out my interpretation of a character. If I don’t get it, that’s fine, it wasn’t the right fit or match but I’m getting to go out there and work on the skill, I can’t get enough.”
‘Taboo’ continues on BBC One, on Saturday night at 9.15pm. Catch up on the series so far on the BBC iPlayer.