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David Morrissey rejoins the force

When David Morrissey was sent the script for new TV drama Red Riding, he would have been forgiven for throwing it straight into the recycling bin, sighing 'not another police drama'.

After all, the 44-year-old actor has played a cop umpteen times in shows such as Out Of The Blue and the critically acclaimed Lynda La Plante adaptation Framed.

But David says he jumped at the chance to play fictional Detective Inspector Maurice Jobson.

"I didn't think about saying no, actually, it's been a while since I played a policeman," he says.

"What I tend to do is read scripts for their story and character rather than their profession. There's a lot of different types of policemen at different times so I was happy to play Maurice, regardless of the profession he was."

What was attractive about playing Maurice, David says, was the very human dilemmas he faces while the force is under the scrutiny of investigator Peter Hunter (played by Paddy Considine) following the botched Yorkshire Ripper inquiry.

"I think he sets out to be a good cop, he tries to do his job well but he gets involved in some corruption and realises that being a 'bit' corrupt is like being a 'bit' pregnant. You either are or you're not," David explains.

"He would like to have a strong moral centre but he doesn't. I think he's frightened and he doesn't respond well to peer pressure.

"His foibles and complexities are ones that are much more human than we're used to seeing on TV. We're much more used to seeing people heroic and being able to cope with life in that way and he just can't."

The three films that make up Red Riding take place in 1974, 1980 and 1983, and are based on four books by author David Peace.

The dark, dense and complex novels have been given the screen treatment by Tony Grisoni who co-wrote Tidelands and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas with Terry Gilliam.

So is this a dark drama for dark times?

"We're certainly in difficult times at the moment," David says.

"I think it's a drama that's about part of our history that we should really look at. I really believe that in order to move forward we need to re-examine the past and I think it is a time when institutions like the police force have a lot of problems. It's certainly, undoubtedly a dark drama."

While the series has a star-studded cast, which includes Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Andrew Garfield and Maxine Peake, and will have a big screen outing at London's British Film Institute, there is no Hollywood-style depiction of violence or bent cops in Red Riding.

In fact, David Peace is adamant when describing his books that they tread a fine line between glamorising and sanitising crime.

David is fairly confident the films tread this line too.

"The main thing for me, when I get a script and I read it, is 'Is this something I believe in?' There's a danger with dramas like this that they can become sensationalised or dark for dark reasons, but I felt the characters were fully three-dimensional, there was a seriousness about it," he muses.

After making such a dark piece, David must have been thankful for the light relief of Doctor Who, and the mooting of him as a possible successor to David Tennant. He has joked before about how his involvement in the Christmas special was a good decoy for the truth, and is certainly pleased with the final choice of Matt Smith as the new Doctor.

"I'm a massive fan of his. I don't know him at all but I know his work and he's a great actor, I'm really glad they haven't just gone for a celebrity, they've gone for an actor, and a great actor at that," he says.

But the seasoned professional says he's in no position to offer advice to the 25-year-old showbiz newcomer.

"I don't think I'd give him any advice. The main thing is to always do your job to the best of your ability and if there's anything that gets in the way of your job you should get it out of your life. I think he looks young but he's done a lot of work and I think he'll be fine. The people who run Doctor Who are great and they'll look after him, and I'm sure he'll relish it," he says.

As for David, he has a few more roles lined up including a part in TV thriller U B Dead opposite Tara Fitzgerald. While a repeat performance as Gordon Brown - as he did to great acclaim in The Deal - may be timely now the Shadow Chancellor is Prime Minister, he's not sure he would do it again.

"It depends on the script - if the script was right I would never say never. That role was something I really enjoyed doing but in my life I look for different things, challenges. It would also depend on the period they were telling the story about," he says.

He has also been trying his hand at directing. His debut feature film Don't Worry About Me, due out this summer, is set in his hometown of Liverpool and is about a London boy falling in love with a Liverpool girl.

But, as much as he loves directing he would not consider a full-time switch.

Letting out a hearty laugh, he says: "I'm going to try to keep both of them going. I really enjoyed directing, it's something I really want to do more of but I also love acting so I'm being a bit greedy in my choices."

DAVID MORRISSEY - EXTRA TIME

David was born in Liverpool in June 1964, and grew up in the Kensington and Knotty Ash areas.

His first taste of acting came at the prestigious Everyman Theatre in Liverpool, where former students have included Pete Postlethwaite, Julie Walters and Bill Nighy. David was a peer of Stephen McGann and Ian Hart.

After the Everyman, David trained at the Royal Academy Of Dramatic Art and has also worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

His big break came playing Stephen Collins in critically acclaimed thriller State Of Play, which is now being turned into a big-budget film starring Ben Affleck and Russell Crowe.

David is married to novelist Esther Freud, great granddaughter of groundbreaking psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. They have three children.

 

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