Jimmy Nesbitt returns home in Bloodlands

Sunday: Bloodlands; (BBC One, 9pm)
Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt)Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt)
Tom Brannick (James Nesbitt)

There’s no place like home. And having been away from Northern Ireland for a while, actor James Nesbitt was delighted to return to film his new thriller.

Bloodlands follows police detective DCI Tom Brannick, a ‘decent man’ who is on the hunt for the legendary assassin known as ‘Goliath’, after a car containing a possible suicide note is pulled out of Strangford Lough.

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Despite the grim and hard-hitting storyline, Nesbitt believes the show will help boost the profile of his homeland.

“It [Bloodlands] will show Northern Ireland in a different light for people, on both sides of the water,” the Ballymena, Co Antrim-born actor said.

Despite his joy at being back, the 56-year-old Cold Feet star did get a shock when he crossed the Irish Sea.

“It was incredibly cold, particularly when we went down to Strangford Lough,” he says.

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“We’d transport crew, equipment, food, toilets, to these remote islands and it was bitterly cold, the wind really cuts you. At times it was hard to speak. My mouth would be paralysed and I couldn’t get my jaw moving.”

Top Boy actress Lisa Dwan, who plays doctor Tori Matthews in the series, adds: “I remember one day filming in a snow blizzard, having to make our way to set by jeep as the cars couldn’t make it up the mountain. Once I sat back into the car after a take and Lola Petticrew burst into a fit of giggles as I looked like an extra from Alive, there were little mounds of snow caked over my lashes and my lips were blue!”

Bloodlands also stars Cracker and Ballykissangel star Lorcan Cranitch, as well as Irish actress Charlene McKenna (Ripper Street), Derry Girls’ Ian McElhinney, Belfast actress Petticrew (My Left Nut) and The Young Offenders star Chris Walley.

The four-part series was written by Chris Brandon, who has previously worked on Red Rock and Endeavour, while Jed Mercurio is the executive producer.

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Brandon describes Mercurio as having an ‘intimate’ knowledge of Northern Ireland, as the hit show Line of Duty has been filmed there over the past few years.

Nesbitt was also excited to be working with Mercurio, adding: “I first met Jed Mercurio years ago when I was doing Jekyll and I’ve always liked his work. When he was doing Line Of Duty here, I would say to him, ‘Why am I not in that?’ but he’d say, ‘We’ll find something’. Then a couple of years ago, he showed me a script by Chris Brandon, it was a real thriller and his first commission for his independent film company. It felt like familiar ground with people I really respected, and it was such a perfect fit going back to Northern Ireland, doing something contemporary and brilliantly written.”

Bloodlands begins tonight as a car is pulled from Strangford Lough, the large inlet in County Down, and Brannick recognises the calling card of a serial killer from decades ago known as Goliath.

The legend goes that he was a serving police officer who vanished without trace 20 years ago – and among his original victims was Tom’s wife, Emma.

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Despite opposition from old friend DCS Jackie Twomey (Cranitch), Brannick and partner DS Niamh McGovern (McKenna) break open the cold case in the hope that it will help them shed light on the dead body in the car – and the past.

As they dig deeper, they find gaps in the original Goliath investigation, and suspect someone has tried to suppress the truth.

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