Shameless: Class Act

Jackson Powell (Emmanuel Ighodaro)


WE met in the canteen of the Shameless HQ in Manchester.

But it wasn’t until Manny Ighodaro stood up that I realised just how tall he was.

Of which more below.

Episode six of the new series is on Channel 4 at 10pm this evening, after last week’s burst of episodes one to five.

With a first screening of next week’s episode seven following tonight on E4.

Including a scene involving guest star Pookey Quesnel which is definitely not for the squeamish.

Here’s my latest series eight Shameless feature, published in the Manchester Evening News:

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SHAMELESS star Emmanuel Ighodaro was on the verge of quitting acting when he landed a plum role on the Chatsworth estate.

The Salford-raised actor plays trainee teacher Jackson Powell who, along with wife Avril and daughter Letitia, has moved in between the Gallagher and Maguire households.

Ironically, Emmanuel – known as Manny – was working as a teaching assistant when he went up for the part and planning a real life classroom career.

“I’ve been acting for eight years. Before I got the teaching I was on the dole for about nine months and it’s just not fun. You sit there and you question yourself, ‘Why am I doing it?’ I love working with kids and would have definitely have gone into teaching.

“The kids are difficult at first. But for some reason they’re mesmerised by my height – I’m 6 foot five – and it’s a nice ice-breaker for me. I was working in quite a nice school with kids with emotional behavioural difficulties.

“They had a parents’ evening and just 30 per cent of the parents turned up. I was absolutely horrified. And you think, ‘No wonder the kid comes into school and just doesn’t want to pay attention or can’t focus on simple tasks.’ A lot of the kids were really talented but had no confidence whatsoever.”

There wasn’t much time for introductions when Jackson and Avril, played by Karen Bryson, arrived on screen in the first of last week’s five Shamless episodes, launching the eighth series.

“There’s a lot of sex between myself and my screen wife. They don’t hold back. We’re quite fun loving and feisty. On the second day of filming I had everything off. With a show like this you have to come in at the same pitch as everyone else.”

Karen Bryson as Avril Powell

Manny, 32, admits he was “terrified” before filming his first saucy scene. “I was petrified. It’s not something that you get used to but is has given me more confidence now, having done the sex scenes early on.

“I’d met Karen at the audition. It really helps having someone that you trust and get along with because the stuff we have to do is very intimate and there’s no real way to do it half-heartedly.

“I’ve got a girlfriend and she knew about it because she helped me with the scripts. But she wasn’t looking forward to seeing it. She might get the DVD and fast forward through the bits she doesn’t want to see.”

He adds: “Initially, my mum was over the moon when I told her about the job and she was ready to sit down and watch it with me. And then I told her about the nature of what we do and she’s adamant that she’s not going to watch it now.”

Co-star Karen recalls: “One of the audition scenes was a bit of a romp. So they put us together to see our chemistry and that really worked. That’s when they suddenly went, ‘It’s those two.’ I couldn’t have prayed for someone I get on with more.

“Can you imagine if you didn’t like the person you had to kiss and had to pretend to be with. And you expect an audience to buy that? You’d have to be a really good actor.”

Shameless (Channel 4, 10pm, tonight) returns to its regular weekly slot, as Man Utd fan Jackson finds himself at odds with Liverpudlian neighbour Mimi Maguire (Tina Malone). A first screening of next week’s episode follows on E4 at 11:05pm.

Born in Hope Hospital, Manny is delighted to be back home and reckons there’s plenty of years left in the Wythenshawe-filmed series. “Shameless is not afraid to show the underbelly of society. It shows life for what it is and doesn’t apologise.”

Does he recognise the fictional Chatsworth? “The estate I lived on is very much like it – just the atmosphere and the attitudes. It was quite a rough estate. You had 11-year-olds stealing cars and evading the police. People used to get up to all sorts.

“But I never got into trouble myself. I had good parents who wanted us to do well. I ended up moving away at 18 to be an actor. I first went to Blackpool and did a course there and then I went to the Bristol Old Vic for three years.

“So that took me away from Manchester. As things turned out, I did most of my acting elsewhere aside from an episode of Outlaws with Phil Daniels and now Shameless. It was a good opportunity for me to come back here and be close to my family.

“I’ve rented a flat, just off town, which suits me down to the ground. It’s lovely to be back and doing something on home soil. Manchester has changed a lot over the year and I’m proud of the city.”

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