Blue Lights: Interview with Jonathan Harden who plays David ‘Jonty’ Johnson

What were your thoughts when you first read the scripts?

I loved them. I felt like I was reading a true depiction of Belfast, of my city on screen. It was effortlessly real. It was my first time reading a Belfast script that felt compelling and real and above all was itself. It does it brilliantly.

How is Blue Lights different from other police dramas we see on television?

Belfast plays a big part in that. It feels like we’re meeting the city for the first time even though people think they know Belfast. You see the cops on patrol, in the precinct, we see them at home and I think that’s the key to the show, it strikes a really good balance between the procedural aspect and the drama and relationship side of the show. It has a really good measure of Northern Ireland humour too, which is hard to do alongside heavier stuff, which is what Declan and Adam have done so well. People call it gallows humour but the heavier the going, the lighter people need to be to get through it. Belfast is a city where people have seen the absolute worst of times so gallows humour is very much a local skill set, we’re very good at that. That is part of the character of the show. We’ve seen other capital cities before, countless police shows all over the world, but I don’t think we’ve seen Belfast like this, our history and our politics means things work slightly differently here and Declan and Adam haven’t shied away from that. That is what’s unique about the show, the foibles of policing a place like the north of Ireland, a place with its complexities.

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Coming from Northern Ireland what is particularly refreshing or rewarding about working on this show?

What was refreshing is that they’ve gone for a cast that an audience might not have seen before and I don’t think that is that common. Particularly on a show that doesn’t have an obvious hook so we don’t have a huge lead actor that an audience necessarily recognises. This show just side steps that whole model and focusses on what is the best way we can deliver this project. There are some really talented young actors from here that an audience will be discovering for the very first time and that is always an exciting thing for an audience. It’s even more exciting than seeing a well-known actor do something different. It feels more real, there’s no baggage of ‘such and such is good in this,’ it’s not getting in the way of an audience getting in to a story. In terms of what’s rewarding, it’s hearing our turn of phrase, it feels so natural and truthful and never been done before. So many times, we hear the Northern Ireland accent on screen and it feels forced, like they’re trying to squeeze every ounce of Northern Ireland character out of every single line. Because this has been written with such a sensitive ear it is absolutely apt and accurate, and that is really rewarding to be a part of, to know that our voices are being heard. This is the Belfast that you’ve never seen.

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What can audiences expect from the series?

They can expect to see a show that’s been influenced by the very best of police dramas in the last 20 years but retains its own character throughout and will help redefine the north of Ireland for them.


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.