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Wales Online
Wales Online
Sam Cook

BBC Steeltown Murders star Scott Arthur quizzed the real-life cop he plays over dinner before filming

Welsh actor Scott Arthur has recalled how he quizzed real-life detective DCI Paul Bethell, whom he plays in new BBC drama Steeltown Murders, at a dinner ahead of filming. The four-parter, which begins on Monday, May 15, delves into how Paul and other Welsh police officers solved the Port Talbot murders of 1973 - read the true story behind the drama here.

In the drama, Life on Mars star Philip Glenister plays the older Paul whilst Scott plays him during the 1970s. Scott said: “[Phil and I] had one day on set together where we had to film this transition scene where we go from the Noughties to the Seventies and it’s done expertly well by director Mark Evans and Sam, the director of photography. It was nice because we could really sit down and discuss how it’s been for us both.

“The week before we started filming, [me and Phil] sat down and talked about accent and how we perceived Paul and the relationship that he had with his wife. The only thing we got out of Paul was from the script - that was the only bit of him that we knew about because we hadn’t met him yet. The night before we filmed, a few of us went out for dinner and Paul attended and sat in between me and Phil so we quizzed him for a whole night and tried to get an idea of who he was.” For more TV news, go to this page of our website.

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“In the Seventies Paul was a very ambitious detective as part of the Port Talbot branch of the South Wales Police,” Scott added. Describing his character he said: “He’s desperate to be at the forefront of the investigation and has a very strong hunch about who he thinks has done it. He’s walking on very thin ice within his rank and gets in trouble with his colleagues and his peers.”

Police officers on the scene in 1973 (Daily Mirror)

Scott admitted that he wasn’t really aware of the case before he got involved. “I knew of the Llandarcy murders but I didn’t know the ins and outs of it. Just before the BBC’s Pembrokeshire Murders came out, my grandmother spoke to me about the Llandarcy murders but it wasn’t until I started filming that I delved into the story in terms of what went on. I had no idea that it would be solved 28 years later.

“Halfway through filming I realised how important this was to Welsh history - it was the first of its kind in the Seventies and the Noughties. During the seventies they’d never heard of anything like a serial killer and those things were something that you heard from tales in other countries.”

Philip Glenister plays an older DCI Paul Bethell (PA Photo/BBC/Severn Screen/Tom Jackson)

Scott shared how he was “very excited” for the first episode of Steeltown Murders but said his excitement also comes with anxiety. “Every actor is always anxious before the thing that they’re in is aired, but I really hope that lots of people tune in and I hope that they can really delve into an extraordinary story about something that was so traumatic. It’s a fascinating story.

“It’s quite rare that a Welsh drama gets broadcast on national TV. We’ve been lucky that in the last two or three years, there have been quite a few but historically the Welsh dramas are few and far between. It was wonderful to be part of and it’s the closest thing to representing your country. When it's made by a Welsh team and a Welsh director and you have an incredible array of Welsh actors involved, it feels as if you’re playing rugby for your country almost.

“The piece is authentically Welsh and if you’re from Wales, you get what I mean but if you’re not then it’s hard to describe! It’s so unlike any other police drama that I’ve seen, in that it’s not sensationalist in any way and takes a lot of care. Being part of any Welsh show is always something to be proud of.”

As to what he hoped a viewer would get from watching the Steeltown Murders, Scott said: “I think people will get an appreciation for how hard-working the force was on this in the Seventies and the Noughties. They’ll also get an understanding of the pain the family and those communities have gone through. It’s hard to imagine what they went through.

“I really hope that a lot of men can watch this and realise that this is something that happens quite often to women. It still happens today and we need to understand that there needs to be more support and we need to know our place within history. Sadly a lot of these murders that happen are done by men.

“I also want people to come away and appreciate the determination of Paul, as well. It took him 28 years to really fight to get this case reopened and to never give up. If you believe in something, always go along with it and if you genuinely believe that you can make a difference, go for it. That’s the beauty of Paul in the Noughties because he genuinely believed that with the new set of DNA evidence that this thing could be solved.”

Scott enjoyed returning to Wales to film the drama (PA Photo/BBC/Severn Screen/Tom Jackson)

Scott, who lives in London, recalled how it was “special” to return to Wales to film Steeltown Murders. “Even though I’ve lived in London for 13 years I don’t really feel like I’ve ever moved away. I’ve got so many family members back in Llanelli and wherever I’ve gone home, it never feels like I’ve lived away.”

On filming in a 1970s setting Scott said: “It was fascinating from the off. The first thing I did to get into character aesthetically was a make-up test. I’d grown a very strong handlebar moustache so already I was getting into the seventies and then I was given a backwig. As soon as I saw myself looking like that, it’s incredible how quickly you feel like you’re entering that era."

Steeltown Murders begins at 9pm on BBC One on Monday, May 15.


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