‘This was a good community with honest people’: BAFTA winner’s love of Lowestoft
PUBLISHED: 16:11 21 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:11 21 May 2019
Walking down quiet streets lined with terraced houses, Sean Harris’ passion for his hometown is clear.
"This town is dead in places, but it is beautiful and there is so much history here," the BAFTA winning actor explains.
Raised in Lowestoft in the 1970s, Mr Harris said the downturn in the town's fortunes is "upsetting," but there is hope for the future.
He said: "It was a different time here growing up in the 70s and 80s. There was work back then. We had the shipyard, the fishing industry, the coachworks. There was a community.
"I get back to Lowestoft quite regularly but it's sad walking up the high street and seeing everything closed.
"I always make a point of walking from the station through Roman Road because this was a good, working-class kind of community with honest people in a nice area. It is hard here now and it does make me upset.
"Families live in these houses and you have to wonder what sort of inspiration their children are getting.
"These were lovely areas. Families lived here, people worked, but this has been going on all over the country since Margaret Thatcher kickstarted it all."
Best known on the big screen for his appearances as antagonist Solomon Lane in two Mission: Impossible films alongside Tom Cruise, as well as winning the leading actor BAFTA award for his performance in Southcliffe, the actor rejects the notion of being a role model for youngsters hoping to follow in his footsteps.
He said: "Don't look at me, look at yourself. What is it you want and why do you want it?
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"You can react by being told you will never achieve anything unless you are a certain type of class or that people think you will never amount to anything. You have to fight that and go against it, or you buckle to it."
Born near Woodbridge, it is the east Suffolk town of Lowestoft which remains in his heart.
He said: "The most important thing is hope. Things can change and get better, but at the minute it is sorry and upsetting. I don't want to be hard on it because I love this town, but it is a harsh reality.
"There are three amazing beaches, all really different, and God forbid anything happens to our theatres. Things like the First Light Festival are a great idea for this town."
It was that hope, along with the backing of his former teacher Lesley Halley at Denes High School in Lowestoft, that helped him achieve his goals.
He said: "My dad moved to America because there was no work here. I had no money or education to move with him and I just got lucky with a few things that drew me towards acting. I never really saw that as a real thing that might happen. I had one teacher who was really the only nurturing person I had who believed in me.
"If she hadn't been there, I 100pc would not be an actor today. It is about getting that inspiration and belief that you could be achieve it, and always taking little steps towards that."
While his career has seen him star alongside one of Hollywood's biggest names, it is on the smaller scale where Mr Harris hopes his message is heard. He said: "If you look at my career, I play a lot of outside society types. I am not a social worker or politician, but I care about these people.
"Films like Mission: Impossible are not really what I am interested in. It is good to be asked, and it wasn't a bad experience, but unless you're the Tom Cruise of it then you are not there to do a lot of acting.
"I am just happy with acting. I was never interested in being famous or a movie star, I just wanted to be an actor. I am more interested in independent, low-budget films now.
"When I'm in Lowestoft, I like coming to the Stanford Arms because it is an interesting space. It is really interesting to hear the stories and there are nice people here.
"Wherever I am, I try to put myself in the world and watch others around me so if I got asked to portray that, then I have got something I have observed."