Joe Cole: ‘I was ready to deliver a kicking’

From Skins to Peaky Blinders, actor Joe Cole has made his name playing rogues. But nothing prepared him for the full-on physicality of his latest film. You might know Joe Cole as a Brummie, from Peaky Blinders, where he played John Shelby, the much-loved gangster kid brother to Cillian Murphy’s Tommy. Or maybe as a Manc, from the Hang the DJ episode of Black Mirror, in which true love was shown to triumph in an age of algorithm-sanctioned pairings. Or, if you catch him in his latest film, A Prayer Before Dawn, where he’s a Liverpudlian boxer turned Thai prisoner turned Muay Thai fighter, using mostly non- verbal gestures to ask to fight or to plead for drugs.

“I’ve not done my own accent in years,” says Cole, 29, his own voice deep, slightly gruff, with a south London twang. Last night, he was watching the World Cup with mates in a bar near where he lives now, in Brixton, but today we’re in a Hitchcock-themed hotel on the outskirts of the capital, drinking in the bucolic surroundings of Epping Forest. He’s on a rare break from filming, having been working almost solidly since he chucked in his old job of selling carpets. Apart from the football, he’s been going to auditions, but there can’t be many accents left for him to tick off. Scottish? “I just went in for Scottish the other day,” he smiles.