Why Michael's werewolf role has been his transformation
LIFE will never be the same for Michael Socha. Every time there's a full moon, whether he's shopping in Asda or drinking in a pub in Friar Gate, he gets an irresistible urge – to transform into a werewolf.
Of course, it's not that easy. In fact, it takes around eight hours – and that's after he's walked round in circles for a night swinging a dead chicken on a string.
But with the aid of skilled BBC make-up artists, almost anything is possible. Michael had not yet donned his fangs when he took a break from filming the hugely successful Being Human in Cardiff to chat about his role.
Now into its third series on BBC Three, the show features four unusual housemates – a werewolf, vampire, ghost and Twilight-style human girlfriend. But this series sees the introduction of two more characters – another werewolf played by Robson Green and his son, Tom. Enter Michael Socha.
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The Littleover lad landed the part after making his name as a bullying hooligan in Shane Meadows' 2006 Bafta-winning movie This Is England, followed by the lead role in Stephen Lowe's stage show Glamour.
But he nearly didn't make the audition for Being Human.
"I was helping my mate with his house, carrying a sofa across a road in Normanton when I was hit by a black cab. It never stopped. I was only bruised and stuff but it meant I missed my audition, so I begged for another and they saw me."
Plunged into the show mid-series with such luminaries as Robson Green and Russell Tovey would have phased a lot of young actors but not Michael.
"I was a bit nervous about joining the show after working on This Is England. Everyone was very friendly and we all became very close. It was wicked. They all really welcomed me and I've already made lifelong friends.
"I thought Robson Green might be a bit 'actor-y' because he's so massive! I mean, he's a star. My mum really fancies him! But he was one of the nicest blokes I've ever met. A right laugh. And Russell was the same. We all get on really well. Not one of them is an idiot. And the crew are brilliant too. They really look after me, especially the nurse.
"I get a bit carried away when I'm transforming and when I'm running through the woods and streams. So I'm always getting injuries, cutting my arms and legs. I've filled in at least seven accident forms already. But the nurse is always there to sort me out. I quite fancy her."
Michael admits he's always been a handful, which is probably why his teachers at Derby's St Benedict School might not have been too sympathetic.
"The only things I could do were English, drama and history. I loved those subjects but I hated everything else. But even though I really worked to get the lead role in the end-of-year musical, they wouldn't give it to me," he said.
"They did me a favour because that drove me into am dram and I joined the Chellaston Youth Players. They made me the lead in Bugsy Malone – and it all took off from there."
Michael never made it to RADA – which is a bond he shares with Robson Green and Robert Carlyle, with whom he worked on the award-winning TV drama The Unloved – but he did attend Nottingham's Television Workshop and has nothing but praise for it.
"Ian Smith, who runs it, puts so much effort into helping kids who wouldn't normally get the chance to do drama – kids like me with no money. Even when you earned money, they never took a cut. Acting is mostly for people with money, unless you're lucky but Ian has a real eye for talent and he spots the rawness in your ability."
It has such a strong reputation that casting directors are always dropping in and it was there he was spotted by Shane Meadows.
Since his big screen debut, Michael has had bit parts in TV series Casualty, Paradox, Married Single Other and several movies including Summer, Better Things and Bonded By Blood.
Apart from playing a social worker in The Unloved alongside his sister, Lauren, who was nominated for a Bafta for her role as a girl in care, he has mostly been cast as a thug, which is one of the reasons he is so pleased to be playing werewolf Tom in Being Human.
"Tom is a good guy. He's very innocent. He doesn't have a clue. He's never seen the world. He's not been downtown or had a girlfriend, although he's interested. Of course, he may change. Who knows? They've asked me to come back in series four so maybe he'll have a girlfriend by then."
In the meantime, Michael is having a ball, and is particularly enjoying his transformation scenes.
"I was told not to hold back but just to let go and imagine I could feel my bones breaking, my heart stopping – so I did. I went mental. I hit that deck and screamed and wriggled. I don't remember how I did it, or what I did. Russell and Robson had a real laugh.
"On screen, it happens in a few minutes but, in reality, it takes all day. Each stage takes about four hours. The make-up guys have to give me bigger ears and eyes and hair. My claws grow and my teeth, of course. Then they make them even bigger and add a snout and more hair until by the third stage, I've totally changed. That's a lot of wiggling and screaming!
"And it happens every full moon. As Aidan says (Aidan Turner plays the good-looking and laid-back vampire Mitchell), it's that time of month again.
"One time, I nearly did myself an injury. I was in a cage and the director told me to really go mental. My mate, Eddie, from Mickleover, had joined us as an extra for the day. I was snarling and spitting like a psycho. Afterwards, he said he was really worried; he thought I was having a fit."
If he was worried about fitting in, Michael soon found his feet.
"It's a laugh when we are not working. Russell makes me laugh so much; he is very funny. Every one of them made me feel good and easy."
And after episodes four, seven and eight of this series, he has been invited back for series four.
"I don't know what I've done but the writer says he wants me back, which is wicked."
In between, he will be rehearsing for This Is England's Christmas special, making a music video with US soul singer Lauren Pritchard, and waiting for the phone to ring with his next job offer. He might even find time to watch his favourite football team, Derby County, so long as they're not playing at full moon. It could be embarrassing!