James Nesbitt has to be one of our most popular actors, major tv roles in the last 12 months alone have included Murphy’s Law, Jekyll and Fairy Tales – Cinderella. He is also starring as Pontius Pilate in the feature film The Passion. His latest role is in the 3 part ITV 1 conspiracy drama Midnight Man. Nesbitt plays a journalist who has devolped a fear of daylight causing him to only venture out at night and reduced to rifling celebrity bins in the hope of story to sell to the tabloids only to find himself caught up in a major political conspiracy.
We recently caught up with James, who admitted that he had considered a journalistic career, to chat about the drama
“I did think about being a sports journalist. But it was never really a burning vocation. I have met several leading sports journalists through my support for Manchester United and I am envious of their jobs,” says James who plays journalist Max Raban in Midnight Man.
“I have done a bit of journalism in recent years, writing in my ambassadorial role for Unicef. Recently I wrote a magazine feature about my time in Sudan, and I have written for a nationally daily about my time in Zambia.
“I have also written guest columns for a national paper. It is something I enjoy, but it takes me so long. I don’t have the speed for it. Journalism is a noble profession, and one I admire.
“I think there is a very important role for investigative journalists to play in uncovering the truth, by getting through lies, particularly in a world where so much is controlled, and we don’t know whether what is being told to us by politicians is true. We are much more mistrusting of politicians now.
“I am a firm believer in newspapers. I worry about the notion of newspapers disappearing and news going to the web and all that. I love print, I grew up with it and I will always buy papers.”
James’ character in Midnight Man, Max Raban, is a failed hack who has had to resort to rummaging through bins to uncover tacky tales to sell to the tabloids.
Max’s dreams of an illustrious career as an investigative journalist were shattered when he betrayed a source who was a close friend, which led to her tragic death. He lost his job, and the guilt over his friend’s death wrecked his marriage, and left him separated from his beloved daughter. His stress manifested itself in a condition called phengophobia – a fear of daylight.
A chance find among the rubbish one night could revive Max’s ailing career and get him back on track professionally and personally. The information he has uncovered about an international conspiracy could make a lucrative front page splash, but it could also put in jeopardy his own life, and his family’s.
“Max Raban is a previously well respected journalist. He is intelligent, driven, and fascinated by the world of journalism. He did well quite early on and was covering big stories early in his career. But he fell into this problem when he was investigating bribery involving the deputy prime minister, and in his naivety and fear he revealed his source.
“He lost all credibility, and the worst thing was Helen, the source, died. Carrying the guilt of Helen’s death plunged him into this nightmare existence. He is a man whose family is suffering, he is separated from his wife because of the impact that the death of Helen had on him. He is now in this weird world where he is scared to go out in the daylight.
“He is reduced to going through bins and feeding this tat to tabloid newspapers, which must be soul destroying for him because that is not what he is interested in. He is so desperate to get back in the game. But he is not really looking at his own story, which is not dealing with the past and the terrible trauma in his life, and not being able to move forward because of that.
“I was attracted to the role because I thought the character was different to anything I had played recently. He is not a hard character. He is not anything like Murphy in Murphy’s Law. He is not as fantastical as Jekyll. I was attracted to the isolated nature of him and also that kind of quirky thing about him.
“I think it is important that dramas like Midnight Man should be made. Dramas face huge challenges. Budgets are tighter, and schedules are shorter. We live in a ratings obsessed world. Reality TV is on the increase so drama has to fight to get things made. As important as it is to have entertaining drama, drama can also educate and uncover things about the world we live in.
“I think it is through drama perhaps, rather than through news, which you can begin to mistrust, that you can find about the world in which we live in.”
James made his name in the popular comedy drama Cold Feet which won him an award for Most Popular Comedy Actor. He won critical acclaim, and the British Independent Film Award for Best Actor for his role in the powerful drama Bloody Sunday. He starred in Wall of Silence, Quite Ugly One Morning and The Canterbury Tales.