Multi-talented Noel Clarke is taking on a triple role as writer, director and star of Adulthood, the sequel to critically acclaimed Kidulthood.

He talks to Steve Pratt

NOEL Clarke turns round to display the back of his T-shirt. The illustration shows a little man wearing a hooded top and holding a camera with the words SHOOT FILMS, NOT FRIENDS. "This is what we're about. We're trying to tell young people you can do positive things," he says.

The actor from Doctor Who and Auf Wiedersehen Pet has never aspired to be a role model but sees his new film Adulthood as putting across a positive message to young people - that you can walk away and don't have to be confrontational.

No one would blame him for being both surprised and delighted to be here talking about the sequel to Kidulthood. He had no way of predicting that either Adulthood would be made or that he'd get the chance to direct it.

The situation is rare in British films, especially considering the original movie had only a limited cinema release. "The fact we got a sequel was that the audience spoke for the first film because Kidulthood was only released in 42 screens nationwide.

"People didn't think the film would do anything. It didn't have any industry help and still did well, people went to see it.

"I can only think of Bridget Jones, Mr Bean and 28 Days Later that had sequels. It's unheard of, especially a drama and a low budget drama and urban film.

"But it was the audience, the young people who created this brand. Everyone said this doesn't happen, this is ridiculous' but kids said, this is what happens'."

Kidulthood delivered a raw, disturbing look at what life is like for 21st Century teenagers, delivered in street language that mystifies the older generation but speaks to youngsters.

The new film takes up the story six years on, as Sam Peel (played by Clarke) is released from prison after serving time for a killing. He's forced to confront the people seeking revenge on him and, during a 24-hour journey through West London, faces up to a new generation of bad boys.

As the story touches on such topical themes as gangs, gun and knife crime, and drugs, Adulthood was never going to be an easy watch.

But Clarke as writer, director and star feels passionately about what he wants to get across. The message, put simply, is that you can walk away from crime and violence.

Doing all three jobs is ambitious for Clarke, although his CV offers more than the roles as Mickey Smith in Doctor Who and in the revived Auf Wiedersehen Pet that made him a recognisable face.

He's shown himself deserving of a most promising performer Olivier Award in 2003 by turning his hand to writing (collecting a best screenplay prize for Kidulthood at Dinard Film Festival) and now directing, where he imposes a distinctive style of this tale of teenage woe.

Few others in this country are taking on the triple role of writer, director and star. "Writing came up because I was always interested in it. It was always something I wanted to do," he says. "I was reading things and thinking I could do better than this. I was taught never to talk about other people's jobs unless you'd tried them yourself. So I went and taught myself and tried and read lots of screenplays.

"The directing came along because the director of Kidulthood was directing something I'd also written for BBC3 and I was asked if I wanted to direct this film. And I thought it was such an amazing opportunity.

"People sit around saying there's no role models for young black teenagers and stuff like that. It's not that I want to be a role model. Sometimes I feel young people might not have anyone to aspire to, but if they see that I can be a writer, an actor, a director when no one else is doing all that. It was not only an opportunity to direct my film but maybe be someone for young people to look up to."

He's aware some will accuse him of taking on too much, that there will always be someone saying Jack of all trades, master of none.

"Hopefully, it's one of the better performances I've done. I'd like to think the writing is relevant. If people don't think that it's great, hopefully it's still relevant. Something that people see tries to deliver a moral message - that you can walk away to break the cycle of violence.

"Directing, I tried to give it my own style. It's a new thing I'm doing and I did it to the best of my ability, and I can grow and improve with everything I do."

Writing the script in the sort of lanugage used by today's teenagers risked alienating older cinemagoers, but he thinks audiences will be able to cope. "Over the past few years a lot of the newspapers and people generally have come to terms with or realised that this is the dialect of young people. More and more people understand and, even if you don't know the words, get the gist of what people are saying.

"I don't think it alienates people as much as the first film may have when it was what are these young people saying?' Society has evolved to the point where every few years new things come along. There were punk rockers, and it was they say this, they do that, they have safety pins in their nose'. Later it was the hip-hoppers. Now it's this.

"Opening up to a broader audience, there are things you can relate to, no matter what colour, creed, class. One female character says when she was 15 all she wanted to do was get older. Regardless of where you're from, people can relate to that - wanting to get older because they wanted to drive, or legally smoke, or have sex, or drink.

"Then when you're older you spend two hours commuting to your job, work all day, spend two hours commuting back and have two hours to play with the kids and have a meal before you do it all again the next day. You go, man, if I'd done things differently when I was young I would be in a better situation, if I'd studied harder or if I'd done that."

THERE weren't any real problems getting permission to shoot in London locations because of current concerns about crimes touched on in the script. "The over-riding message of this one is essentially to stop that kind of behaviour. I accept there are scenes that still show violence, but sometimes with films like this you have to show the negativity to show the positivity that arises from it.

"You have to have the fight scene at the end for Sam to go, you know what, I'm going to walk away. I'm actually going to turn my back and walk away'.

"If I'd gone preachy, preachy, moral, moral, the kids would've said it was nonsense. If you let them think they're going to see one thing and they walk out and, before they realise it they've seen another, you might actually get through to some of them."

"I would say that I'm nobody's teacher or guardian, I don't feel I'm portraying a violent gang culture. I feel I portrayed what was happening. People have largely ignored what they were being told and two years later there's a culture out there. We're trying, with this film in particular, to show young people you can study or you can be a young girl who doesn't have to be disrespected.

"The idea is that you can walk away. They can no longer say, nobody knows what it's like for me. I'm from a council estate with a single mother' because I'm from a council estate with a single mother and I'm making films. So now you're out of excuses, you need to start fixing your life up. That's what we're trying to show."

* Kidulthood is on BBC3 on Sunday at 11.45pm.

Adulthood (15) opens in cinemas on Friday.