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I TALK Safe House

Fresh from the brilliant two-parter Code of a Killer which has just finished on ITV, writer Michael Crompton is back with a new drama, this time a four-parter called Safe House.

As the title would suggest, the drama is set in a safe house, in the beautiful wilderness of the Lake District. There must be something about Crompton's writing that draws great acting talent, Safe House stars Christopher Eccleston (FortitudeDoctor Who), Marsha Thomason (White Collar), Paterson Joseph (Law & Order UK, Babylon), Jason Merrells (Emmerdale, Waterloo Road) and Nicola Stephenson (All At Sea, Holby City).

Last month I was invited along to the screening for episode one and was given the opportunity to speak to some of the cast afterwards. Here's what I made of it and what the cast had to say about Safe House...

From the very second the first episode starts, you are blown over by how beautiful the Lake District is. The opening shot of Christopher Eccleston's character Robert, swimming across the lake to reach the safe house is simply stunning and very cinematic.

Robert is a former police detective who has embarked on a new life in the Lakes after being seriously injured in the line of duty, looking after a witness who was due to testify against her gangland husband. When Robert was ambushed, the woman was killed.

An incident as heartbreaking as that was always going to be difficult to get over so Robert left the police force and now runs an isolated guest house in the Lake District.

He shares the house with his wife Katy, who is played by Marsha Thomason, but of course escaping to the Lake District doesn't mean he'll forget. Robert is still restless and suffers nightmares about his experience on that fateful evening.

Robert's guest house very quickly turns into a safe house when DCI Mark Maxwell, Robert's old work colleague, played by Paterson Joseph calls Robert in the first episode to see if he and Katy will take the Blackwell's in and keep them safe.

Father David Blackwell, played by Jason Merrells has been hospitalised after being attacked by a man who attempted to abduct his young son Joe during a family trip to play crazy golf at the seaside. His wife Ali is played by Nicola Stephenson, and is the one tasked with keeping everything together, and making sure her son Joe and daughter Louisa are safe, even when locked away in the safe house.

There is one member of the Blackwell family missing from the safe house though, and that's eldest son Sam who is away at University, but worryingly no-one has seen or heard from him in weeks.

Speaking about why they took the part in the first place, Nicola Stephenson told me that the first thing that attracted her to Safe House wasn't just the character...

"It was the thriller aspect of it really. The writing, the twists, the turns, the red herrings and all the things you find out about the characters that aren't there to begin with. Its like a good old fashioned thriller."

She also spoke about the intense nine-week filming schedule in the Lake District:

"It was intense, and I didn't expect it to be. But it was really helpful to be in the Lake District, cut off from my family, no phone signal, no internet. The weather conditions really affected filming because you never knew what you'd be filming. So all of that was really helpful for me to access what I needed to access as an actress. The landscape and the house are really integral to the piece."

Jason Merrells who plays her husband also spoke to me about his love of the script and how it played a major part in him deciding to take on the role:

"The script was excellent. I thought it was one of the best thrillers I'd ever read. I knew Chris (Eccleston) was involved so it just seemed like a very good thing. The script was so interesting. It wasn't set in a cop shop, it wasn't about procedure, it was really psychologically ambiguous.

Every character seemed to have a story and you wanted to know what that was."

He also spoke about what it was like for him filming in the Lake District and how the location almost became a character in itself:

"It's a lovely part of the world, and I've spent many a good holiday up there. The Lake District is a character in itself. i've never been on a show where the schedule was torn up every day in quite the way it was in Safe House, because the bosses wanted the absolute best. It's really nice when you've got that support behind you."

It was revealed at the screening that Safe House was always seen as a returning series, certainly the concept of the safe house, and they already have ideas for future stories. It's safe to say that these stories won't feature the Blackwell family but I can't see any reason why Robert and Katy wouldn't return.

I was totally gripped by the first episode of Safe House and can't wait to find out alone with everyone else how the series unfolds. I can't wait to discover everyone's hidden secret and of course find out why the Blackwell's were a target for abduction.

Prepare to be gripped for the next four weeks...

Safe House starts Monday 20th April at 9pm on ITV

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