Martin Shaw plays George Gently
What attracted you to this particular script?
The quality of writing, everything starts and ends with the script for me. It's the only thing I look at or pay any attention to. It was an interesting script and Peter Flannery has an excellent track record.
Can you tell us a little about George Gently as a character?
George is an old-time copper. He fought with General Montgomery in the Second World War; he's a very tough, seasoned fighter. He knows about hardship and has seen tough times, and that's a bonus.
I think he carries a lot of baggage around, what with the grief of the murder of his wife as well. He faces the seemingly impossible task of trying to change a corrupt police force – a one-man mission.
Did you have to do any research to get into character?
When the script is good enough, you don't need to do any research, it's all there in the script. Also, because I was brought up on old-time culture, I was around in the Sixties. I know the era very well.
What makes George Gently different to all the other cop shows on TV?
The quality of the writing, everything always comes back to the script. The imagination of the writer and therefore the quality of actors that are attracted to the script – such as Phil Davis and Lee Ingleby – you don't get that if it isn't a good script.
Tell us about the relationship between Gently and Bacchus.
Lee Ingleby is a very talented young actor. If you want to gain and sustain the audience then you need to do the unexpected. If the audience is able to guess the outcome, then you've failed. But that's not going to happen with Lee Ingleby and me.
The relationship between Gently and Bacchus starts off fairly antagonistic. At first, Bacchus is very excited to be working with the legend that is George Gently, a top investigator from Scotland Yard. Then he finds himself irritated by him, because he's very picky, solid and set in his ways; he's slow and methodical in his approach.
Equally, Gently doesn't like the way that Bacchus operates – the cavalier way that he approaches the case – working out things in such a hurry. But George finds Bacchus quite funny; he likes him despite this, and slowly they start to understand each other.
We heard that the cars used on set were a little troublesome?
We had this nice old Rover, but there were times where it just wouldn't start. There was one particular shot where the car is rolling down a hill, and it cut out at the top. We had to add the engine noises afterwards.
The bikes were fantastic, I would have loved to ride them, but they wouldn't let me for insurance reasons. It's a shame, because I do love bikes and I have a licence to ride them.
Did making George Gently bring back your own memories of the Sixties?
George Gently is very accurate, although I was in London, and not Durham, at the time. London was a different planet then. Looking around the cars and the roads, it's amazing how far things have developed in such a short space of time.
I suppose the major event anyone remembers of the Sixties was the Kennedy assassination. I remember where I was at the time, of course.
I was lying in bed, in my bed-sit in Paddington, about to go to college and I heard the radio through the wall. I heard the news then but I didn't know whether it was true, or not, as I didn't have a TV or radio myself at that time.
When I arrived at LAMDA, a lot of the American students had suits on – instead of the usual jeans and T-shirts they usually wore.
Does the story reflect any of your own experiences as a young man of that era?
Other than the fact that I was once pursued by a police car with a bell for speeding? I wasn't arrested, though, I was just told off and given a stern warning.
You seem to be attracted to parts associated with the law eg Judge John Deed, The Chief, Adam Dalgleish and now George Gently...
It's not that I'm particularly attracted to these roles; it seems that they are attracted to me! Although any actor will tell you that it's great fun to play a villain, it's delicious getting your teeth stuck into a real villain.
As a non-smoker, did you struggle with Gently's smoking scenes?
People did smoke a lot in the Sixties and, having been an army man, Gently would have smoked – just to relieve nervous tension more than anything. I didn't struggle too much though as they were herbal cigarettes.
What were the highlights of the shoot?
Every day was a highlight, really. There was a particular scene that was scripted to be shot on a roof and ended up being filmed inside a cathedral because, when the day we came to shoot it, there was a gale blowing and torrential rain.
There was a real wartime spirit amongst the cast, where everyone was determined to have a go, but it was just impossible. I love Ireland, I really enjoyed filming there, the people are just fantastic and so friendly!
Do you enjoy being a sex symbol?
No, I don't really. For a start, it's not something that you strive for, it just happens. I never know what to say about it – even in the Seventies, when it may have been more applicable. I find it incomprehensible now, it has to end at some point soon, surely?