Steeltown Murders Interviews: Philip Glenister
Steeltown Murders is set in the Port Talbot area in 1973 and the early 2000s and tells the remarkable story of how the murders of three young women in the area were finally solved almost 30 years later with the help of groundbreaking DNA evidence.
Steeltown Murders is a portrait of a town dealing with the repercussions of an unsolved case three decades later, and it asks if justice can ever be found in light of the policing methods of the 1970s and the forensic breakthroughs of the early 2000s.
Philip Glenister plays DCI Paul Bethell in the 2002 timeline.
What first attracted you to this script?
The first thing, as always, is the writing. I found it a very, very powerful piece by Ed Whitmore. There were a number of reasons but that’s the main one. Amongst other things, I wanted to work with Marc Evans because I think he is fabulous. And I wanted to check out the Welsh side of me because I am half Welsh, my parents live in Wales.
Can you tell us about the two time periods covered in the drama?
I have been in a couple of dramas in both periods, Life on Mars in 1973 and then I did Clocking Off which is in 2001. I had a look at some of the old Clocking Off’s on iPlayer to see what I was wearing for the period. Isn’t that mad? It just seemed like yesterday.
What’s it like to be part of a real life story?
I think it’s a responsibility and it’s a privilege. It’s interesting because I haven’t played a policeman since Gene Hunt in Ashes to Ashes. I am so aligned with that role, so it’s really – not to use the word exciting, but – I wanted to play another policeman and this was totally the opposite to Gene Hunt in many respects. Paul Bethell is a real person and Gene Hunt is fictional. I think the overall feeling is that it’s a responsibility to serve the story because there are obviously family members. We have to serve the story and them above all and respect them. I think respect is the word.
When it’s based on something that is real and so traumatic because it involves three teenage girls, and having daughters myself, it hits you. It’s unimaginable what the families have gone through. I haven’t sort of looked at it as a thriller, to me, it’s more a drama-documentary that we are making. You want it to be entertaining, educational and informative, all the things you want in a good drama. So, hopefully we have done it justice.
Paul Bethell is close to this project and has been on set, what’s that like as an actor?
It’s really nice actually because he is so laid back. Paul is such a nice guy, when I first met him before we started shooting, we had dinner together, a few of us. It was great to be able to ask him a few questions. I don’t get too bogged down with ‘what are your mannerisms like’ and all that, I am not so much interested in that, rather his thoughts on how he worked on the case. He told me something which I thought was really interesting, he said he didn’t like using the word closure, because in a case like this there is never closure, especially for the family. There is hopefully a sort of peace of mind that you eventually get the whole story. You know what happens, you know who did it, but you never get closure from what these families have suffered. So, he never used the word closure, particularly to them.
What has it been like working with your fellow cast members?
What I have noticed about being in this production and filming in Wales is how close everybody is. Everybody knows each other, I feel like I am gate-crashing the party. But they have been so welcoming and nice to me. I told them I support Wales in rugby, couldn’t actually say it for football, but rugby definitely, always have done. It’s been a really, really enjoyable experience for me.
How would you sum up Steeltown Murders?
That’s a tough one. I would say it’s an incredibly powerful, moving story where out of the darkness, hopefully some light appears.
What was it like performing the accent?
I went through a few scenes with my mum actually. But I picked a couple of wrong scenes that were a bit sort of sweary. She said ‘what in God’s name are you doing?’ and I said, actually I will find another scene mum, don’t worry…
Steeltown Murders premieres on Monday 15 May at 9.00pm on BBC One.
Image Credit: BBC/Severn Screen/Tom Jackson.
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