Somewhere Boy | Interview with Samuel Bottomley (Aaron)

Why did playing Aaron appeal to you?

There was something about just coming out of lockdown, how lonely it felt and the solidarity of the script itself with that. You might not see how lonely Aaron is at first, but he’s one of the loneliest characters in the series.

Who is Aaron, and what makes him different to Ralph from Ladhood or Kyle in The Teacher?

When I think about all the other parts that I’ve played, Aaron is the most insecure. It felt familiar in that, when you’re growing up, there are a couple of years where you’re unsure of yourself and things seem harder than normal. Reading the script took me back to that place in my life, where you feel like everything’s against you – that teenage angst.

How was it to revisit that time in your life?

Fun, because you look back on certain things you did and try to pull them out and bring them back to make the performance authentic. It was a long shoot so I was up and down a bit, but I never felt down like the character was getting to me. When you’re not really feeling the feelings you’re portraying, it’s fun.

Where is Aaron in his life?

He’s 18, in between leaving school and having to find a proper job. There’s a natural progression that people around him have made, maybe quicker than he had expected, and he doesn’t speak to his school friends as much as he thought he would when he left. They have moved forward and he’s stayed where he was. He’s got used to not really speaking to people from school and not continuing to make friends. He doesn’t have a job, so he doesn’t have a lot of outlets in terms of talking to people his age.

How would you describe his relationship with his mum Sue (Lisa McGrillis) and with Paul (Johann Myers)?

Reading the scripts, I could see he has been really close to his mum in the past. She is a single mother, but Aaron really looked up to his dad. Sometimes when families split up, it’s often the case that young boys look up to their dad and resent their mum a bit, when it’s often their mum making the effort. That relationship with Paul is a bit bruised because of that – Aaron wishes it was his dad living with him instead. There was supposed to be an agreement about weekends, but his dad has moved on, made a new family and forgotten about Aaron a bit.

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Did Aaron know about Danny (Lewis Gribben)?

He knew that he had a cousin, but until he meets him, he’s never been interested to find out where he is or what he is. For those first couple of days, he’s bewildered at how somebody can be 18 and not have seen simple things like motorways and cars. Aaron’s quite embarrassed by him – he doesn’t really need anything else going against him in terms of street cred.

Does he come to learn from Danny’s way of looking at the world?

Definitely. Danny’s completely fresh outlook is what Aaron needs: somebody who’s going to walk through a crowd of people in a 1920s’ suit and not care what people think, because he doesn’t understand that people think he’s strange. Aaron could do with some of that confidence.

Aaron watches a lot of porn, which shapes how he thinks about sex and relates to women. Have you seen that impact yourself?

Yeah, definitely on young men. It’s so easy to access porn nowadays, so they’ve got a distorted idea of what like sex is, what it should look like or sound like, when it’s about being comfortable and happy together. Especially in high school, for a lot of young lads it’s just about doing it in the first place. The way Aaron watches porn is strange – he does it at times where you just wouldn’t do it, like when he’s with Danny, for example, and he’s trying to show how much more of a man he is. I think lads see sex like they see porn, just in how easy it should be to get, and how available. That can definitely give the wrong impression.

What was the most challenging aspect of the shoot?

I’d never worked with an intimacy coach before, but we had one for the most intimate scene I’ve ever done. I was dreading it a bit, but it wasn’t a full-on sex scene so I was eased into it and it was interesting to learn the boundaries around making people feel comfortable. I’m glad I did it because it readies me to do it in other roles – you need to prepare and feel comfortable if you’re kissing a random person.

Aaron does some farm labouring in the show. Were you getting your hands dirty for real?

Yeah, we’re given the task of moving one pile of manure to another pile – that was genuine graft, genuine manure. It wasn’t makeup – it was real dirt. They put us to work!

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How did you enjoy working with Lisa and Johann?

Lisa is the funniest woman ever and a great actress as well. Johann is the coolest dude, very similar to me in that we’ll turn up and get a vibe for what things are like on the day.

Did you feel bad having to be so rude to them all the time?

I did, actually. Aaron’s such a little shit – they’d say cut and everyone would be mimicking me. It was really funny. And the kids playing my little half-brother and half-sister were great. You never know with little ones, but they were so good.

What was your personal highlight from filming?

Lewis and I did a film called Get Duked!, filming for six weeks in Scotland. It was a big film in our careers, such fun to make and we got to go around the world to film festivals with it, so I’ve seen him every year since I was 16, and I’m 21 now. We found out we were auditioning for the same thing, so when I sat down next to him I could tell he was quite nervous. I put my hand on his leg and said, don’t worry, we’ll be ok. After a couple of scenes, I could tell we were settling down and starting to click.

What’s coming up next?

About to start on a new feature film and season three of Ladhood has just come out. Otherwise I need to get auditioning, but I’d be up for playing Aaron again as well. He’s a different person by the end of the series, so I’d be interested to see where he goes from there.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.