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24 September 2014
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In Denial of Murder - Stephen Tompkinson plays Don Hale

Stephen Tompkinson plays Don HaleStephen Tompkinson remains one of Britain's most versatile performers, an actor who can be relied upon to play characters from all walks of life and make them memorable for audiences of television, film and radio.

On the small screen Tompkinson has moved effortlessly from his award-winning comic portrayal of hapless journalist, Damien Day, in Drop The Dead Donkey to make his mainstream mark as the much-loved catholic priest, Father Peter Clifford, in the BBC's hit series Ballykissangel.

More recently he and Robson Green joined forces as the Purvis brothers, builders with stacks of ambition, in the comedy series Grafters.

Next Tompkinson got tough as the maverick undercover cop, Garth, opposite Nick Berry's Liam, in the popular BBC crime drama In Deep.

Last year viewers saw him in the title role of Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis's irreverent 1950s academic, Jim Dixon.

To date this broad-ranging repertoire of characters has been fictional; so now as he takes on the mantle of campaigning journalist Don Hale, what is his approach to portraying a living person?

Stephen Tompkinson explains that he took this new challenge because he knew and has worked with writer Neil McKay before and greatly admires his scripts.

In Denial Of Murder charts the story of Don Hale's campaign and gives an account of Wendy Sewell's life - so important Tompkinson emphasises, because the victim, in a case like this, is the one person who is not here to speak for themselves.

"Neil hasn't come down heavily on one side or the another, which you can't because it's such an ambiguous case. It's a mystery and for me that's what makes it fascinating and I hope makes it compelling and challenging viewing.

"What Neil's managed to pull off terrifically well is an unbiased way of telling the story. Viewers will be able to see his dramatisation of this open-ended case and judge it for themselves. It's telly for grown-ups - true to life because nothing is black and white, everything is shades of grey."

Stephen Tompkinson hasn't met Don Hale during filming. Was this intentional?

"No, not as such," he says, sitting in his trailer on location just outside Bakewell.

He explains it is simply that he is an actor working from a script, which he has total faith in and believes to be fair.

"I'm sure Don wouldn't say, 'Hang on a minute I didn't do it like that - you should do it like this', but it's my job at the moment to concentrate on getting Neil's version of events correct, but I'd love to meet Don sometime - maybe when filming's over and there's more time."

It is clear however that Stephen Tompkinson's priority is to get home to his three year old daughter Daisy, with whom he is besotted, and his wife Nikki.

"As a parent it's tough being away from home but what's been a bonus is that the girls were able to come up and combine a visit with my mum and dad; so on my days off I've found myself with all the family in the middle of Gulliver's Kingdom or watching fireworks in Matlock Bath!"

But has working on the film - and the research he has done for it - brought him to some conclusions?

"No, quite the opposite," is his emphatic answer. "Every time I think, 'Ah, it's got to be X, Y or Z', another question rises up and challenges my assumption. The simple answer is I wasn't there, I'm not a detective or an arm chair commentator, I don't know who murdered Wendy Sewell."


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