With A Town Called Malice, rising actor Jack Rowan is making his mark.
Jack Rowan is a British actor who isn’t just rising the waves of the acting industry — he’s making them himself with his exceptional talent and natural charm. Known for his captivating performances and versatility in projects like in Born to Kill, Noughts and Crosses, and Peaky Blinders, Rowan has quickly become a fan favourite among audiences worldwide. His latest project, A Town Called Malice, is a gripping drama that showcases his incredible range as an actor.
A Town Called Malice is a 1980s crime thriller (with an amazing soundtrack) that follows the Lord crime family making their mark in Majorca. In A Town Called Malice, Rowan plays the role of Gene Lord, a young man who is attempting to avoid his turbulent family’s criminal lifestyle. He, along with his mysterious fiancee Cindy [played by Tahirah Sharif], enter the criminal underground.
With A Town Called Malice, Rowan cements his status as one of the most promising young actors of his generation. The show is a thrilling exploration of loyalty, betrayal, and the devastating consequences of making the wrong choices. His undeniable talent and captivating screen presence, not to mention his ability to seamlessly capture the character’s inner turmoil and complex emotions, make this show a must-watch for fans of gripping drama and compelling storytelling.
1883 Magazine sits down with Jack Rowan to talk about A Town Called Malice, the 80s, and more.
Congratulations on A Town Called Malice. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of craziness. How has it been receiving the great reception it’s gotten?
Yeah, it’s been one of those jobs — and you’ve probably heard it before — but for me, it was the best job I’ve ever had. Not to say any other job was worse. In fact, it was just like everything seemed to fall into place quite perfectly. It was the biggest job I’d ever had and the longest job ever. As an actor, from start to finish, where my character starts and where he ends up, is the best [character] I’ve had the opportunity to play. Then, you throw in the location — Tenerife.
Everyone got on so well. We had chemistry on screen, but we also had chemistry offscreen as well. So the fact that now the show is out and it’s being received well and I’ve had a few people come up to me in person, and they say how much they love it because it is its own style. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but once you’re watching it, you’re thrown into it and they realise it’s unique and has its own style. I hope that people watch it and feel like they have as much fun as we had to do it, you know.
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It is a very interesting and very immersive show. Was that easy to get into on set, especially with it being set in the ‘80s?
My clothes definitely helped. The trainers I wore and the jackets were actually from that time, they were originals. So, in a way, when you put it on, [it feels like] it was made differently. It feels different. You put on a piece of history.
The opening scene in the show when I lipsync “Ma Baker” by Boney M was the first day of shooting. So, not only am I wearing a vintage jumper, I’m in a club surrounded by loads of support in ‘80s clothing with hair and stuff. It’s very easy to feel immersed in that time, especially when they’re playing music and everyone’s just dancing around. There’s also a moment in episode two where we all just suddenly broke out into dance and that made it really immersive.
There are a lot of really fun music moments like that. Do you have a favourite one?
I think that might be my favourite, breaking out to dance to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol, purely because the ‘80s is a time that passed me by. I was born in the late ‘90s. It’s a time that I can only ever think about. I never lived it, I never experienced it. But, at that moment, when you break out into dance and you’re surrounded by hundreds of people in, as we say, ‘80s clothing, music playing, in that moment, you get a little taste of what it would have felt like to be in an ‘80s club. As bizarre as that moment sounded when the director was explaining it to us, I think it came across well. We just had a bit of fun.
It looked like a lot of fun, but it also has the serious tone of a crime drama. Gene comes from a crime family, and then he has a very interesting relationship with Cindy [Tahirah Sharif]. Can you talk a bit about Gene’s journey?
Even from the beginning when I was auditioning, I didn’t have the part yet. It was the part I always wanted to play. This character always has it [the crime gene] in him; it’s always that way. So, it’s almost like Michael Corleone in The Godfather — no matter how much you push it away, it’s sort of in your DNA because it’s what you’ve grown up around. As much as Gene steps back from it as the story goes, you actually see that whilst he might not have the muscle or the brute force, for him in fact, it’s more the brains.
He’s very much the brains of the operation.
Exactly. He’s also the most trustworthy out of everyone. But, for his people, he’d manipulate and backstab somebody else. He does have a criminal DNA, he’s someone that will step on you to get to the next level. So, when playing him, it was like I knew my choices in episodes one and two. I just had to trust the process; it’s knowing that this is a slow build and this is a character that, by the end, is going to be completely different. He can’t be a full-fledged criminal in episode one. He’s someone who’s articulate and intelligent. He has got his shit together, and he’s just trying to live an honest life. He could easily run away and wipe his hands and say “I’m done!” But he stays, so there is that loyalty.
I loved your relationship on screen. It was amazing. Was it really easy to build that with her?
From the beginning, that was our goal. I was still auditioning when we went into our first chemistry read. After that, once we got the parts, we had rehearsals and stuff. From the beginning, we both had this mindset of this complex and loving relationship. There are so many shows out there where you have a couple and, a lot of the time, they butt heads and you think it’s going to end. I mean, if I were in that relationship, I would just go.
I’m not ride or die either. I’m leaving.
Yeah, exactly. They’re like, “We argue all the time and now you’ve just run over a police officer!” But with Gene and Cindy, it’s like the character’s journey quickly goes into a bit of turmoil. It was our aim always to remind the audience that these are two people that love each other to be we’ve got each other’s back. So, even in scenes which perhaps were written to be more about each other, we find a way to bring it all back together. Tahirah and I went to the same school.
She grew up in Brixton, I grew up in Pimlico. We grew up in a similar way. So, even when we first met each other, there were little anecdotes and we got on straight away. And because we both loved the characters, we both feel very grateful to have been there. It was just such a joy, so I’m glad it came to life on screen.
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I’ve noticed that they are all very much conflicted within themselves and dealing with those family issues. So, whether it’s Calumn or Bonnie Gold and Peaky Blinders, are you attracted to those characters?
Definitely because I feel like that’s just human beings in general. We all have our faces, right? We all deal with our things in different ways. So, like every person you come across, we are all complex in our own way. I’ve never played outright villains, but I’ve played characters who have done bad things. It’s the whole question of what really makes someone evil. Callum, for example, might be when you take his actions out of context. But then you learn his story… and Gene’s the same. So, I suppose, yeah, they’re always my favourite characters to play, but maybe one day I’ll get an opportunity to just play like an out-and-out villain or something. And then I could say that was my favourite job ever, because perhaps at least that is clear in what they’re trying to do.
I remember seeing an interview where you spoke of how you enjoyed working with Malorie Blackman and working on those kinds of adaptations. Are there any adaptations that you want to do? Any villains they play?
Oh, man, that’s hard! I’m trying to think now because there’s so many! I can’t play it now, but I loved Lord of the Flies. I’m just too old now, I think. Unless they change it in some way. That’s tough because now we’re going to end this and then I’m going to be like, Oh, I should have said that!
You can drop me an email after, then we can manifest it. I know you’ve manifested this role for A Town Called Malice. I can see you doing another gangster role, especially after Peaky Blinders.
That’s something I would like to do because I like going back into different eras, whatever story it might be. I’d love to be in a war film of some sort. Have you ever seen the film Chinatown?
I’d love to play like those sort of 1950s and ‘60s private detectives with those amazing hats, a sort of noir-type thing. I’m up for anything; I’m not tied to any genre. I like the idea of looking back one day and saying, “Oh, look at all these different outfits. Look at all these different accents, look at all these different haircuts, accords, different eras.” I love the idea of going back to a time that I’ll never experience, you know?
Of course, and with the 80s, everything is different. We were talking about The Godfather and we see a lot of parallels between that film to Gene’s relationship with his father.
Yeah. I mean, you’re right — there were some links to that. That is something classic to base it off of. Me and Jason, who is just like just the loveliest guy, had such a great relationship. He calls me up randomly to say “Love you, brother!” He’s such a sweet man, he makes everybody feel like his best friend. We loved that father and son dynamic because in the script’s early drafts, the characters were much rougher – he was more brute force and Gene didn’t look his father in the eyes. They have the history but, regardless, he’s still my dad. Yes, I still want his approval. I still crave his touch. I still crave his support. And he, in a way, at times, is just a narcissist. You never know quite what he’s thinking or what’s really in his heart; he’s a bad guy. You still believe him. You still like him. He’s charming. I love that about Gene and Albert.
One moment they are singing “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and the next he tries to kill his son!
Exactly, and that was just so interesting to play around with.
Being so close with everyone, it must have been really lovely to hang out.
It was just the little things, like, consistent weather. Tenerife is nice because it has such a small island. Have you ever been?
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No, but I feel like I need to now!
I would describe it as two parts — the North and the South, and we filmed all over it. It takes about an hour to get from one end to the other. We stayed in the North. The South is where all the tourists go, it’s more of a party atmosphere with pubs and clubs, and everyone’s from the UK. That stuff’s great when you want that. Then we also had our real life. We stayed in this suburban hideaway. I just loved the little things, like walking to get my shopping from the supermarket. Everything moved a bit slower, you’d walk around and not see anyone. So it was nice to have that separation. We went for dinners and we became a nice little team.
I feel like it’s very genuine, it was really nice to see on screen. What would you do if you could go back to the ‘80s? Would you be like Gene?
Yeah, the whole criminal thing. The allure of it is fun. But then you realise that actually, you’re one move away from actually going to prison. So you’re not! [Both laugh] If I had the choice, I’d rather return to the eighties for a month. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realised that very simple things give me pleasure. I think I’d go back to the ‘80s and I’d go to watch a movie in the cinema, like Jaws or something. You just see everyone’s reaction. I’d go to pubs, I’d go to clubs, I’d play video games, I’d watch movies, I’d buy clothes… I’d just do very simple things every single day. I’d be out at eight in the morning, come back at three in the morning, and just live a normal life for a month and then hopefully come back to this time and take what I’ve learned from it.
Nice and simple; I love it.
Life moves so quickly now because of social media. Even just the day, I can imagine, just felt longer, you know?
Definitely. I love the simplicity of your plan. I need to know, did you steal some clothes from the set?
[Laughs] I did not steal anything.
No, of course, you just had the clothes on and forgot to take them off! [Both laugh]
Oh, I wanted to steal things, but I want to steal things on every job I have. On this job, I did get a few clothes given to me — I got the Casio watch Gene wears. I have, 15 track jackets. We had a guy who runs this company called Eighties Casual Classics, and he provided some clothing for the show and stuff. So, after the job, I went to his showroom and he gifted me loads of stuff. So some of it is from him and others are things I may have forgotten to put back!
A Town Called Malice is available to watch on Sky Max.
Interview Michaela Makusha
Photographer Jemima Marriott
Talent Jack Rowan
Editor Kelsey Barnes
Studio Assistant Lee Furnival
Stylist assistant Lucy Proctor
BTS Kelly Guibal
Lighting Eric Anderson
Header Image Credit Tiger of Sweden