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Small Axe’s Shaun Parkes recalls ‘crying at home’ after harrowing scenes

Shaun Parkes admits playing Frank Crichlow was an emotional journey (Picture: Rex, Amazon Prime Video)

Small Axe actor Shaun Parkes has admitted that starring in the series had an emotional impact on him, to where he’d go home and cry after filming particularly harrowing scenes. 

The 48-year-old actor portrayed the real life Frank Crichlow in Mangrove, one of the five films in Sir Steve McQueen’s stunning anthology recounting distinct stories from the West Indian community between 1960s-80s. 

Mangrove follows the story of Crichlow, who opened the titular restaurant in Notting Hill which is constantly targeted by white police officers, and the subsequent Mangrove Nine Trial. 

Parkes’ performance has earned him a leading actor nomination at the British Academy Television Awards 2021, taking place tonight. 

It’s certainly a role he won’t forget easily as he told Metro.co.uk of the emotional toll it took on him: ‘There’s a bit at the end of the first Avengers movie where all the Avengers are about to go off and fight. 

‘David Banner isn’t the Hulk yet, he’s just Banner. They say to him, “We’re just about to go and fight, don’t you need to change?” Banner turns around to them and says, “Don’t worry about me, I’m always angry” and as he says that he turns into the Hulk, which is basically saying these things sometimes are just there under the surface. 

‘So it’s not that you have to summon too much up, it’s one of those things where you are actually allowed to express.’ 

Shaun Parkes as Frank Crichlow in Small Axe film Mangrove

Parkes has earned a TV Bafta leading actor nomination for his portrayal of Crichlow (Picture: Amazon Prime)
Parkes looking dapper for his big night at the TV Baftas (Picture: Shutterstock for BAFTA)

Parkes explained that his father died a few years ago so he used the emotions that were ‘boiling up’ from his grief to channel into the role. 

‘The emotions of being powerless when some not nice stuff is happening to you,’ he said. 

The actor recalled how it was sometimes difficult to shrug off the tough moments in Mangrove, and said: ‘It’s that I had to concentrate on pouring those energies into it for five or six weeks, daily, hourly, constantly. 

‘The toll that it took is that every now and again you’d go home and literally think about the scenes you did that day and you start crying. There were moments and nights like that, just out of the blue, it was under the surface there and you start crying but wondering why you’re crying. 

‘Like please, stop crying because I’ve got eight pages to learn for tomorrow so I can’t get too emotional now. It was one of those roles where, like therapy – I’ve never been to therapy – but what I understand from it is you’re talking out all of these issues and experiences and being given a platform to express.’ 

He continued: ‘Sometimes things come out so it was quite cathartic in a way but you always have to remember it’s not about you. It’s not about me at all. 

‘Some of these roles do take their toll, you do remember the process. Sometimes you do these roles and two or three weeks you’ve kind of forgotten about it, but I don’t think this one is one that we’ll finish any time soon.’ 

As for his next role, Parkes is gearing up to write his own script focusing on various stories from the 1960s in the UK. 

He teased: ‘There are many stories out there that need to be told – Black, white, yellow, brown – London stories that are very interesting, where the debate would be very interesting. 

‘There are quite a few to be brought to light in this new dawn where it seems like this thing is doable.’ 

Small Axe is available to watch on BBC iPlayer. 

The Bafta TV Awards airs tonight at 7pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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