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29 October 2014
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55 Degrees North
Mark Lewis Jones plays DI Russell Bing

55 Degrees North series two

Starts Sunday 22 May, BBC ONE

Mark Lewis Jones plays DI Russell Bing

If ever there was a man deserving of an Olympic medal for rubbing people up the wrong way, then it has to be gruff new CID boss Detective Inspector Russell Bing.


He's only been in the department a matter of minutes before he's managed to alienate most of the workforce. Brusque and tactless, Bing always says what he thinks - even when he shouldn't.


"He arrives all guns blazing and the team don't know what has hit them,as he can be very blunt and extremely rude," says Mark Lewis Jones, who plays the forthright newcomer.


"I suppose he does all the things I would never dare to do in real life, but are fun to do on screen. Bing is like a bull in a china shop. I mean the way he speaks to everybody is really harsh. He has some great lines and in any situation you never quite know how he is going to behave.


"I suppose you could describe him as a bully and he's very hard-nosed. He wants everyone to know he is there all the time. He wouldn't know how to chill out or relax. That whole concept would be alien to him," adds Mark.


"Despite his idiosyncrasies, he is a good copper - he can see the bigger picture and will do all he can, even bending the rules, to get results. He's not one for filling out forms; he likes to get out there on the front line and catch criminals. He'd hate to be sat in his office all day."


But despite his shortcomings, Mark insists Bing isn't all bad. "Apart from the fact he's a bully, he is a good boss. When he arrives, you can see him sussing out the other coppers and testing them psychologically.


"If they pass the test then they are on Bing's side and if they don't - well they'd better watch out."


Bing's surprise arrival at the station immediately puts the cat among the pigeons, and he appears to actively enjoy the awkwardness he all too often creates around about him. In fact, he makes no apology for being rude to the people who work for him.


"He's very honest throughout about his feelings for people and I think that's why they are a bit taken aback by him. He's very unpredictable and seems to work in polar opposites - one minute you're his best mate, the next he makes you an enemy.


"His team never know whether he will look at them as a friend or foe on a daily basis," explains Mark, who has starred in TV dramas such as Murder Prevention, Murphy's Law and This Life, and on the big screen in Master and Commander and Troy, alongside Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt respectively.


"Bing can see Nicky is a good copper, but also sees him as a bit of a threat, so he's always making sure Nicky is well aware who is boss. Maguire stands up to him so he's got a bit of respect for Maguire. He instantly takes against Yates because he's such a crawler, but he likes Clark. He thinks he's going places, unlike Astel who he just thinks is a clown.


"And as for Claire Maxwell, well, he has a major problem with her. He sees her as some kind of threat to his masculinity because she's intelligent and feisty. He knows he's up against it with Claire and as a result is very rude to her."


However, as Mark reveals, there is one female of the species that divorcé Bing does take a shine to - Sergeant Brookes (Emma Cleasby). Around her, viewers will see a softer, more insecure side to his personality.


"When he's with Brookes, we see his gentler side," explains Mark. "He's quite old-fashioned and gentlemanly in his courting. He's awkward in those situations and confesses to having had a few failed relationships.


"You get the sense of somebody who lives for the job and isn't really very confident when it comes to affairs of the heart."


In the workplace, however, Bing gives new meaning to the concept of political incorrectness: "I doubt he even knows what PC stands for!" adds Mark, laughing.


"It's hard to tell whether he is doing it deliberately to annoy people, or if he just can't help himself."


The Welsh actor admits he was chuffed to join the cast of

55 Degrees North as he was a big fan of the first series. Not that Mark has much time for watching TV - he's too busy trying to entertain his seven children.


He says: "I've got three boys who live with their mother in London, and my partner [writer Delyth Jones], who I live with in Cardiff, also has three children and we now have a son together, Jacob. He was a year old recently actually, so we had a bit of a party and he blew out his one candle, which was lovely.


"He's so gorgeous and such a special little boy. When we all get together it's great fun, but as you can imagine, it's also exhausting.


"My partner and I don't get much time for anything else. She's a writer, so when I'm not working I take over with the baby and the younger kids so she can go off and do her thing."


So is Mark planning to go for the full football team of children? "No, I think that's it for me now. I have all the kids I'll ever want or need. I just hope I'll be well looked after in my old age."




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