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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Justice: Robert Pugh (Judge Patrick Coburn)

Robert Pugh as Judge Patrick Coburn © BBC/La Productions

What did you think when you first read the script and were offered the role?

It was a mixture of feelings. I was excited because I thought it was dealing with a new area, and saw that it was trying to deal with the nitty-gritty in a community. At the same time I felt a large element of trepidation because I could see the work that would be involved. So a mixture of fear and excitement!

How did you find filming in Liverpool?

It was a short, sharp, shock as it was the coldest time of the year. It was colder inside than out!

I'd worked with some of the cast and crew before, and made some films in Liverpool. It's my favourite Northern city, I love it and the people. When I was in college in North Wales many years ago, I used to come across to Liverpool quite often.

How would you describe your character Judge Coburn?

On one level he's very together, as he has to be for a Judge – knowing the law and having experience of the law. He's been around and travelled quite a bit.

In another sense, he's all over the place emotionally. This is because of his past which creeps up on him like a tsunami. He's a paradox of himself, and that's what makes him interesting as a character.

What drives him is the tremendous amount of guilt he has and that is what has brought him back to the city.

He's trying to sort it out because he's not a happy man. He has made a decision that until everything in his past is resolved, he isn't going to be happy.

What research did you do to play the role?

We had three hours in a Public Justice Centre and it was very informative. From that I could deduce what goes on there, and try and understand what they do.

We watched one judge and he was fantastic. He was realistic and understanding, but not a pushover. He would get the facts and invariably, in the half a dozen cases we saw, came to a very good decision in his conclusion and punishment. It was seen to be fair even by the people in the dock, which is very important.

Would you say the Judge is harsh in his punishments or is he a bit of a pushover?

You can't be a pushover in that job. You need a very strong element of discipline otherwise people will laugh at you, and take it as a joke, which for him the law certainly isn't.

What do the local community think of the Dovefield Public Justice Centre and Judge Coburn?

I don't think they've ever seen anything like him before. He's a bit of a raw character, coming around on a bicycle, smoking, confronting offenders and getting his hands dirty in the community. There is an amount of mistrust, but gradually over time he wins them over with his fairness and genuineness. I think first and foremost he cares, because he's from that area.

How does he cope when local journalist Louise Scanlon starts digging into his past?

He copes pretty well and confronts it head-on, saying that's why he's back. He's not that naïve to go back there and not come to the realisation that sooner or later his past will catch him up, and he knows that. It just comes in the form of her, and he's ready for it.

What is the Judge's relationship like with Joe Gateacre?

The Judge knows that he's got to confront his past. With Joe being a close colleague he is a bit suspect of him at first, and then he sees Joe's qualities and sees through the suspicion.

Joe isn't happy with the Judge initially or how he proceeds in the job. It's not how he's been trained, so his fundamentals are shaken a little bit. Joe eventually comes around and the two of them have a nice relationship. It's definitely a growing one. The Judge realises he needs Joe because he knows the community. He is a good guy, and has the community on his side. He has his ear to the ground and knows all the ins and outs.

How does Judge Coburn deal with local career criminal Jake Little?

The Judge likes to get his hands dirty and in the process of doing that he comes across Jake Little. He sees what he's up to and how Jake's empire is growing, and he wants to stop it. So a good way to do that is by confronting him in his own environment, on the street, and getting in with the kids before Jake can influence them.

Did you get used to riding a BMX?

I thought it was a brilliant concept – a judge on a BMX. The image is great!

I did come off once during a scene where the kids steal my cloaks and wigs. I get them back off the kids and put them over my shoulder. They're quite heavy and I was trying to balance them as I was going down the street, then suddenly "bang"! It was a good job the cloaks were there because I fell on to them so it was quite comfortable. It looked worse than it was!

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