What is the story of Blue Lights?
Blue Lights is focused around the story of three rookie cops and it follows these three new recruits while they enter a relatively recent established system of policing in Northern Ireland. It also encounters the monolith from the past; the history that’s still there underneath the surface, like grudges, drugs, violence and the Troubles but it has this wonderful, clever script that tackles modern policing in Northern Ireland in a different way. You really feel for these young cops as they go into what turns out to be very dangerous situations and in particular a situation that involves my character and how he lives, functions and how he controls West Belfast. To the police, McIntyre seems to have an invisible force field around him and the police can’t touch him – that’s the story that underpins the series. Why is he seemingly untouchable? Why can’t they bring him in?
How do James McIntrye and his family fit into the story?
McIntyre is a bit of a conundrum and you spend the first few episodes thinking he’s one thing and the rest of it knowing he’s another and he’s got a huge secret that is hidden from everyone except his wife Tina, played by Abigail McGibbon. What’s also really interesting about this series is the choice of French-born Gilles Bannier, to direct which was inspired because he brought a unique sensibility and fresh perspective from someone who doesn’t come from Northern Ireland. There could have been a way of telling McIntrye’s story that was clichéd – the typical bad guy – but we wanted to give him and his family some validity and wanted to find as many human frailties in him as possible behind the bravado. We concentrated on the family and moved out from there.
How did you build the McIntyre family dynamic?
All of us Michael Shea, (Mo), Dane Whyte O’Hara (Gordy) and Abigail (Tina) wanted to consider what was at stake for the McIntyres. We wanted to create this credible, extended, dysfunctional family that was struggling to be heard and be of emotional value to each other. There are scenes later in the series between James and his son that see him trying to break from the hard man image and his lack of emotion. As an actor you want to build a character that can say those words in that place at that time and make him as three dimensional as possible. I grew up in the Troubles and I’ve played a lot of characters over the years to do with the Troubles and been around a lot of hard men, a lot of those men I’ve drawn upon for the character.
What drives McIntyre to do some of the things he does?
McIntyre’s rage comes from a place of self-loathing and anger and this is directed at his son when he ignores his orders. A man that lives the kind of life he leads has to hate himself to a point. He’s poisoned inside. He takes pleasure in exercising his power and isn’t shy about intimidating people or putting his foot through a door. He’s a complex man and if you pushed him he’d come out swinging punches.