SCUM 1979 WIKI: THE HERBERT NORVILLE INTERVIEW
August 2012 brought us into contact with Scum actor Herbert Norville, or 'Herbs Johnson' as he now prefers to be known; Herbs gave us the following interview, in some parts the funniest one we've ever read! Great fun and a great guy!
SCUM WIKI: Today on Scum Wiki we interview the man behind the inmate known as Toyne, Mr Herbs Johnson! Herbs, thanks so much for answering our questions here today!
HERBS JOHNSON: Cheers, happy to help.
SCUM WIKI: Firstly, can you tell us about your casting call for Toyne, and did you audition for that character specifically?
HERBS JOHNSON: I did not audition, I was at the Anna Scher drama club and was given the part, quite a few of the cast came from Anna's.
SCUM WIKI: What was it like working under Alan Clarke's direction?
HERBS JOHNSON: It was good - he knew what he wanted and was very good at getting it out of the cast.
SCUM WIKI: What are your memories on working with the rest of the cast?
HERBS JOHNSON: I have fun memories...it was like a giant youth club where we were all having fun and getting paid. I remember playing cards with ‘Pongo’ (John Blundell), Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone, and a few others. Pongo didn't know how to play Poker, so we had fun ripping him off, ha ha! Only a couple of quid, but it was fun…plus the ‘murderball’ scene looked violent, but what fun we had! We played ‘who could rip the most t-shirts’ as our own game!
SCUM WIKI: How did you prepare yourself as a young actor for playing Toyne's character, in particular the lead up to his depression and ultimate breakdown following the letter from his parents?
HERBS JOHNSON: I had no worries about playing the part, and no preparation; I just found it fun. My friends loved it, and after all these years some of them still ask me to say my lines…and when I do, they say I’m doing it wrong, and THEY say it! "My Wife - Candy was my nickname for my wife!" Haha!
SCUM WIKI: Describe Ronald Toyne in one sentence.
HERBS JOHNSON: Toyne was a follower, and easily led.
SCUM WIKI: Did you have any concerns about playing out a shocking suicide attempt onscreen?
HERBS JOHNSON: No, not really, I just did it when Alan asked me. When you are that young, you don’t think, you just do…and I did, haha!
SCUM WIKI: What can you tell us about the props/effects used for the wrist cutting?
HERBS JOHNSON: We did it in about five takes in the association room, as follows:
- Take 1: The plastic bags were so tight when I clenched my fist, they broke so we used condoms up my sleeve.
- Take 2: The knife was so blunt that I couldn't break the condom, so we had to get another knife.
- Take 3: Went mad, threw my hands up in the air, condom flew out and stuck to the wall…everyone cracked up!
- Take 4: Tried again; condom broke before action, costume got soaked! My jacket went from beige to green (we used red food colouring)!
- Take 5: In the corridor, I jumped on the gate, and it swung back and forth as it was not locked! Getting dragged by Sands (John Judd) was real, the tie was strangling me…I went mad when the cell door closed behind me!
SCUM WIKI: Were you permitted to hang out on set and watch the filming continue after your character's demise?
HERBS JOHNSON: I guess we probably were, but I was working on a theatre play at the time so I didn’t hang around on set afterwards.
SCUM WIKI: What can you tell us about the rest of your acting career, do you have any personal favourite roles?
HERBS JOHNSON: Acting...did lots of theatre in the early days; TV films, then Full Metal Jacket, and also did the first black feature film in England – Pressure - with the British Film Institute.
SCUM WIKI: Do you still keep in contact with any Scum cast members, or have you worked with them again since?
HERBS JOHNSON: I have not seen anyone from the cast; it’s one of those things I guess.
SCUM WIKI: When did you last watch Scum yourself?
HERBS JOHNSON: I last saw Scum during summertime last year in my local pub; one of the regulars shouted out “Herb, you’re on TV!”
SCUM WIKI: Have you seen the movie Dog Pound, a 2010 modern remake based on Scum set in a North American correctional facility?
HERBS JOHNSON: Yes, I have seen Dog Pound; it's so American, so over the top! We do those kind of films so much better in England.
SCUM WIKI: What current projects can you tell us about, and what hobbies and interests does Herbs Johnson currently pursue?
HERBS JOHNSON: At the moment I am working on a lot of different projects; I’m part of a film company called DT Films, making short independent films. Hobbies: writing music, playing the guitar and helping out Ryan FC goalkeeper coach, and playing tennis.
SCUM WIKI: Herbs, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories with us today - all the very best on your current and future projects and assignments.
HERBS JOHNSON: Thanks, hope I have answered well…good luck with the Scum Wiki, you have reminded me of many things that I had long forgotten!