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Thursday 10 Jul 2014

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Missing series two: Pauline Quirke is DS MJ Croft

Following the first series of BBC One Daytime's Missing, actress Pauline Quirke was more curious than ever about the work of the police in missing person investigations. So, when the opportunity arose to join a real-life force for a week, she took up the invitation.

Says Pauline: "I spent a week with a real police unit after we had finished filming this new series of Missing, the drama. And what it has taught me is that no-one is ever written off. These are not the dregs of society, they are someone's son, or they might be a father themselves, they deserve the time being spent on trying to find them."

Pauline joined a real-life Missing Person's Unit in Hackney, London – the area she grew up in – and she has now produced a number of reports which can be seen as part of the factual morning BBC Daytime series Missing Live which accompanies the drama.

"Unlike us actors, the real team never know what the day is going to bring and what really struck me is the passion they have for the job – it matters to them.

"This is not the sexy side of policing. My week was fascinating – but I know I couldn't do it for real as a living.

"And what surprised me is that their office is so small – by comparison ours in the drama series is palatial!"

But Pauline was conscious that this is a sensitive subject and she was concerned that people might think she was doing it as research for her acting role.

"I don't like the idea of asking someone, 'can I tag along with you for the day and watch what you do?' – I have never done that in my career. We have great scripts on Missing and if there is a question about the official legal procedure or the way something should be done, then we have advisers for that.

"So, when the BBC suggested I do this, initially I was concerned that it would do a disservice to the drama if people saw me in the morning with a real MPU, but I think the character of MJ is strong enough and the audience is intelligent enough to make the distinction, and I decided only good could come of it.

"It is a very sensitive subject and I didn't want to encroach on people's misery so that 'Pauline Quirke can make her character in the drama a bit more realistic'. I was expecting to stand back and keep my mouth shut and I was quite clear that I did not want to play at being a detective – that would be disrespectful."

In a Missing Person's Unit a happy ending is not always guaranteed, and Pauline Quirke's character MJ is only too aware of that.

When her estranged father Jack, played by Roy Hudd, turns up on her doorstep, her expectations are low.

MJ's personal life is often as troubled as some of her cases.

Says Pauline: "There is a lot of resentment and mistrust between MJ and her father Jack. He abandoned the family when they were young, after their mother died. But for MJ's younger sister Ellen he is still this wonderful somewhat Disney father-figure that has come back into her life. Because she has her own child now, Jack is a grandfather figure for her daughter Sara. MJ, however, can't forget what he did."

For Pauline, as an actress, the chance to work with Roy Hudd is a bit of a dream come true.

"I grew up with Roy Hudd regularly on the telly, he was so much part of my life. He seems to have done everything and worked with everyone and was a big feature of TV light entertainment which seems to have gone by the by now. He might not realise it but he is part of so many people's lives.

"So obviously I was chuffed to bits to work with him, and I have to say that first and foremost he is a lovely man, absolutely delightful, he was great fun to be with! He told us some wonderful stories and fabulous jokes – sadly I'm not very good at remembering jokes, but his timing is perfect, I could listen to him all day. It's a shame that work kept interrupting us – we had to keep acting in between hearing his stories!

"And he is also an extremely accomplished actor. He has done a lot of serious drama over the years, so he is more than qualified. The scenes that we had together, I can honestly say, I am really proud of them.

"Roy said that when he told people that he was playing my dad, they said, 'you and Pauline will be worth watching together'."

New for this series is a more hands-on role for DCI Ford, played by Adjoa Andoh, and a brand new officer on the team played by Jamie Belman.

"MJ has always locked horns with DCI Ford and she is still a tremendous thorn in her side. Josh Kemplin adds an exciting new dimension to the team causing great friction. He upsets the apple cart big time!"

Last year Pauline had a major operation on her hip for a problem which came to light during filming of the first series.

Says Pauline: "The hip operation went really well, but there is nothing more boring than people talking about their operations. At one point I was worried I was going to become the voice of hip replacements. But it was very successful and I am a different woman now.

"If I am standing around for several hours then I will get tired and it will get achy, but last year I didn't know what the matter was with me. I was in quite a lot of pain, but I'm like a gazelle now! I was lucky to be in a position where I could take a few months off to recuperate. I then did a couple of episodes of Skins which certainly got me a lot of kudos with my children!"

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