Interview: Joe Cole, Pure, C4

joe cole pure

New C4 comedy Pure co-stars actor Joe Cole. Read more about the show and Cole below. And read an interview with Cole's Pure co-star Charly Clive here.


Can you tell us a little about Pure?

It’s based on Rose Cartwright’s memoir. She has a condition called ‘Pure O’, which is a form of OCD whereby you have intrusive thoughts that makes your life very difficult to live in a normal sense; in her case, intrusive sexual thoughts. She went through various treatments over the years and tried to work out what her condition was. There’s not very much information on it. It’s about that really.

Tell us a little about Charlie?

Charlie has a porn addiction. He’s banned from using any sort of screen – smart screen, computer screen – as he tries and gets better. He suffers from erectile dysfunction. We see how this impacts his life and how he and Marnie work together to try and work through their problems.

What was it that attracted you to the role of Charlie?

I thought he was well written. He’s a unique, quirky character. I felt like there was a way in for me. I like variety in my roles, I don’t like to do the same thing. This one felt kind of cool. I love [production company] Drama Republic. I thought the casting was interesting and the filmmakers and everyone behind the scenes. It felt like the right thing to do.

What sort of research did you do?

I read quite a bit about porn addiction. It’s similar to other addictions really. You’re trying to get a dopamine hit and it slowly becomes problematic when it impacts on your sex life, your family life. That’s where we’re at with this character.

You can see the idea of porn addiction being a punchline to a joke by a lot of people but presumably it’s a genuine and very serious condition…

Yeah I think anyone who suffers with addiction of any sort knows it’s not a joke, no matter what the prefix is. I thought Pure was written in a clever way where there’s still a lot of light-heartedness to the show as a whole, we have these well-rounded characters interacting with each other. But there are also moments of sadness and difficulty when we actually see underneath the surface. That was interesting for me, this balancing act of a ‘front’ that my character’s putting on and also some of the deeper issues he’s still trying to figure out.

Did you speak to anyone who suffers from porn addiction while you were researching?

I didn’t actually, no. I did quite a bit of research online but didn’t meet anyone specifically, no.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility playing a role like this, given the impact it has on people’s lives?

Yeah, I try to bring a certain amount of empathy. I think if you’re playing an addict or any sort of character you have to approach it in a very sensitive way. At the end of the day I’m playing a fictional character so it’s important to put my own stamp on it. We’re making something for television that people are going to watch and hopefully enjoy as a piece of drama so it’s important to remember that as well. It’s trying to create a fun, charismatic, interesting character that people want to watch while also being aware of the sensitive issue we’re trying to talk about.

You’re one of those in the cast with the most experience. How did you find working with people like Charly who has her debut screen role here  ?

It was very exciting because we knew we were creating something interesting, something unique and something new, that was fun and with a cool cast of people you haven’t seen before or together on screen. For me that was interesting. Sometimes it’s the same old faces. I quite liked that I didn’t know who anybody was until I met them. That was one of the draws. You get something new and real and fresh when you cast new talent like that.

When you’re going into something like this do you get nervous before your first day on set?

No, at the end of the day I’m very privileged to do this for a living so I just try and make sure I’m well prepped for filming and try and enjoy it.

Presumably as shoots go this was easier than spending weeks on end sparring in a Thai prison?

Everything’s different. I guess the physical element of that film and where we were and all the rest of it, there were a lot of different challenges. But this is a challenge in a different way. It’s a new character, someone I’ve never played before. It’s an interesting balance trying to find every nuance of the character in the scenes with a new cast… it’s just a different challenge really. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily easier. Just different.

You’ve played your share of bad boys and aggressive characters. Was it nice to play a nice if troubled guy?

Yeah. I play characters I suppose that have some violent tendencies but I wouldn’t call them ‘bad boys’. There’s more to them than that! But I see what you’re saying. Charlie is a softer person. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun to do. It’s funny because if you take Prayer Before Dawn, when you do a movie like that people kind of associate you with that. It’s interesting to go in completely the opposite way. It’s why I did Black Mirror. It’s exciting as an actor. It’s fun to play variety and do very different things. That’s why I thoroughly enjoy this particular project.

All though it’s a tricky subject matter there’s a real element of joy and humour throughout the series…

Yeah, we’re trying to shed light on some topics and some issues that perhaps haven’t been explored like ‘Pure O’, a subset of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Anyone I told about this project didn’t seem to know what it was. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to put something out in the mainstream that sheds some light so anyone that can relate to it in any sort of way can see it. I think that’s good for society. What we’re also trying to do is create an entertaining piece of drama with fun characters that people want to watch. I hope that’s what we’ve done!

The key is to make an entertaining comedy-drama which is able to laugh at the situation without being in bad taste. How do you ensure you don’t cross that line?

At the end of the day I’m just the actor saying the lines - there’s only so much I can do. Obviously you’re looking for material you feel has been made with people who have good taste and are doing it in good taste and that’s what I felt. Rose, the writer of the original book upon which the series is based, was heavily involved from the beginning. Drama Republic , the directors and writer Kirstie Swain, everybody was trying to make something that was tasteful and also fun and enjoyable. For me it’s about seeing that and saying, “I want to be a part of this as well.”

Pure starts on C4 at the end of January 2019.

Interview supplied by C4


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