James Nesbitt talks 'Bloodlands': 'DCI Tom Brannick has a need to protect!'

James Nesbitt in Bloodlands.
James Nesbitt in Bloodlands. (Image credit: BBC)

Those with a Line of Duty-shaped hole in their lives are in for a treat his week, as creator Jed Mercurio delivers what’s set to be another sure-fire hit for BBC1 with Bloodlands, an intense thriller starring Cold Feet and Lucky Man’s James Nesbitt as a tormented detective, who’s forced to confront his painful past when he goes on the trail of a mythical assassin known as Goliath.

Set in Belfast, the six-part drama centres on DCI Tom Brannick (Nesbitt), a devoted dad to daughter Izzy and a detective of over 20 years, who was at the coalface when peace came to Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement. 

As the series begins, Brannick and his trusty colleague DS Naimh McGovern (Ripper Street’s Charlene McKenna) are called to investigate when a car is pulled from the river at Strangford Lough. 

The vehicle belongs to Pat Keenan — a man with links to the IRA — who’s nowhere to be found but Brannick is clearly rattled when a postcard boasting an image of Belfast’s iconic Samson and Goliath cranes is found hidden in the wing-mirror.

Brannick tells senior officer Jackie Twomey (Fortitude’s Lorcan Cranitch) that he fears legendary serial killer — codenamed Goliath — who evaded capture during The Troubles, has returned. It’s then revealed that one of Goliath’s victims was Brannick’s own wife, Emma…

As new, historic evidence comes to light, Brannick is more determined than ever to seek justice for Goliath’s past crimes while protecting present-day peace. What follows is an explosive cat-and-mouse game where the stakes have never been higher…

We caught up with  James Nesbitt, 56, to find out more about the new crime drama EVERYONE will soon be talking about… 

James Nesbitt on his character, DCI Tom Brannick… 

"Brannick is a strong, solid guy who believes in the values of right and wrong and is prepared to stand up for what he believes in and go to great lengths to protect those close to him. It’s important to say Bloodlands is not a thriller about The Troubles; it’s an exploration of a man who deals with loss, love and work and, ultimately, it’s a story about a father and daughter. Brannick’s relationship with Izzy is everything; she’s his life."

Tom Brannick and Izzy Brannick

Brannick will stop at nothing to protect daughter Izzy...  (Image credit: BBC1)

James Nesbitt on who IS Goliath?

"When the notion of “Goliath" crops up, it’s like a terrible jolt for Brannick and it suddenly un-peels a past that holds such terrible memories; mainly of a wife disappearing and of a child being left without a mother. Brannick’s got to a point in his life where he’s wondering: 'Am I always gonna be battling the past?'"

Tom Brannick Samson Goliath cranes

Brannick wonders if the calling card of the Samson and Goliath cranes mean Goliath is back! (Image credit: BBC1)

James Nesbitt on working with Line of Duty and Bodyguard creator Jed Mercurio…

"When Jed was doing Line of Duty in Northern Ireland, I would say to him: ‘Why am I not in that?’ And he’d say: ‘We’ll find something.’ Then this came up. I’ve never really worked with anyone like Jed. He’s got an incredible mind but is wonderfully accessible, very collaborative and calm. So I’ll take an awful lot away from this shoot." 

James Nesbitt on being an actor…

"The shoot has been brutal — not brutal in the same way that going down a coal-mine is brutal — just in terms of giving yourself completely to something, which is why I became an actor. I still have that work ethic that was instilled in me. My mother used to say: 'The sun rises James, and so must you!'"

James Nesbitt on Northern Ireland…

"I’m hoping it will highlight what life is really like in Northen Ireland now following the Agreement. Even the Samson and Goliath cranes, that were once viewed as a symbol of loss in Northern Ireland, now appear strong and hopeful and optimistic about a bright future. People have been desperate to crow about Belfast for years — and now we feel in a position where we can really be proud of it!"

Tom Brannick Northern Ireland.

James enjoyed filming the series in his native Northern Ireland. (Image credit: BBC1)

James Nesbitt on ‘coming home’… 

"That in itself was one of the big attractions for me to this project. Although I moved to England, 36 years ago, and London is where I live, I still consider Northern Ireland ‘home’. I love this character of Brannick. I love Northern Ireland and I would like to be remembered as a Northern Irish actor who loved where he came from and loved his job. And that’s kind of what this drama is about."

James Nesbitt Tom Brannick Bloodlands

Bloodlands starts on Sunday February 21 at 9pm on BBC1. (Image credit: BBC1)
Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and WhatToWatch.com

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!