As soon as Jamie and George walked in the room, introduced themselves, and gave me a hug, any nerves I had been harbouring about how the interview would go trailed away. They treated me like they’d known me forever - a small comfort that holds a large impact. The three of us shuffled outside to find a cool place in the shade. Jamie mentioned, offhand, that we should find somewhere “horrible” to sit since I’d likely be writing about the location in my introduction (I am) and it’d be funnier if we were sitting somewhere less-than-picturesque. I suggested sitting by the garbage receptacle to suit this purpose, but we headed toward a picnic table under a few trees instead. This spot did end up becoming slightly less-than-picturesque as a large (medium-ish) spider hung next to George’s face, intricately weaving its web as we chatted.
Still, from the moment the three of us sat down, I knew this experience was going to be my favourite interview to date. Jamie and George were kind, well-spoken, and so beautifully generous with their time and attention. The two took me through the writing, directing, and acting process for their forthcoming film Black Dog, which is set to premiere at the BFI London Film Festival on October 14th. George is nominated for the Sutherland Award at the event, which “recognises the most original and imaginative directorial debut.” The film is deeply precious to both of them, and it’s clear from the way they speak about the film - and each other - that the entire project is steeped in unconditional love. As they say, “it’s a love thing” between them.
Black Dog centres around Jamie’s character Nathan and a character named Sam, artistically played by Keenan Munn-Francis, who garnered several minutes worth of praise from George and Jamie alike. The term “passion project” will likely be thrown around a lot in the weeks following Black Dog’s release, and rightfully so. George and Jamie are enthusiastically, thoughtfully, movingly passionate about the movie they co-wrote and produced together. The love they have for each other is tangible - even if Jamie spent most of the interview dodging praise from one of his closest friends. I felt unspeakably grateful to bear witness to this shared magic between them, even for a small moment in time.
Black Dog premieres at the BFI London Film Festival on October 14, 2023
Okay, so I’ll start off with something easy and fun. What do you like most about each other?
Jamie: Fucking hell. [all laugh]
And what is one trait in the other person that you wish you had?
George: Oh, this is a good one. J, you can start because I know your list is very long.
Jamie: Oh, that's so easy. My favourite thing about George, the man that's sat in front of me right now…this feels like some sort of weird love experiment.
George: Yeah, I know. Hey, Hinge!
Jamie: The way you look at me, the way the silence has always grown for forever and love can only sparkle out of that abyss. But other than all of that stuff...just your willingness to collaborate and share ideas. Everything's free and open. The thing I rate most about you, sir, is on one hand, you’re a very hyper creative mind, but then [you have] this high work ethic, which saved me at 18 years old when I met you to write Black Dog. Look at us. Is this a love thing?
Jamie: This is a love thing. Go on, George. Talk about me, mate. Make me blush.
George: You know what I really always liked?
Jamie: This is horrible. [Jamie and Sam laugh]
George: No, I like it. I remember we met when we were 16 and then you went away and did Avatar. [I admired] your willingness to come back. You were never bound to only want to do big stuff. It was always pretty wicked in that sense that you just chose good work.
Jamie: I'm pretty great.
I mean, you both sound great.
Jamie: Thank you, man. That was lovely. Can we talk negatively about each other for the rest of the interview now? [George laughs]
Absolutely. What do you hate most about each other?
Jamie: Yeah, that could work for us, actually.
Listen, whatever comes out, comes out, you know? You were talking about when you guys first met and that partially inspired the story behind Black Dog, but take me back to your first meeting. Did you kind of bump into each other like Nathan and Sam do in the film?
George: So, I had started my company, Athenaeum, when I was 16, and we were working on Dilate, which was my first play. It was all about drug abuse in South London, where Jamie and I both grew up. There was a guy that was in my first play who introduced us, essentially. I think we did meet at your house.
Jamie: You came on a motorbike. Am I making that up?
George: No, I came on a moped. It was less cool than a motorbike.
Jamie: I remember that. That was fucking hilarious.
George: We sat in your office room.
Jamie: My mum's office. 'Cause that's the way to meet.
George: In your mum's office?
Jamie: No, to be fair, it wasn't that we were trying to be business-y and say, Yeah, we'll sit in mum's office.
George: No, 100% we were 16 being like, Look how cool we are. And we talked about Dilate and I said I wanted you to get involved. And then we did. And that was kind of how we first met. We just hit it off.
So definitely not a happenstance thing. When you were writing Black Dog, was it a collaborative process the entire time?
George: I think if we start where it started - Jamie and I had just done a short film together. It was my first ever short, Silence, and Jamie played the lead. It was a two day shoot. I'd never been on a film set, so I was totally winging it. Jamie obviously had [been on a set] and was very good at it. So, we did that and then we were like, Well we need to write something together. We were 18 when we wrote Black Dog, so we were like, Let's look at what it's like being young. We knew we could do that differently and give ourselves to it completely. We sat down, and we started talking about big, broad ideas, and then there was definitely a moment later on in the writing process when Jamie started taking control of his character, Nathan, and I was writing from Sam's perspective.
Jamie: But we always wrote together, we never drafted in private. You hear these stories of people who can veto an idea going, I hate that idea of yours. We're not doing that. But imagine if you shut down someone's idea so objectively.
George: We met the whole time either at Costa or Caffè Nero or my house or your house. We were saying in the car on the way here that if we ever didn't agree, we didn't argue, but we definitely said what we thought.
Jamie: It's better to argue in the moment than to be left with a bit of writing that someone thinks is really crap.
George: Sometimes we'd write every day but then sometimes it could be two weeks away and lots of stuff would happen in those two weeks that I think ended up in the script, whether we meant it to or not.
Jamie: This is so weird, bro. But we wrote this when we were fucking kids.
George: And now we're old. Now we're 23.
Oh God, okay. You feel old. I'm 31.
Jamie: Wow, you are over.
This is it for me.
George: This is over the hill.
Jamie: Good luck. How are you going to get back home?
I'm not going to make it, honestly. My knees have been killing me from walking all day. So, you have that to look forward to.
Jamie: There you go. Actually, I was about to say I have lower back pain but I'm literally slouching.
George: Yeah, we're both like that.
[laughs] Anyway, everything you two were saying sounds really nice because writing is so often a solitary thing. I think when you’re doing something like this, it’s important to be attuned to what the other person is doing.
George: And you're just challenged as well. We both had different experiences growing up. I'd say we're both driven, but then we're very different in lots of other ways and that was so nice to approach a script with those differences and come together to create two lead characters, Sam and Nathan, who are so intrinsically different. And then late in the film they come together and have this road movie.
Jamie, does that mean you knew from the beginning you were going to play Nathan?
Jamie: I think we wanted the world of the script to be able to exist no matter the situation. So, we are very blessed that it happened this way that I could play the lead part, and George could direct, but I think from the offset we were always like, We'll write it first and then see what we get lucky with.
George: The more we did, there was a moment when we were like, Right, we can do this. And even when we were on set, there were so many pinch me moments. We thought, This is the script that we met up about in Costa or Caffè Nero about all those years ago. I went off and did Serpent Queen and some other bits, and Jamie went off and did lots of filming and then we were back together shooting what we had written when we were in a different place.
It must be an incredible full circle moment to be like, These were just words on a page, and now it’s tangible.
George: And also, in a really emotional way, I've known Jamie since I was 16 and I just started the company, and then obviously that's grown. I definitely felt like, I can't believe we're here.
That sounds so lovely. Jamie, as an actor, was it weird for you then to play a character you wrote yourself versus playing a character that someone wrote and you got that part?
Jamie: I think so. In general, an actor has more than one role on a set. If you are going to be in front of the camera, you're often being looked at. And I often think with the role, there’s just a duty of care on set to actually be a nice person. But then on top of those two roles was then this third role to care about the film as a whole. That was the thing, George, you were directing it, and that helped me then to only ever be the actor apart from slight moments when I bled in and cared too much.
George: You also produced and co-wrote it with me. My approach as an actor has always been like…we are a cog in this big machine, but then as a director, I'm always thinking, Well, how can I give you everything that you need as an actor so you know what's going on? But Jamie was so good. We were a low budget film. There would be days where we all just had to pick up the telephone box and help move it into place. And that was quite magical in some ways.
You prefer that, the smaller scale?
Jamie: Yeah, it's more of a collaborative process. I think it's ridiculous how many ideas of hierarchy are embedded in a big production and also, they can make less efficient work as well.
George: As a director, you bring these experts in, you bring your editor in, and then my job as a director and producer is to empower them to do their best job. Of course, we're serving the director's vision, but you bring those amazing actors in around Jamie and Keenan - Hattie Morahan, Nicholas Pinnock, Ruby Stokes. You want to see their version of those characters, and the same with your entire team. There's no point in me going, This is how we should edit it. Of course, we are serving a vision, but they're amazing at that job.
It seems like you're both speaking of it from a positive place, which is good, because it can go either way. Sometimes when you've put so much heart and soul and effort into something, it can maybe transform into something less positive.
George: I think it was the best thing I've ever done in my life to this point. I remember going into the first play I did, and I remember having that [same] feeling when I finished the edit of Black Dog. I hadn't felt that way in a long time - when you care so much. Obviously, I cared about everything else, but once you've done something once, you have an expectation of what it's going to be next. But I'd never directed a feature film, and it was everything I dreamed it to be. I'm so excited for the next ones, but you then have a benchmark, and now you think, The minimum I have to do is London Film Festival and work with amazing people.
Jamie: That's exactly it. You criticise. You've never had to think so self critically, but then with this positive feedback, you're trapped.
George: Even on the journey here, coming to do a shoot with us both, we were thinking how it’s quite a sick thing. And the trailer went viral last week. We got 2 million views overnight, which was overwhelming as hell, but it was amazing. Jamie and I were talking about how amazing it is that the little thing we wrote in weird basements and weird coffee shops is now becoming…
Jamie: Never a basement.
George: It was a basement of a Caffè Nero!
Jamie: Fair enough. Oh my god! That was where the guy who always used to write poetry for us was.
Oh, that's kind!
George: It was hard when we were writing serious scenes and then we'd have to stop for a bit of poetry, but that was quite nice in some ways.
Jamie: That was cool. I forgot that. That was quite weird. We should go back to that basement.
Speaking of these deeply emotional things you guys have worked through in the script and then when you were filming, you're exploring so many different forms of trauma in Black Dog. What was most important to you in terms of how you were depicting that idea that you can’t run away from your problems?
George: I talk quite openly about it now, but my mom had cancer growing up and I think that was a massive thing that impacted my teenage years. I didn't lose my mom. The moment you grow up is the moment you grieve for the first time. And that can happen for some people at 11 or some people at 24. Grief is such a complex emotion because it happens at different stages in your life, but really there are the seven stages of grief that everyone goes through. And that doesn't matter if you are from America or if you're from London, everyone goes through the same feelings. Black Dog really is a film about love in all of its forms, but it's also about two young men who feel alienated, and have both gone through their own grief. And then it's about the compassion and complexity of young men. And I think that was something I really wanted to look after because I have a sister and my mom's gay, so I grew up in a very female house. You see a lot of toxic masculinity and that was something that I've been so aware of growing up, especially in London. I think Black Dog isn't giving anyone answers, but we kind of hope it makes you ask questions. Hopefully, if you are a young man watching it, you might be able to relate, and it's nice to not see perfectly masculine cowboys.
Jamie: Well it's even worse than not giving answers, right? It's adding to the variety of questions, like it's saying, I'm going to run away even further from definition in order to actually get something that's hopefully more truthful. It's interesting though, running away from trauma, is that what the characters are actually doing? That's something that we don't need to know ourselves necessarily. It's not for us to know. It's something that can live outside of us and be expressed in an artistic format.
George: It's so funny, you have the film that you write, you have the film that you shoot, and you have the one that you edit. It is almost like three films. Throughout the whole thing, we were always questioning what it was. I'm really proud because we don't fill in every gap.
Jamie: Maybe we go for it, 'cause you used the phrase ‘toxic masculinity?’
George: Go for it.
Jamie: So, what we were always conscious of between Sam and Nathan is that they both have some sort of archetype of an elder man who gives them wisdom, or the lack of an elder man who can't give them wisdom and therefore they have to go chase it somewhere else. But those men are never toxic. Often we talk about this idea of toxic masculinity as if it's this microcosm of how men relate between each other. We wanted to depict any true loving moment or idea of a sovereign individual coming out and triumphing over some sort of trauma through a conversation that he had with another male. For me, that was my favourite part about what we managed to write together.
George: We see so many things that are about the ‘rugby lad’ or whatever, but really it's about toxicity, stemming from not confronting things.
George: That's why it was the perfect formula to do it as a road movie. You can get two people in the car and drive somewhere else - literally run away. We talked about that when I was setting up the look of Black Dog in London. I remember driving up there with Jamie and you forget how stunning the UK is out of London. We shot it in summer, so everything was green, everything was sunny, and it was like…that's literally two hours away.
It is hard to open up to other people, especially if you're built up in society to be expected to behave a certain way or to shove things down. So, it's important to highlight that in work. Even if it's because of forced proximity in the car, it is still important to do.
George: And that's really what it is. The car almost became the third character. There are moments when they're laughing and then there are moments when they open up. I was watching it the other day and I was remembering a day on set, which is also another reason why I love Jamie…
Jamie: So glad we're done with that. [All laugh]
George: There's a scene in the foster home where Nathan is with Kayla, who is his girlfriend at the time in London, and she says, "I love you.” The next line is "Don't say that.” And when we wrote that, I always imagined it to be really serious, but Jamie performed it in such a way. And the thing that I love about Jamie’s performance in Black Dog, is you never know which way he's going to go, and he keeps you guessing. In that scene, he kind of laughs and makes it a joke. All of a sudden, it unlocked everything in my brain that I thought, Well actually that's Nathan's way of hiding 'cause he finds it easier just to joke and laugh and then go back to the giggly kissing rather than having to confront any sort of raw emotion. And then the Nathan we see at the end of the film is totally different from that, it's mind-blowing. [To Jamie] I'll stop gushing over your performance.
Jamie, did you want to gush over George now or do you want me to go to the next question or...?
Jamie: There was something in that, but honestly time-wise...probably we can just go to the next question.
No, no, please go ahead.
Jamie: Well, this is great. This feels nice. Some things can go unsaid, and that's almost more of a loving relationship - when it can be felt instead of delivered. And I think that's, dare I say it, the thing we wrote best and the thing you directed best - those moments that a lot of people would be very quick to [want to] define. The questions we might get asked when the film is shown is, What did you mean by this scene? What do you mean in that look? What actually happened that night? But the characters know and we don't have to.
George: And that's so exciting because if you ask us each individually, we'd have different answers. The score and the music almost became the unsaid bit. With Black Dog, there are so many moments that we just let breathe on set, and Jamie and Keenan were great at improvising. That was sort of what makes it so magic 'cause there are some things you can't write.
I think you have to let things happen organically or be open to it. Because if you both went into it with the idea of, This is what I want the scene to look like or This is how I want to act in this scene, and then that isn't perfect, it might throw you off.
George: As a director, you do your prep. [to Jamie] Do you remember my folder that was this thick? [gestures]
Jamie: Good folder.
George: I had that folder which had all my plans in it and it was funny, some days it was there as a safety blanket and I didn't open it up, but some days I did. But really one of the best things we did was in how we worked with our DOP. I said very early on that I wanted it to feel like a coming-of-age film. I'm a big fan of handheld cameras in those moments because you can get in there and be organic. The best coming-of-age films like Fish Tank and Lady Bird have a lot of moments when the camera is energetic because the young people are energetic. The opening shot of the film is a bunch of guys rapping in South London, on a rooftop in Brixton Market, and they're just hanging out as mates - it's all Nathan's friends. The way I directed that is I got everyone to get in a huddle and we were just almost playing games, but they never knew when the cameras were rolling. We were freestyle rapping in a little huddle and then everyone goes to the starting position and I thought I'd only ever use it from the starting position onwards, but actually a load of the free-styling and the fun bit to get everyone's energy is in the film. We said it on the way here, “take the work seriously, not yourself too seriously.” I think that's the best bit.
That's probably the best way to go about it. Also, George, not to sidetrack here, but there is a giant spider right next to your face.
Jamie: I've been staring at that for a while.
George: Why would you not tell me this?!
I just noticed! [laughs] I'm sorry.
George: It's not small.
It's not small.
Jamie: We've got a medium spider here. It's doodling.
George: It's all right. I'll just try not to die.
Well yeah, that would be preferable. I would like to not witness that.
Jamie: Death by medium spider.
George: Slightly large scale spider. For the interview, can we make it a tarantula?
I'll write it up like that.
George: Tarantula in London, for sure.
If it was a tarantula I would be like, Well this has been really nice and I'm going to go.
George: [laughs] Good luck with Black Dog!
You both have been talking about Keenan a lot - I would love to talk about him and his performance. When did you bring him on board? Did you have a formal audition process to cast the role of Sam?
George: The casting directors are Daniel Edwards and Lucy Allen. We knew Jamie was Nathan and it was finding someone who could play Sam…
Jamie: I was telling them I was Nathan. [all laugh]
George: We knew energy-wise what Sam needed to bring. It was a hard process to find Keenan. We went on a UK wide search. Our casting directors did Heartstopper, so they have a wide pool of young talents. We did a social media search and we auditioned loads of people, and then I remember getting Keenan's self-tape and was like, Wow, he needs to come in. There was a scene where he had to just break down. The audition process is weird because you might have a tripod and a green screen and there are three or four of us in the room. He managed to do it with such nuance that I was just like, That's him. That was a really amazing moment for me. Then obviously you have to send it to the rest of the team because it is not just my decision.
Jamie: Keenan was the point of bringing us something that we couldn't ever write.
George: Exactly. He unlocked so many things in Sam. We went into a week of rehearsals where it was just the three of us, which was the best time 'cause it meant that we could all bond. And I remember Jamie saying to me, “Keenan's going to bring so much of him to the script too.” There's a moment in the film when they're playing “River” by Leon Bridges and they're bombing down the motorway and singing along and we didn't know Keenan could sing at this point - and Keenan in rehearsals-
Jamie: Fuck that guy, honestly. [all laugh]
George: ...starts singing. I mean note perfect, and I'm sitting there as a director, like, sobbing. Then we went and we wrote it in. The hardest bit was after we had shot “River” was that I then had to go get the rights to it, but Leon Bridges was amazing. He wanted to watch the whole film before he let us have the rights, but it all came from that moment in rehearsal. I use music quite a bit in rehearsals because I feel like, if anything, it just makes it less awkward, but Keenan just blurted it out and he could really, really sing. And Jamie, you responded so beautifully to it.
Jamie, what was that like for you working opposite Keenan? Because obviously something like this where you're very emotional, is that hard to be vulnerable with your acting partner?
Jamie: Not at all. It's something that you should probably mentally work on closing off as part of yourself. He was shockingly good. Sometimes nothing needed to be discussed between us creatively and we could just go for the first take and find something.
George: What was so nice about not having much time is we knew we had to work fast and that creates some really powerful moments. Keenan’s confidence when he finished on the last day of wrap was one of the most amazing things, and that really worked so well for Sam. Sam and Nathan both rubbed off on each other. In the directing, we had this camera language for Nathan at the beginning of the film, which was handheld and a bit chaotic and manic. With Keenan's character, Sam, we were a bit more still, and that translated to the editing. But when they came together, we started letting them rub off on each other and then we had a specific camera language for the car stuff and later on so it was less cutty in the edit. We did all those different things to try and get the energies right.
I like hearing how much you both love Keenan, since you already talked about how much you love each other.
George: He is the nicest human you'll ever meet. He puts us both to shame.
Jamie: But also he has that great thing in an actor when you can sometimes sense that an actor is just acting for themselves. There's this...need to transcend any sort of mundane. He was great at crying. He's the best person I've ever been in a scene with.
George: When we were getting the other actors in, like Ruby, I remember seeing her in Rocks and thinking, She'd be the most perfect Kayla. But then also behind the camera, David Parfitt, our Executive Producer, did The Father and Shakespeare In Love and is this massive industry titan who just decided that our script was really worth supporting. He calls himself the godfather of the project, but he was just there from day one. And Ken Petrie, our producing partner, really made sure we got through it.
Jamie: For someone like Ken to come on board and...he backed us, man. That's also a little miracle in itself, to get people to not fall for the prejudice of age. We were only 18.
I always find it strange when people write off teenagers because they're teenagers, but you're still a full person and you're still experiencing a full range of emotions. To be taken seriously at that age means everything.
George: Whenever I write young characters, I always ask myself, Why do teenagers act the way they do? It's because they're treated like children, but are expected to behave like adults.
Jamie: Also, they might be able to express something in a way that you've actually ended up losing in your adulthood. They might be closer to this idea of what it actually is - this truth of extremities in love or heartbreak or grief. We just then get numbed as we go down the line.
George: I wonder if we were given Black Dog, like page one, would we be able to write it again? We caught us in that moment of being 18 just straight out of school and all of our mates going to uni. When we write something together again, it's going to be very different.
Jamie: Already corrupt.
You're getting more and more jaded as time passes.
George: Yeah, that's very true.
Jamie: Just too fucking philosophical. There's something just simple about what Black Dog was in the script.
Jamie, something you said reminded me of this psychological study I read that says when you're younger, time feels like it passes slowly because you're much more perceptive of everything. So then when you get older, you feel like time flies because you're stuck in the same mundane cycle of what you do every single day and you lose your sense of awe. If you keep your sense of awe, you're psychologically, a kinder, gentler person.
George: That's so interesting. And also both being filmmakers, because Jamie directs as well and is an amazing director…
Jamie: That's another compliment, we've done that bit. [all laugh]
George: When you're lucky enough to do what we do for a living, you're always challenging the world and yourself. You are always so aware and trying new things. It's the most exciting industry, and I feel so lucky to have Black Dog get to London Film Fest with you, Jamie.
I was going to ask you about that because you're gearing up for this huge premiere. Are you excited? Or are you guys nervous about letting it be everyone else's now?
George: I go through a real mix, if I'm honest. Some days I'm like, Oh my God. The Leicester Square premiere just sold out this morning. I kind of get a bit overwhelmed by that. And they've nominated me for the best first feature award - it's called the Sutherland Award, as a director. That feels overwhelming. But then I'm also so excited that the little thing we created together is now going to have its debut. We can step back a bit now.
Jamie: That's also always the thing people talk about is, How does it feel when it's no longer yours? But you write it because you want to share it. And I think, often, some people mentally play this game of backtracking after it's been made, but it's bullshit. You always wanted it to expand and be other people's. I think people shy away from that because they're scared of critique or judgement, but they're going to be judging something that's already far gone from our experience. And they can't really take away how we perceive it, which is great. Being the sole creators then, I wonder if there is more to it. Do you feel more of a responsibility for the experience that somebody's having?
George: I think so. When you're watching your own directing, it's really hard, because that really is your brain laid out in front of everyone and you're also responsible for financiers, you're responsible for sales agents, responsible for actors, you're responsible for a lot of things. And when it sold out, I don't know a lot of the people going…
Jamie: I hope not. That'd be really weird.
George: I don't think I could get 300 people in the room. But that's the scary bit of going, there's a massive sense of responsibility because people are spending their money to go see the film. I think the best note I ever got on Black Dog was someone who had watched it and she said to me, “You know what it did, George, it reminded me of what it was like to be 17 and 18. I wanted to go with my mates to the pub and talk about the road trips we had.” I felt like that was everything I ever wanted the film to do - to create nostalgia. Although it is a British road movie, it’s quite universal in that sense that we've all experienced grief, we've all experienced friendships, we've all experienced love.
That was really beautiful.
George: Thank you. I've been thinking of that answer for a long time. [laughs]
I was going to ask you a fun question, but I don't know if we should veer into the personal again…
Jamie: Oh, we love this. We like talking.
George: As you can tell, we both love talking.
Jamie: Talking is all we have.
[laughs] You don't have to go into detail, but for each of you, outside of the parameters of making the movie, is there a song that is so closely tied to a specific memory for you that you think of that memory every time you hear the song?
Jamie: Oh my God.
George: Oh, that's so hard.
Jamie: I can only think of really depressing answers.
George: I have a fun one for Jamie that will actually remind me forever of Jamie.
Jamie: I know exactly what you're going to say, actually.
George: Dido, “White Flag.”
Mmm! Fantastic song.
George: Absolute banger. I put it on in my car…Jamie, I don't think you had a car at the time. And I had a little Skoda, which was a manual, and we used to drive around. And I remember we put it on and I can't sing, I really cannot sing. Jamie can sing. We put “White Flag” on and I somehow managed to hit that note. And I think we both just got the giggles and we were like, how has that happened? And that song will forever remind me of being 18 with you in that car with Dido, “White Flag.”
Jamie: What note was it, anyway?
If you want to sing right into this mic…
George: *sings part of White Flag*
Jamie: That was the bridge into the chorus. The chorus itself isn't that impressive to be able to sing. Nice. Sorry. [all laugh]
Everything's impressive for George. He can't sing.
George: I just could then because I had a really squeaky high voice. I could just do that one note and that was it.
Jamie, you can pick something depressing if you want.
Jamie: Oh, it just is going to go in a little tunnel of depressiveness. It's like you've got to explain those things around it. We'll just leave it.
I only really listen to depressing music, so I get it.
George: We made playlists for Black Dog, it was at that level. Keenan and I had a playlist for Sam. Jamie, I think you had a playlist for Nathan too, right? I know Keenan wrote a diary. I remember sitting with him and we wrote a diary about Sam and what he was going through so he could read that before set. And I found that quite a useful tool.
Jamie: I might just see what's on Nathan's playlist real quick.
George: Shall I see what's on Sam's playlist?
Yes! Absolutely. For both of you, when you're acting, do you usually make playlists to help you get into character?
George: Yeah. For Serpent Queen, this sounds really sad and weird, but I learned a prayer because I was playing a sickly dying king and that helped me get into that world. I was working with The King's Speech team on the stammer and then I also had a diary for each episode. Jamie, let's hear your playlist.
Jamie: I've got really aggressive shit, like Slowthai, Arctic Monkeys. Oh, T. Rex was kind of interesting. Peggy Gou. I think I just wanted energetic things. Oh, and Outkast.
George: And then on Sam's, Keenan's got the total opposite end of the spectrum, like “Boys Don't Cry” by The Cure, “Blackbird.” He's got a bit of Daniel Blake on there.That's quite cool for Sam, isn't it? And then he's got “Sparks” by Coldplay.
Jamie: Yeah, he's a Coldplay man, isn't he? Idiot. [all laugh]
George: Dido, “White Flag” on the playlist!
Jamie: Let's talk about Coldplay for a bit. We haven't done the Coldplay segment.
George: On my playlist for Sam originally was stuff like Pink Floyd, Daughter, Lorde. I was in my Sad Boy Era when I was thinking about him.
Jamie: How did you get out of it? I'm trying to escape.
I've been sad my entire life. You don't escape it. You just learn to enjoy it.
Jamie: God, 31 is fucked then. Jesus. There's no hope here.
[laughs] I tried the other day. I was like, Okay, I've only been listening to depressing things. I'm going to put my Spotify on shuffle and just shuffle through all of my Liked songs. And the first three songs that played were Joy Division, Elliot Smith, and then Jeff Buckley. And I was like, Okay, nevermind. Jamie: Elliot Smith is fucking amazing, man. “A Fond Farewell” is probably the best song ever. Elliot Smith is...if you take anything away from this interview, if you take anything away...
Everyone should listen to Elliot Smith.
George: [To Jamie] You got me into Frank Ocean at a very young age as well.
Jamie: Ah. Sad Boy Era, I guess.
Sad Boy Life.
Jamie: Yeah. This is the only film I've ever made a playlist for though.
George: You didn't have an Avatar one?
Jamie: No. It's like jungle sounds. [all laugh] We didn't really have pop music in the wild…
George: For A Town Called Malice, I had the weirdest playlist. It was all ‘80s music and really hardcore 'cause I was playing a gangster.
I love a lot of ‘80s music. That's my cheering up music, ‘80s stuff. Tears for Fears.
George: Nice! The Jam were wicked and it was very fun. And we actually had Paul Weller on set one day, which was sick. The craziest day ever.
Jamie: I didn't know that.
George: Yeah, he was in the pub with us and he was the nicest guy and he just came in with his Paul Weller voice. He was like, It's proper. That's all I remember. It was really cool.
Jamie: Seal of approval there.