CLARK TRENT (1988-1989)
In 1988, as Series 11 began, a new group of first year pupils arrived at Grange Hill. Alongside Matthew, Tegs, Justine, Chrissie and Susi was the constantly cheerful Clark Trent. Played by Darren Cudjoe, Clark managed to shake off the ‘Superman’ nickname he was given, and befriended Matthew Pearson. Series 12 saw Clark’s bike being stolen, leading to numerous thwarted schemes to get it back. Darren left Grange Hill after two years, but chats exclusively to Grange Hill Gold about his time playing Clark.
What lead to you going into acting?
My parents used to say my energy and love for dancing, acting and just fooling around as a kid, was the reason they sent me to a performing arts school. Not actually my idea, but the environment suited my personality.
What roles had you played before joining Grange Hill?
I had many roles before Grange Hill on programmes such as Tricky Business, The Album to mention a few. All children’s programmes on prime time 3-5 in the afternoon. Grange Hill was the biggest at the time.
Did you audition specifically for the part of Clark?
Yes I auditioned with two broken wrist in cast for the role of Clarke. I remember it well. I’d recently had an accident and was concerned it may affect my chances but it didn’t.
How would you describe the character of Clark?
The character was a friendly cheeky but loyal one. Caring enough to try and help a mate through a difficult and real storyline.
Was there any similarity between yourself and Clark?
The character was very close to who I was and am. This made playing Clarke quite easy for me.
Who did you get on well with the cast?
I got on well with everyone. That’s just me, even today.
How did you get on with the adults in the cast?
The adults were great, very supportive and we were all one team.
Did you get much reaction to your character from the public?
The reaction from this character still has an effect today. People still stop me in the street an enquire. It took me a while to really understand this but being one of the first black children on BBC was a factor I feel. There wasn’t much representation back then and even now unfortunately, which is why I feel I stuck in people’s minds.
What are your memories of your first day on set?
My first day was a bit of a blur. I was just exited to be there amongst actors I’d watched every other day… special moment.
In his first series, Clark uncovers Matthew’s unhappy home-life; did you realise what a hard hitting storyline this was for a children’s programme?
Grange Hill were always known for hard hitting real story lines. So yes I was aware this was a very serious issue in our society that needed to be addressed.
In your second series Clark spends a lot of time trying to escape a dog and get his bike back. What are your views on the storyline as it was not always popular with viewers?
The Dog scene was funny for me. People used to always ask me about that story, for me it was just a bit of fun working with a very big,scary well trained dog actor lol.
What lead to you leaving Grange Hill after two series?
I left Grange Hill as my GCSE’s were looming, and I was never at school always on set. So it was an educational decision.
What was it like being in Grange Hill and still having to go to school?
It was a little strange going back to school because as mentioned it seemed like I spent more time on set than at school. I struggled with that a little as I was always playing catch up.
Did you expect your role in Grange Hill to be remembered years later?
I did not, especially not in 2018. It makes me feel proud that we achieved some work that people still remember all these years later.
What are your favourite memories from your time playing Clark?
My favourite memories were mainly on location. Fooling around mostly,being mobbed by School kids and having to run back to the coach. The fan mail was vast, and I enjoyed writing back to every single person. I still have those letters today!!
Do you have a favourite episode?
I don’t have a favourite episode I enjoyed most of what I did to be honest.
Do you have any bad memories of your time there?
No bad memories apart from the choice to leave which was hard, but defining for me.
What have you been doing since you left Grange Hill?
Since I left I became a father, husband and dedicated musician. Producing music, writing songs and videos, and just enjoying life.
How do you look back on your time in the series?
My time there was magical. Something as a 12 year I took for granted. To work on such an iconic series was a pleasure, and something I am very proud of.
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your time on Grange Hill?
Unfortunately not many of us keep in touch. There are one or two on Facebook, but I’m not a big user of social media so no.
Do you have a message for the Grange Hill fans out there as Grange Hill celebrates its 40th birthday?
Nostalgia is necessary for the human soul. It’s great to be transported back to a time where things, and life were so easy. No bills, no school fees, your bed made for you, and Grange Hill at 5:10pm. My message would be to remember the storylines Grange Hill put forth, and appreciate how powerful TV and the messages we put out there actually are. TV is not just about entertainment, it’s also about evoking a thought process which can be discussed for decades.
What do you think Clark Trent is doing now?
As for Clarke’s he’s probably living in a mansion in L.A with a wife and kids and……2 Alsatian Dogs!
Thanks to Darren Cudjoe-Cole
© 2018 Grange Hill Gold – Not to be reproduced without permission