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|Law & Order UK: Bradley Walsh|
February 12, 2009
FORMER Coronation Street star Bradley Walsh is delighted with his weighty new TV role.
He ended up putting on almost two stone playing recovering alcoholic Det Sgt Ronnie Brooks in Law & Order: UK.
“The producers told me Ronnie is quite a portly guy. He likes his food and is always eating – so for seven months I’ve been stuffing my face,” laughs Bradley.
“Recovering alcoholics, when they finish drinking, they don’t crave the alcohol, it’s the sugar. So I have to eat sweets all the way through this show. Now none of my clothes fit me and I have raging sugar rushes.”
Arriving on ITV1 later this month, the 13-part series is based on the hugely successful American format created by Emmy award-winning producer Dick Wolf.
The original Law & Order, filmed on location in New York, was first screened in 1990 and is now in its 18th series on NBC, also having led to several spin-offs.
“This has been a dream for a long time,” says Dick of the UK version, which follows the fast-paced formula of a police probe mixed with legal dealings and courtroom drama.
“I think the biggest difference is the wigs,” he smiles, comparing the two series. “The law is not really that dissimilar and, you know, murder is murder. We’ve done 430 episodes and there’s been a murder in every one.”
Like its American counterpart, the British series features six regular main characters, including Jamie Bamber as Ronnie’s partner Det Sgt Matt Devlin as well as Cutting It’s Ben Daniels and former Doctor Who star Freema Agyeman in the Crown Prosecution team.
Ronnie has plenty of life experience,with two failed marriages. At one stage he reflects: “I believe everything everyone tells me and I’m disappointed on a daily basis.”
Off camera, former Rolls Royce jet engineer Bradley likes to play the clown. Even when sat in a lecture hall at The Law Society in London, a short walk from the Old Bailey, where the drama also filmed.
Very different to the first time I met him in early 2003, when he was still in the early stages of his journey from light entertainment to acting. Having just seen his performance in a dark TV drama, he was almost speechless.
After filming 130 episodes of ITV1’s ill-fated soap Night And Day, the ex-gameshow host guest starred in an episode of the same channel’s Murder Investigation Team, playing the father of of a missing teenage girl found buried on a demolition site. He was knocked sideways when he saw the end result on screen.
Other challenging parts followed before he took to the cobbles as Weatherfield factory boss Danny Baldwin, who proved to be one of the most popular characters in recent years before leaving at the end of 2006.
Would he ever return to the Rovers? “They’ve asked me to do it since, if I fancy going back,” reveals Bradley. “But then I was working on other stuff, this being one of them. So you never say never. It was a fantastic show to do and I loved every second.
“I’m just a baby at the acting game. I’ve been quite fortunate with the stuff I’ve done and how my path in acting has taken me. I thank my lucky stars.”
We have Ray Winstone to thank for Bradley’s move from stand-up to actor. “We were playing football and Ray said to me, ‘Why don’t you try acting? Some comics will make quite good actors because of the timing element, knowing how sentences, words and phrases are constructed.’
“On the following Monday I rang my manager and said, ‘Right, this is the path we’re going to take.’ And that’s exactly what he did. I much prefer the acting.”
Not that he’s turned his back on his past, leaving the set of Law & Order: UK at 7pm each night to dash on stage as Wishee Washee in Aladdin at a theatre in Woking. “I’m happy to do them both. I love my job. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t do it.”
Bradley researched his role by talking to a friend who is a Chief Inspector and was concerned at the amount of red tape police have to wade through. “It’s unbelievable and quite alarming. To be a copper is blooming hard work.”
He uses his character’s glasses as a useful prop, as well as his Columbo style mac, but doesn’t like watching himself on TV.
“I don’t enjoy that. When I see myself on screen, I honestly think I’m actually much more handsome than that. So that’s very disappointing. I watch it with a certain amount of disdain and fright that I’ve put that much weight on and grown that older.”
JAMIE Bamber admits he didn’t know who his co-star was when he joined the cast of Law & Order: UK.
Although born in London, he’s spent several years in America playing Apollo in sci-fi hit Battlestar Galactica.
“Coronation Street’s never been my favourite entertainment of an evening. So I didn’t know who he was, to be honest, and I was a bit apprehensive," says Jamie.
“But he’s a very warm, funny man who is a natural entertainer and also a natural born actor. He’s been a revelation to me.”
Among those making guest appearances in the series are Manchester’s Lorraine Ashbourne, Tony Maudsley, Patrick Malahide, Dervla Kirwan, Iain Glen, Frances Barber and Sean Pertwee.
The lead writer is Chris Chibnall, whose past credits include Life On Mars, with original American stories adapted for the ITV1 audience.
US series creator Dick Wolf doesn’t rule out a crossover episode one day on either side of the Atlantic. “I think it would be a natural at some point, especially with the way the world has become, unfortunately, smaller.”
He’d also like the UK version to be screened in America and has other ideas for the franchise.
“If you talk about wish fantasies, I’d love to see a Middle Eastern version. I’d love to do it in Cairo, because I think this type of show done in a major Muslim city would be eye-opening. It’s an exploration of human frailty and weakness that is universal.”
*Law & Order: UK begins on ITV1 at 9pm on Mon Feb 23.