Dorset’s own up and coming film and TV actor Jamie Bacon is standing on a balcony at his parents home looking at views across the rooftops to Poole Harbour and talking about the kind of career that most of his contemporaries could only dream of.
He was one of the stars of White Lines, the 10 part Netflix mystery drama that screened earlier this summer, while his latest cinema film, Brighton, directed by Stephen Cookson, is, Covid permitting, also due for release in the near future.
The movie, based on a Steven Berkoff play, stars Phil Davis and Larry Lamb as a pair of ageing East London rockers returning to the seaside resort for the first time in 40 years.
In flashbacks to their youth Jamie plays the young version of the Larry Lamb character. “It was so enjoyable,” he tells me. “Being able to watch really experienced actors like Phil and Larry at work was such a privilege.
“Marion Bayley (partner of the director Mike Leigh and recently seen as the Queen Mum in The Crown) is also in it. You can learn a huge amount from people like that.”
And there you have it. Jamie, who initially trained at Poole’s Jellicoe Theatre, is looking like the man of the moment. At 27 and just four years out of drama school, he has barely stopped working. There are several films and a body of TV work already in the can yet he displays no arrogance. Just a willingness to work hard and learn. The industry has responded well.
Last year he appeared, uncredited, as Cool Dude in the Elton John biopic Rocketman but perhaps most impressive is the success of his own highly-praised and self-produced film Into the Mirror, a moving story of a young man struggling with gender identity.
Jamie co-wrote the piece with a friend, Charles Streeter, when they were between jobs. He produced the film himself and stars in the principal role as Daniel, a junior office worker adrift and deeply unhappy in the big city. Charles meanwhile plays a drag queen called Jennifer.
“I was sitting there waiting for the phone to ring and, as I love writing and had always wanted to make a film, I thought I might be able to make something happen rather than wait for someone else to do it for me,” he explained.
Into the Mirror was originally planned as a five minute short but, with backing from industry insiders and encouragement from, among others, Richard E.Grant, it soon developed into a 65 minute drama that had the critics sitting up and taking notice.
It tells how Daniel’s life is transformed when he discovers an underground club scene where his belief that he is really a girl begins to make sense. The story, in which he transitions into his female alter ego, was inspired by a Channel 4 documentary and brought praise from across the film world. Not only was it a sensitive and well-played piece but it proved what a diverse talent Jamie Bacon is.
The film, which received a special local screening at Lighthouse in Poole last December, found Jamie playing against type. In real life he is lean, well-muscled and decidedly heterosexual. His long-term girlfriend, the actress Beatrice May, was also in the movie with him.
Jamie, who loves surfing on the Dorset coast and when in London keeps fit by boxing several times a week, found that one downside of his fitness regime was that his shoulders were initially too broad to fit comfortably into the gown that had been specially prepared for the role. A few adjustments had to be made before shooting could begin.
The transitioning Daniel with his careful make-up and glamorous dress may be a world away from beach boy Jamie but he draws some parallels. “There are always people who will judge you and jump to conclusions and there have been times when I’ve felt judged,” he says. “When I was growing up and told people I was doing drama and dance I used to get some stick. So, although I’m the opposite of who Daniel is, I think there is something of him in all of us and I’m encouraged by his bravery.”
He’s delighted with Into the Mirror saying “It’s very positive and upbeat and although I’m not a spokesperson for the LGBT community I am very happy to draw attention to it and maybe help people understand more.”
It seems he’s achieved his aims if the review from Movie Nation is anything to go by: “Into the Mirror gets as close as any movie ever has to simulating the state of mind of someone conflicted, if no longer confused about his sexuality,” it states.
Other projects have included shooting the aforementioned White Lines with Daniel Mays in Ibiza. The Netflix drama which garnered impressive reviews focused on the discovery of the body of a legendary DJ 20 years after he mysteriously disappeared.
Jamie also features in Tea – a short film about racial tensions in a south coast town. He has also recently been shooting A Gift From Bob, the sequel to the hit feelgood movie A Street Cat Named Bob.
Jamie is quick to credit the performing arts course at the Jellicoe for inspiring him to pursue his acting career but says it was his mum and dad – builder and artist Ricky and his wife Sue – moving the family from London to Poole a decade ago that really set his life on its current course.
“I love it here,” he says, as we stroll out on the pontoon at Lilliput Sailing Club near the family home. “It was a perfect place to live and study and it is now the perfect place to come back to. After the pressure of London I can just get my surf-board, head for somewhere like Kimmeridge and recharge my batteries.”
Jamie says he’s under no illusions about the future of his career. “I’ve been very lucky but you can’t take anything for granted. Acting is such a tough business. One minute you’re working and the next you’re not. It’s just a question of keeping busy, trying to get the right auditions, getting seen for the right parts and hoping to be lucky. It’s peaks and troughs. A bit like surfing really. You just have to ride the waves.”