Blue Lights: Interview with Martin McCann who plays Stevie Neil

What were your thoughts when you first read the script?

They were refreshing, different and quite revealing. It felt very Northern Irish but many international themes, bit of romance, family issues, work stress and life balance. The scripts were so well crafted, clever and funny but also really deep. It gets heavy when you’re not expecting it and it’s funny when you’re not expecting it. Your emotions are see-sawing and being pulled left and right the whole time.

Describe how Stevie fits into the story of Blue Lights?

In a strange way Stevie is a lone wolf. He’s an introverted extrovert and keeps his private life very much to himself. He’s introduced to this new probationer called Grace who he has to take under his wing, and slowly but surely begins to affect Stevie in ways he wasn’t expecting, changing his outlook on what it means to be a police officer in the PSNI and what it means to do the job that he does.

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

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It’s different in a sense that it reveals the people within the police force in a much more realistic way than I’ve ever seen portrayed before. It doesn’t hitch its wagon to major dramatic or tragic incidents. It does it in a very brave and subtle way that really does make you feel like these people exist and you could bump into them on the street. It does a brilliant job of telling real life.

What sort of research did you do for the role? How exactly was this helpful?

We were very lucky to have a number of retired police advisers on the series, who have previously served as police officers themselves. We also went to some real police stations across Northern Ireland and they took us through the ins and outs of the job. They showed us the briefing rooms, explained what a working day looks like for a police officer, what a quieter day looks like, described the long shifts. It was really great and so helpful to have that insight.

We see Stevie and Grace spending a lot of time in their car – eating lunch, playing music, is this typical of how the police officers spend time in the cars in between the callouts?

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This was the surprising thing, crime doesn’t happen non-stop. When it happens, it happens but in-between you spend a lot of time waiting around. There is always work to be done, it is surprising how much paperwork there is to do. When you’re in the car you want to be paired with someone you click with because you’re spending so much time with them. You want to spend it with someone who makes the day a bit easier.

What did you learn about the practicalities of being a PSNI officer?

The uniform is so restricting, I couldn’t think of anything worse to wear chasing a criminal running down the street. They couldn’t have designed anything worse. You’ve got the stab vest, the cuffs, the radio, the guns, the belt is slipping down, it’s almost like a comedy sketch. I will give them this though, the boots are great.

What’s Stevie’s relationship like with Grace?

It’s a great relationship. He trusts her, she’s funny, she brightens up his day and makes it go quicker. She’s teaching him things and reframing his mind in ways that’s benefitting him, he might not want to admit that but she’s a good influence on him.

 

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.