Steeltown Murders Interviews: Scott Arthur



Steeltown Murders Interviews: Scott Arthur

Steeltown Murders Interviews: Scott Arthur

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.

Scott Arthur plays DCI Paul Bethell in the 1973 timeline.

Does playing a real-life person change things for you as an actor?

Yes, I think from an actor’s perspective, a lot of work is done for you. You are playing real people with real histories, real families, real connections; there is a lot to take away from that.

Does the authenticity of the sets help your performance?

It’s a space that in a normal world as a human being you would never get to see. We always watch TV shows and period pieces and wonder what that world is like. But when you do step into it you are transformed in a time machine almost. The work that the team has done to get those minor details right is a dream as an actor. You are transported straight away, as soon as you walk on there.

What can you tell us about your role?

Paul isn’t where he would be, he is a DC in South Wales in the Port Talbot rank. He kind of feels a responsibility with this case anyway, he should be at the forefront of it. Unfortunately, he gets put on the taping – going to a car or someone’s home, getting Sellotape, sticking it against a sofa or a car seat and taking the fibres off, and then recording them.

But he wants to be at the frontline. He feels as if, if he was allowed at the front of this investigation alongside the top rank officers that he could help, that he could really make this case one that could be solved tomorrow because the difference between my Paul and Phil Glenister’s Paul is that there is a lot of energy and hope from my Paul.

He believes that in the next week they can catch this killer, whereas with Phil’s Paul there’s a lot of trauma, he feels as if they failed back in the seventies. The only evidence they had was that the suspect had a Austin 1100, it was – the only credible kind of evidence that they had. He is kind of like this young puppy almost and wants to get to the forefront of this investigation. It’s a privilege to play him and I have met Paul and his wife Karina and they are amazing people.

Does that help when you meet the real person?

Yes and no, it depends. Myself and Phil look nothing like Paul Bethel, he certainly has a different energy to us. It was good to meet him and pick his brain – the routes he would go down or the little things he would do. For instance, Paul told me that when they were in incident room and someone would come in with some evidence or a photograph or a piece of paper with information on it, they put it up on a wall, Paul would look at it and then two minutes later would just adjust it slightly. Kind of putting his own stamp on things. Little things like that you can take from the real person.

What’s it like knowing there is another actor playing your older self?

Phil is lovely, we met the night before the first day. Actually, I was very intimidated because I think Phil is a wonderful actor. Phil and I have shared information and helped each other. It was quite nice actually because when we were filming, he said good luck to me on my first day, and then on his first day I said good luck to him and that I am passing the baton over to you. There’s something quite nice about two actors playing the same part, it doesn’t happen often.

There is also great camaraderie between you and Siôn Alun Davies who plays a younger Phil ‘Bach’ Rees, what’s that like?

It’s brilliant. I know Siôn, I have known him for eight, nine years so that really helps. It means when you come on set you have already got that really friendly, easy relationship to work with. Our characters’ relationship kind of borders on the comedic side, they’re like this double team. They are both put on the taping and they really feel as if they should be at the forefront of this investigation.

What is it like telling a Welsh story with a predominantly Welsh cast and crew filmed in Wales?

This is the first time that I have done a drama in Wales. Just the small things, turning up to set in the mornings and everyone having a Welsh accent and saying good morning. There is something about the Welsh that is a bit more cheery, a bit more on the front foot than when you work in England or London. I am such a proud Welshman and to be back in Wales to do this is incredible. We are very lucky in Wales, there’s what feels like a huge pool of Welsh actors, directors, writers and crew but in the grand scheme of things, its actually quite small. We all know each other, 80 or 90 percent of the cast.

We need to embrace that as a kind of Welsh TV and film scene. We have something that not many other countries can have. If you are telling a Welsh story with Welsh actors most of those actors will know each other. I don’t have any scenes with him but actors like Steffan Rhodri, Richard Harrington and I know that Sharon Morgan is in this as well, the crème de la crème of Welsh actors – to be on set and see your name on a callsheet with them, it’s fantastic, it gives you that boost.

If you had to describe Steeltown Murders in one sentence, what would you say?

One of the most important Welsh stories of the last 100 years, I think.

What would you like the audience to take away from the drama?

It’s a good question, but I can only speak from a male perspective in a way. I think it’s important for us as men to realise that these things happen and they happen sadly quite often. I really hope there is an understanding of what women go through you know, and the fear that they have to go through. The community fears as well. So, I hope they come away from this feeling empathy for the families involved, the communities; for the police who did incredible work on this and realise there are many good people out there. For every bad person, there is probably a thousand good ones. I think if we can try and live our lives like that in some way, we can hopefully get through some dark times where we feel scared and vulnerable.

Steeltown Murders premieres on Monday 15 May at 9.00pm on BBC One.

Image Credit: BBC

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