Meeting the ‘Attack The Block’ Boys

Attack The Block hit our screens in May 2011. We were taken aback by the alien invasion that threatened our streets of South London, but thanks to Pest, Jerome, Biggz and the rest of the gang we saw that our city was left in safe hands.

So whilst we didn’t have to worry about the next frightening outer-world encounter FAULT caught up with some of the cast to find out their views on how the film went (written and directed by Joe Cornish) and what they’re up to now.

Interview by Freya Hill

Attack The Block is out now on Blu-ray/DVD

Attack The Block



FAULT: You recently starred in your debut film ‘Attack The Block’. Can you describe that experience to us?

Alex Esmail (Pest): Amazing, exciting and magic, but I wasn’t at ease playing Pest; I’m not sensible in real life but I’m not as much as an idiot as he is either.

Leeon Jones (Jerome): I wasn’t nervous about my role at all, even though it was my debut. It was bloody cold filming bits of it though; we had on our foot warmers, our hand warmers and our thermals during the night shots. It was a total experience.

FAULT: Did you imagine this would be the genre of film you would debut in?

Simon Howard (Biggz): I hoped it would be, you know? I love sci-fi films and I’d always hoped that I’d debut in a film that was based around zombies or aliens. But really I didn’t mind, I knew I was gonna be in a film sooner or later.

Alex: If I’m honest with you, no. Before I did the film I wanted to be a physiotherapist. When I was at my drama club the casting agent came in and told us that they were holding open auditions and then somehow, before I knew it, I just ended up being in Attack The Block.

Leeon: This genre was right up my street. I’d love to do another sci-fi, most definitely. I love manga and monsters and I loved the idea of Attack the Block with aliens coming to London. I was really ready for it.

FAULT: There was a relative amount of gang stereotyping during the film, especially with a mugging at the start and hoodies being worn throughout. Did you get any bad press?

Simon: We opened up people’s eyes to London and gang culture. You do see the gang rob a woman at the start of the film but you also see the characters grow as the film lengthens. It gets people thinking why they robbed her, but as it goes on you fall in love with the characters and you start believing in them and actually really start caring for them.

FAULT: Did you know much about Joe Cornish (writer/director) or Nick Frost (actor) before you received the script?

Simon: I didn’t, not much you know? I didn’t know much about the ‘Adam and Joe’ show either, but I made sure I checked it up after. I liked working with Joe though, he made us feel like there was no pressure. He was good if I was nervous with my lines.

Leeon: I didn’t know anything at all about Nick but because Attack The Block was my first film I wasn’t nervous about not knowing, I was just excited!

FAULT: How similar to your characters are each of you?

Simon: I played Biggz who was full of energy, who had a real buzz about him. I was pleased with my character; he had a lot of passion for his mum and I have a lot of passion for my mum, but I really had to learn to get into my character, he was quite young, the young buck of the group.

Leeon: Absolutely not at all! I’m really quite different to Jerome. I see myself as the comical one out of my group of friends, not the brains of the group, so it was a lot of hard work getting into character. We did a lot of method acting though, we’d go around talking to people as our characters, but we all bonded as members of the gang and that carried on off set too. Us boys, we all stay in contact via Facebook, we party at my house and we party at each other’s houses.

Alex: I’m not as stupid as Pest in real life; he’s a bit of an idiot and acts like a twat, so yeah I am pretty different to my character. (At that point FAULT had to ask if Alex had got to keep Pest’s hat. “I did,” he laughed.)

FAULT: So what did your friends think of your performance?

Alex: They really really liked it. They appreciated that it showed a different side to the stereotyped idea of gangs, that there is a different side to London youth. They liked that it showed their community.

FAULT: How did it feel working with many other actors who were also talking on their first film debut?

Alex: It was a really great experience, everyone had their own traits to work with and everyone was so enthusiastic.

FAULT: How much of your own experience and opinion did you bring to the film?

Simon: I helped out a bit when it came to styling. The woman wanted us looking all fashionable so I came in and mixed it all up a bit. It was quite fun.

Alex: I didn’t really feel like many of us could bring that much to the script, we’re not like the gang, we’re just normal people who don’t go around robbing people!

Leeon: It felt good filming in South London, I was born in London then moved away so it was good to be back. It felt natural, like we were at home.

FAULT: What are your career plans for the future?

Simon: Hopefully I’m dong a BBC3 thing; I’m doing auditions for it now. I’m on my 3rd audition so I go home, revise, have a rest, do some theatre work, revise then rest.

Alex: I’m definitely going to stay being an actor. I’d love to do some of my extreme sports at the same time, in film.

Leeon: First I want to expand my acting career into action films, then I want to make it big in America. I want to get involved in the fashion industry too, and the shops. Then catering, I want to open restaurants. Oh, and I want to retire when I’m 23.

FAULT: So bearing that in mind (!) what is your FAULT?

Leeon: Ahhh, ahhh, just being me you know? I’m not saying my head’s big! But I don’t think it’s good to say you’ve got faults, people should give positive and constructive criticism rather than highlighting faults, so that they can make themselves better.

Alex: What is my Fault? I’m a fool-seeking idiot.

Simon: I don’t really like waking up in the morning. If I could avoid it, I would. I would make sure I set an alarm when I knew I was on set though, I’d be ready for it, I’d be there waiting outside half an hour early.

 And with that honest, amateur but totally relatable answer, our interview with the inspiring and inspired ‘Attack The Block’ boys came to an end.