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Lucy Buglass

Philip Glenister on playing his first cop since Gene Hunt

Philip Glenister as DCI Paul Bethell in Steeltown Murders

Philip Glenister has spoken about what it's like playing a cop in the new BBC drama Steeltown Murders, following his iconic Life on Mars part as DCI Gene Hunt.

The actor is well-loved for playing Gene in the BBC series Life on Mars and follow-up Ashes to Ashes, where he starred alongside John Simm and Keeley Hawes respectively. 

His no-nonsense detective was a fan favourite, and now he's taking on another police role in Steeltown Murders. Philip plays real-life former career detective Paul Bethell, who worked for South Wales Police and received a lifetime award for his service.

And Phil says his latest character is a million miles away from Gene. "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."

Philip Glenister and John Simm as Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler in Life on Mars. (Image credit: BBC)

This time, he's taking on a real person and he admitted he felt it was important to be respectful in his portrayal, as he helps adapt what really happened in Port Talbot.

Philip added: "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."

The actor went on to comment on the traumatic nature of the story, adding: "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."

Steeltown Murders starts on BBC One on Monday, May 15 at 9 pm. Episodes will also be available on iPlayer.

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