Cel Spellman Interview | Netflix’s White Lines & UNICEF

CEL SPELLMAN is currently starring in the highly-anticipated Netflix crime drama series White Lines, alongside Daniel Mays. The murder mystery follows Zoe Walker investigating the disappearance of her brother in Ibiza. As a 10-part crime drama, White Lines has all the making of a perfect summer show.

As well as being an accomplished actor, with leading roles in ITV’s Cold Feet and BBC’s World On Fire, Cel Spellman hits the airwaves every Sunday afternoon between 16:00 and 19:00 with his co-presenter Katie Thistleton for BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks.

AC: What can audiences expect from White Lines?

CEL SPELLMAN – What can’t you expect from White Lines? This show has got absolutely everything. It’s mad. It’s absolutely mad and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s brilliantly bonkers – there are twists and turns, high and lows. It starts off really fun and high octane, then it really does go dark. I’m also going to go out there and say that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s come from the genius mind of Álex Pina who came up with the sensational Money Heist. This is just another brilliant world that he’s created.

AC: Can you give us any teasers about what is in store for Marcus?

CEL SPELLMAN – Well, I play a younger version of Marcus. There are two timelines within White Lines. You’ve got present-day and that’s where the story is unfolding through the eyes of Zoe, who is trying to discover what happened to her brother Axel when he went missing 20 years ago. There’s another timeline, set in the 90s, which is where you are with all the characters that you see in present-day, but as their younger selves.

So, I play younger Marcus, Daniel Mays plays older Marcus – which is an absolute dream for me because, for me, he’s one of the finest actors in the UK right now. What he’s done with the older Marcus is nothing short of genius. Marcus is no stranger to finding himself in many precarious situations and a lot of predicaments. Although he’s got such a good heart, such a good heart and his intentions are well placed – his decision making isn’t the best.

AC: Do you have a favourite line of dialogue from the show?

CEL SPELLMAN – There’s a line in the first episode said by older DeMarcus when he’s kind of reflecting about what it was like when he was younger and he’s kind of saying, “How can you not be sad after that?” But you’re saying if you’ve lived that good life, you know, lived like a God basically and had your best times when you were young, how can you not be sad after that? Because all the best times are behind you. And yeah, when, when you hear it, it’s just that total loss of who you are as a kid when you can feel like you can take on the world. I think that’s really beautiful and poetic.

AC: Can you recall any funny moments from on-set filming?

CEL SPELLMAN – There was one moment, but I actually wasn’t there for it. It was a scene that was set in the present-day storyline. There is a scene that involves a cow and it’s in David’s world and he’s become this Yogi almost. And he asked Joey to hug the cow, brilliantly mad. Anyway, they had this fully grown, massive cow on-set.

They brought this car over to film him and as you can imagine, there’s a lot of things happening on a set. It’s safe to say this cow did not want to be there and categorically definitely did not want to be hugged. So you can only imagine the chaos that ensued that day. That is one story that just became the stuff of legends and it just perfectly sums up White Lines. It was just a recipe for disaster. 

AC: How can you tell when you’re reading a great script?

CEL SPELLMAN – I mean not to sound too, you know, arty about it, but there are those scripts where the words just really lift off the page and it does all the work for you. Like an amazing book where you really can get immersed in the world and in the characters or in the dialogue. I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with some incredible writers in Álex Pina and Russell T. Davis being another where everything you need is on the page. Bringing the words to life was made so much easier because of all those little details and all the little things. Russell T. Davis is one of the best writers ever. Of course, Alex Pina, an absolute genius.

AC: As an actor, what are you still trying to learn?

CEL SPELLMAN – I’d kind of want to push back on that slightly and say you don’t stop learning. That’s something that I know gets said a lot, but it gets said a lot because it’s so true. I think the minute you feel like you’ve got nothing else to learn, maybe is the moment in which you should maybe stop. I think, yeah, my work will never be done. I think you should always be constantly striving to improve and better yourself in whatever it is that you do in whichever part of your life.

Your eyes and ears should always be open. There’s always a lesson out there to be learned. There’s always something for you to interpret and then maybe put into your work. So, don’t ever think that the learning stops. And even for me personally, there’s still, I’ve still got a long way to go.

AC: When did you begin to see acting as a potential career avenue?

CEL SPELLMAN – It’s all I’ve known really. I was very fortunate to have started acting so young. I’d always love drama and school and started working at seven. I was able to find the thing that I loved and actually realise that it’s a job as well. From that point forward it’s been no question of what I’ve wanted to do. In my head, genuinely, from when I’ve been young, it’s all a thought I’d ever do and it’s all I can do really. 

AC: How important is social media to you right now?

CEL SPELLMAN – I guess right now, given the current circumstances that we’re all in and the place in which the world finds itself, I’ve got to say it’s been really important. I’ve definitely spent more time on it than I would normally. It’s been a great way of connecting with friends and just keeping up to speed with family and friends on how they are and what they’re doing. So, I’d say, in this moment I’d be lying if I said it’s not been important, but under more normal circumstances I have a love-hate relationship with social media.

There’s a beautiful quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. When you are constantly comparing yourself to those that you’re seeing online, that’s no good for anyone. So, that’s another side of it that I really struggle with. There’s so much beauty in the natural world. I think if more people lifted their heads up off the phone, you’d be in a lot better place. There’s a lot of natural wonders out there for us to see, feel and experience that you cannot get by looking at a phone screen or in a social media app.

AC: What do you want the world to look like in 10 years?

CEL SPELLMAN – Peaceful. I would like the world to know peace across the board. I think that would be beautiful. And also for us to be living more harmoniously, not only with each other but with our natural world and for the health of our planet to be in a better place than it is now. Hopefully, when we chat back in 10 years time, we might have turned the tide in the fight against climate change and the world will be a greener, more sustainable, more peaceful, harmonious place.

AC: If you had the chance to put something on billboards worldwide next week, what would it be? Or what would it say?

CEL SPELLMAN – Always wondered how much it costs actually to put something on a billboard. “Peace and love”. That’s something I always say and it’s a nice message for people to read. I’m all about kind of spreading peace and kindness and love. It’ll make the world a better place.

That could be nice. There’s got to be something funny here though. There was once a footballer called Carlos Tevez who played for Manchester United, but then he came to Manchester City. We bought him and Manchester United or our big derby rivals. City stuck a massive billboard in town of Tevez saying, “Welcome to Manchester”. And I thought that was genius. Maybe something along those lines.

AC: In front of the camera. what is a fear you’d like to conquer?

CEL SPELLMAN – To try and stop overthinking and being over-analytical and critical of what I’m doing and then what I see on-screen. I hate watching myself.

AC: A few years ago, you made an incredible music video with Nothing But Thieves. It’s not something we’ve heard you speak about. What was the experience like?

CEL SPELLMAN – It was really cool. It was kind of, we kind of just went back to basics, shooting guerrilla-style. It was, it was an amazing experience. We shot it across two days over in Benidorm. We had no budget. It was just all about getting your hands dirty in this vision, that Ivanna, our director had, who was brilliant. We had an insane DOP in Nunu who was just awesome. 

And we shot it on 35mm film, which again was really cool and, and added to the experience. We just had the best time. I mean, it really was, you know, bare-bones skeleton crew. We were able to have a bit of freedom in coming up with ideas and, and seeing what we could do and what we could make happen. I absolutely buzzed off it. Benidorm not so much if I’m being honest with you. The experience of filming itself, I really did love it and, and would love to, you know, do more of that.

AC: Can you tell us about some of the work you’ve been doing with WWF?

CEL SPELLMAN – I’ve been a supporter of WWF since I was a kid when I got my first adoption pack. At the back end of last year, I’m buzzing to say, you know, I was, I was made an ambassador, which was an absolute dream come true. I work a lot with the youth department within WWF. Working with young people and where, you know, climate change and our environment isn’t really on the school curriculum. It’s about providing the tools young people need to explore our natural world and learn about it.

There is a David Attenborough film coming out, his legacy film, which I’ve fortunately seen and it’s a fantastic piece of work. It’s his witness statement on what he’s seen and he’s seen everything. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but I’m going to say we’re working on a WWF podcast. I can’t really say too much on that, but that’s another thing which we’re cracking away and working on.

Things can be turned around. The systems are out there for us to implement. The technology exists. What I’m doing is, is trying to remind people that even though it feels overwhelming, it really isn’t. We all have a voice.

I’ve also been working with UNICEF. I mean, with UNICEF, we’re on the ground all over the world helping children in the most difficult situations and circumstances. And I think, you know, it was just important to remember that all the work that they were doing under normal circumstances, they’re still having to do, you know, there are still wars going on. There are still children that don’t have access to clean water or to an education or they find themselves in really difficult circumstances and in some of the hardest places to reach. 

So while they continue delivering that critical work, they’ve also now had this added workload which comes in the form of this pandemic. They’ve got so much on their plate, but they are continuing delivering this, this unbelievable monument or work, that I know is helping so many. It’s been quite nice to put time and energy in with them and help them with their big global appeal. It is fundraising to provide them with funds so they can continue doing this work all around the world in some of the most difficult remote places and helping as many children and families as they can. That’s been another big passion of mine and kind of really, really appreciate being able to support them as well.

White Lines is now streaming on Netflix