I TALK TO Ashley Walters & Noel Clarke

I caught up with Ashley Walters and Noel Clarke about working together on Sky One’s latest drama Bulletproof.

The six-part series follows Bishop (Clarke) and Pike (Walters), two cops who are best friends and bonded by the same moral code, despite their very different backgrounds.

Set in London, it’s a fun, authentic, action-packed ride around the city as Bishop and Pike tackle the bad guys in their own uncompromising style, all while maintaining their friendship, their relationships and taking on ghosts from the past.

Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family. These two have got each other’s backs, no matter what.

How did you come up with Bulletproof?

Noel: It’s his idea so he came to me really.

Ashley: Yeah I did. First and foremost I sat there thinking about vehicles for us because I could clearly see that Noel had pretty much created all of his success himself. He was the master of his own destiny.

I’d never been in that position. I’d never written anything so when me and Noel started talking properly he encouraged me to go down that route. We were at BAFTA or an event somewhere and then the next day I rang him up and pushed this idea to him.

We met up in a Starbucks on Oxford Street and we just started fleshing out this idea. Technically it was my idea at the beginning but we created it together.

Noel: Yeah, I then went off and wrote up the treatment and I’d show it to Ashley and he’d go “Nah nah nah nah, change that” and it took us a while. Months and months! It was only a six or seven page treatment but because we were so busy, it took ages to really lock it down in the way we wanted.

And you were always going to play the two leads?

Noel: Yeah, it was a show for us. We were like “Have you ever seen a show with two black leads?” especially in such positions of power and doing good. No. And I think even now if a show like this got made, and it wasn’t us who created it, it might be one white guy and one black guy, it would always be a mix.

Our idea wasn’t to go “We just want to see black faces”, it was to go “Well actually, we’ve never seen this”. It’s not an issue who they are. They’re just these two guys who happen to be these two guys.

Did you get any resistance when you first started pitching the idea?

Noel: Yeah yeah yeah, but this now is a different idea. So the resistance was just at the idea but we never really pursued it fully because we were working on other things. As soon as it came to Sky, they were fully supportive.

Ashley: Fully supportive.

In a nutshell then, what is Bulletproof?

Ashley: It’s an action drama, there are bits of comedy in there, but the main thing is about the relationship between our two characters. We are police, that’s our job, that’s our life but the series is more centred on brotherhood.

How we are with each other. We don’t come from the same mother and father but we’re like brothers.

Noel: I guess it’s a procedural but it doesn’t feel like any procedural that you would have ever seen. Especially in this country. You definitely don’t watch it and know that this week there’s going to be this crime, then that’s going to happen, then this blah blah blah... It’s a really organic show in that there’s an overarching story.

It’s very much 50/50 in terms of portraying their professional lives and their personal lives. Was that important?

Noel: Yes, very much so. You don’t really see, especially in those type of shows with us as leads or whatever, you don’t see enough of regular family life.

I think it was important to show that and have a husband and wife on screen who weren’t having problems. How often do you see that? There’s always an issue.

But there is an issue in Bishop's relationship...

Noel: I think in shows like this you do need that Mel Gibson character, that Will Smith character that can just push the envelope a little bit further and act more recklessly than others. Sometimes if they have a family and a wife, the argument is that they’re not going to be as reckless.

How much of an effect does Pike Snr have on Bishop and Pike? Is there a sense of hierarchy there because of who his father is?

Ashley: Not at all. I think they see each other as brothers and Pike doesn’t want to live in his father’s shadow. I don’t care what position he’s in or who he is, we don’t expect to be given any leeway. We’re just doing what we do.

Also, I’m not just bragging, but we’re really good at what we do. As police, as much as he’s a bit weird and crazy sometimes, and I go off on one or whatever, we actually get the job done.

It’s quite rare to see two officers in the same position out there in the car together. Usually there’s a junior with them. Was that important?

Noel: Yeah, that was important. You’re completely right. In all the older shows that you’ve seen, even the modern ones, Inspector Morse or this that and the other, there’s a senior and a junior but now in Bulletproof, nah. These two are equal.

The thing is, they would both do anything for each other but Pike is a bit more thoughtful, whereas Bishop would act first and think after. They’ve got that relationship where they just have to give each other signals or little looks and they just know what they need to do.

How fun were the car chases to film? And did you do all the driving?

Ashley: It was amazing. I didn’t do all the driving, I did about 80-90%. I enjoyed it so much. You can imagine, just having toys every day.

Noel: It was really interesting to do those because I never really thought about how they do car stunt action scenes like that. Like Ash said, a lot of the driving was him. What I’ve realised now, which I didn’t know, is that they just go “Right, drive in a straight line. You just drive full pelt in a straight line and let all the stunt drivers do the rest!"

So when you see those near misses, they’re really happening but we just drive straight. We just drive and they do all the swerving.

Ashley: On the first day I got straight into that BMW with the stunt driver and he took me on the route. I came around the corner and the big truck came and Noel wasn’t in the car yet so on our second run, we just put him inside and he was filming me actually. No one told him anything!

Noel: After that I was like, OK they dodge us.

How many cars did you get through? I’ve seen two episodes and there have been three different cars.