"Gene Hunt. Your DCI. And it's 1973, almost dinner time, and I'm having hoops."
What would you say Gene was like?
"I would say he was a maverick, the sheriff. In his head, he lives in a western
and sees himself as the sheriff at high noon, the way he goes around policing,
which is probably quite true to the way it was back then.
"It's all black and white with Gene, there is no grey area with him. With that
style of policing it was much more intuitive and not as scientific as it is
nowadays; back then they had to be more instinctive with their approach.
He's not scared of throwing a few punches...
"He's dealing with crooks; he doesn't go around punching members of the public!
There is a very fine line between the criminal and the copper and I think he
sometimes gets very close to crossing that line but he does always ensure he stays
on the side of the law."
Did you base him on anyone you knew?
"I saw him as a football manager - there is definitely an element of Brian Clough
"There is a very famous clip from the Seventies of Clough being
interviewed and he was asked 'what happens when somebody disagrees with you or has
a different opinion?' and he said: 'I like to sit there, listen to what they have
to say, then half an hour later they realise that I was right'.
"I thought that was so Gene. He is a cross between a Seventies football manager
like Clough, and a current manager, someone with an arrogance, maybe Jose
"Gene dresses like a football manager - his big camel coat and slip on shoes - and
his relationship with Sam is kind of like that of manager and star player - like
Ferguson and Beckham - when there can be friction but there is also a lot of
Gene and Sam’s policing methods, although completely different, do seem to
complement each other.
"Absolutely, there is respect on both sides; a grudging respect from Gene but he
realises that he sees a lot of Sam in himself. He sees Sam as both his prodigy
but also his nemesis.
"They make a good team. Sam has the scientific capacity and Gene has the
instinctive capacity and if you marry the two, you end up with the best detectives
money can buy.
"I think that's the key to their relationship; meeting in the
middle and combining the skills they have; when that works they get spectacular
Did you enjoy all the Seventies clothes and the cars?
"What was interesting was working out how old Gene was in 1973. He talks about the
war and he would have done national service and stuff like that.
"I loved the Seventies, growing up in that period of time with the music, cars, TV
and all that cultural stuff.
"I was in London, in the suburbs, and we went on holidays to France which was so
exciting. Going on the ferry and two weeks seemed like two years because it was so
"I was very lucky because I grew up near a farm and we would build fantastic tree
houses and go-carts. It seems like such an ancient thing now but it was cutting
edge then; you used your hands to create.
"I must sound like a fuddy-duddy but
it's all computer games nowadays."
Did you enjoy driving the Cortina?
"It was very difficult to handle without power steering; I was rather shocked by
it. It was a rust bucket really so when it's not your car you can throw it around
"It was great fun, quite a flash motor for the time, although I always
wanted Tony Curtis' Ferrari Dino, that was the car, or Roger Moore's DB7."
You filmed a lot of car chases, screeching around the corners – did you do a lot
of the stunts?
"I did as much as I could. Peter, our stunt co-ordinator, was keen to let me do as
much as possible but obviously for insurance purposes it didn't allow for certain
"I was putting my foot down, slamming on the brakes and trying to hit certain marks
which meant I had to do several rehearsals to get it right.
"But I'd hate to get
back into my car on the weekends because I'd be driving with my missus and she'd
say 'your driving awfully fast dear, can you slow down - you can do it at work but
this is Richmond!'"
Your father was a director and your brother, Robert, is an actor. Do you think
that influenced you in wanting to be an actor?
"Not so much when I was younger, I wanted to be a milkman.
One of my earliest memories is going up to my milkman and asking what time he
finished and thinking that it was such a good job because you'd finish by
lunchtime and so got the rest of the day off to play with your toys!"