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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Moses Jones, a new drama for BBC Two – Matt Smith plays DS Dan Twentyman

Matt Smith as DS Dan Twentyman

DS Dan Twentyman is as uncomplicated as Moses is complex. Young and carefree, Dan treats the investigation as a big adventure. It's a steep learning curve for both young men. Dan struggles to overcome Moses' initial hostility towards him to become his loyal friend and foil, as they contend with violent suspects, hostile witnesses, a sceptical police hierarchy and a community in turmoil.

"I play Dan Twentyman, a young, ambitious detective who gets assigned to a murder case with Moses Jones," says Matt Smith, the talented 26-year-old actor who is set to take over the TARDIS next year as the 11th Doctor in Doctor Who.

"One of the great things about Joe's (Penhall) script is that it's a different take on a buddy-cop thing. It is a show about two policemen, but it reinvents that form and that idea, which I think Joe's done really well."

Although Matt and Shaun share a good off screen relationship, the characters they play on screen get off to a prickly start, reveals Matt.

"Moses is irritated by Dan. Dan rocks up (at their first meeting) and is like, 'Ha, Moses Jones, that's a funny name, man' and Moses is like, 'Hang on, Dan Twentyman?' Dan takes everything in his stride... he deals with policing very differently to Moses who lets it affect him. Dan can detach himself from his work and his personal life in a way that Moses can't. Moses takes it really seriously.

"It was lucky we got on so well, that added to our relationship on screen I think. It's a tricky relationship because Dan deals with police work very differently, and also Moses is having to confront a lot of questions about his own identity, which he does quite selfishly in a way. Dan's just like, 'Get over it, man'," says Matt, who made his TV debut opposite Billie Piper in Adrian Hodges' adaptation of Phillip Pullman's The Ruby In The Smoke.

Matt was also struck by the way in which Joe Penhall managed to capture the vibrancy of London in his script, and the inclusion of a world very rarely seen in a drama on British television.

"There is a similarity between Moses Jones and the play Blue Orange which Joe has also written," explains Matt.

"Blue Orange was also about race and identity. I think Joe's a genius, I really do. He's one of this country's great creative minds; his writing just whips along. I was riveted. The dialogue is so precise and so inventive."

"We did research into the Ugandan community," continues Matt.

"We had three days of rehearsal with Joe which was invaluable, because he is like a goldmine, very articulate and very useful to have around. He gives actors confidence. We talked to a lot of people in the community. Dennis (from Ugandan band Da Twinz), who plays the music, came in and told us his story about making the transition from an African nation where they'd been exiled to coming over to England. Living in London as a member of a different community with a different cultural identity, I think he found it pretty tough," says the University of East Anglia graduate whose TV credits also include BBC dramas The Shadow In The North and The Street.

In the drama crowds gather regularly at the Afrigo Club to dance to local band The Mutilators featuring Ugandan stars Da Twinz who bring the spirit of Africa to urban London.

"The music (in the drama) has the colour of Africa in it. It has this spirit... there's a real colour and vibrancy. I think Africa has that, that hugeness and that capacity. The music is like little fireworks going off, there's such soul to it and it gives the film a real identity in London.

"What's amazing about Moses Jones is it captures London in a way that I haven't seen on screen for a long time in a British television drama," says the Northampton-born star of BBC Two political drama Party Animals.

"I hope that people are interested in the journey people make to get to England and why they come here sometimes."

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