16/03/2012 12:24 GMT | Updated 16/05/2012 06:12 BST

Thomas Turgoose Stars In 'This Is England' - A Role He Reveals Saved Him From The Streets (INTERVIEW)

"I was 13 when I got the role, just thought it was going to be another British film."

Thomas Turgoose is the deceptively cherubic-looking actor at the heart of This is England, Shane Meadows' gritty portrayal of the troubled son of an absent soldier, growing up on a working-class estate, befriended by a bunch of skinheads.

Turgoose, now 20 admits that while getting such a role could have gone to his head, it actually saved him from a bleak future, not unlike that of his character:

"Basically when I was a kid, I was never at school, because I was a little shit," he admits. "So I got sent to a youth centre in Grimsby, where one day they held auditions for kids who'd never acted before, and I just got the role.

"I was brought up just by my mum - she did a great job, but she had four boys to look after by herself. So I went from being a little shit on the street, to working 12 hours a day. It was mad, but I really enjoyed it. I was rescued. It definitely changed my lifestyle, it was so different to what it is now."

Since then, Turgoose has worked on This is England in its three separate incarnations, most recently on This Is England '88, as well as foraying into fresh territory - he played Private Tipper in BBC wartime drama Birdsong.

The young actor shares several traits with his character Shaun. Both were knocked sideways by the early loss of a parent, and Shaun's naivety - both political and social - is what allows other people to hold sway, a trait Turgoose admits he recognises:

"I was born in 1992, so I didn't know anything about the politics they talked about in the original This is England (Thatcherite politics, strikes, the Falklands conflict). I've learned so much - Shaun doesn't really know much about what was going on, and that was like me, really."

If he's self-confessedly ignorant like his screen alter ego, Turgoose has also learned something from him…

"The music has definitely rubbed off on me, but it's also made me realise just how important friends are - I mean real ones."

This is England '88 is now available on DVD. Here's a trailer below: