The two stars talk about their new cop show...
The co-creators and stars of Bulletproof talk about their characters, Bishop and Pike, relaxing after a shoot, and how they’re moving things on from Inspector Morse
WOTV: Where did the idea for the show come from?
ASHLEY WALTERS: Yeah, I can’t put a date on it but it was several years ago. NOEL CLARKE: Like eight years ago. AW: We’d always wanted to work together in some way and always wondered why we hadn’t. I was a big fan of Bad Boys and buddy cop movies and didn’t understand why we didn’t have anything like that over here in the UK, so I suggested to Noel that with us being at the top of our game at the time that we create something along those lines: a show about brotherhood, with two black leads being good role models for once, because a lot of images and characters at the time were portraying negative stereotypes. So yeah, we sat down for a few hours one day and thrashed out this idea. NC: Then I went away and did more on it and it went from a one-pager to, like, a six-pager. And I would send it to Ashley to check, he would give me notes, and eventually we had our treatment, our basic: this is the story, this is what we want to do.
WOTV: So it was really collaborative?
NC: Oh yeah, yeah. We’ve tried to do various things with it that haven’t worked out in the past, tried to set it up in different ways and different guises, but we always came back to our treatment. And eventually we met with Vertigo and they loved it, Nick Love came on board and the three of us turned it into what you see now.
WOTV: You mentioned Bad Boys, and we’re used to seeing buddy cop duos in movies and TV from the US. What makes Bulletproof different?
NC: Well the very fact that you never see it here makes it original. I think we have a different sort of humour and sensibility, and it’s still a rare thing for the police to have guns over here, so it’s unique in that way. AW: And it’s UK through and through. It’s UK music, it’s UK slang. As much as we started with the Bad Boys idea, I think what we took from that was the relationship between the two leads, and that’s kind of the centre of everything in the show: how these two people love each other, how loyal they are to each other. NC: You never really get that in cop shows over here, it’s always like your Inspector Morses where there’s a superior and a subordinate and they’re like, “I told you to bring the car round and get me a pack of 20 Bensons”.
WOTV: There’s definitely not much of that in this show...
NC: These two are brothers, they’re loyal to each other and they’re on the same level. It’s a friendship I’ve never seen in a cop show on British TV. And there definitely isn’t anything that would be considered a mainstream show with two black leads where the whole point is it doesn’t matter that they’re black.
WOTV: Can you tell us a bit more about your characters and their friendship?
NC: Bishop is a detective and a bit of a wildcard. He loves his job, and apart from Pike that’s all he’s got. So he puts everything into it – he’s almost obsessive when there’s a bad guy to catch. That’s his sole purpose and he doesn’t really care about much more than that, apart from the fact that he loves Pike. If he didn’t have Pike and Pike’s family, god knows what he could do. His overriding loyalty and code of honour keep him on the right side of the law, but there are elements and moments in the show where you think in another lifetime Bishop could be so different. But he stays on the right path, and a lot of that’s down to him having Pike looking out for him.
AW: Pike is the opposite. He starts off like that anyway. He wants to do everything by the book, he’s a family man, married, kids, home – he’s just a sensible kind of guy. He has a huge passion for his job, and for Bishop. He takes care of Bishop and essentially he’s there to stop him dropping off the grid.
WOTV: Did you have to do much research?
NC: We had to learn about all the different organisations the NCA houses, and we had police training for a couple of days, we had firearms training and all of that sort of malarkey. AW: We sat down one day with a lady that we ended up finding out had been undercover for, like, 10 years. Some serious undercover s*** man. NC: That’s deep cover. AW: That is some deep, deep cover.
WOTV: You’re both known for work that covers some tough themes. Obviously Bishop and Pike are on the right side of the law, but do you think there are any similarities between them and characters like Dushane from Top Boy or Sam from the ’Hood films?
AW: I think that’s the whole point about life. There are similarities between criminals and the police, similarities between what you do and what I do. All that changes it is your focus and intention. As Noel said, things could have been different for Bishop. He’s got a badge though. And there are times during Bulletproof where Bishop and Pike do bend the rules in order to get their man. Does that make them right or wrong? I don’t know.
NC: Sometimes if the bad guys are going to go that far, you have to go just as far to get them – that’s where Bishop and Pike lie, I think. So there are definitely similarities with some of those characters. But I wouldn’t say this is a ‘road’ show, it’s more mainstream and broad. But they’re cool characters.
WOTV: Do you have any favourite action scenes from the show?
NC: For me, the action is exciting, but the most important part of the show is the camaraderie and the love the characters have for each other. That’s what’s going to make this stand out. There’s a moment in the teaser that everyone mentions when Bishop looks at Pike and says, “I don’t know what I’d do without you”, and then Pike nods. That’s what the show’s about, their brotherhood, and the action comes from the fact they’ll do anything they can to look after each other and get their man.
WOTV: It’s a great cast, isn’t it? What’s it been like working with everyone?
NC: They’re all right. AW: They’re all replaceable. NC: We like ’em but they’re all replaceable, it’s our show! No, it was great. You know, we’ve got good heavyweight people like Clarke Peters, which says a lot...
WOTV: Clarke is very complimentary about you guys...
NC: Oh great, he’s lovely, man, I love him to bits. We tried to make it as fresh as possible, so they’re not all faces you see on TV a lot. We’ve cast actors from Europe, for example – it just gives a different flavour and feel and I think that’s important.
WOTV: What do you do to switch off when you get home after a shoot?
NC: We chill out. We’re in the same block, so he goes to his apartment and I go to mine. I’ll watch some TV and he’ll watch some TV or do some music. Then I’ll go, “What you doing?” And he’ll go, “Going gym”. And I’ll go, “I’ll come the gym”, and we’ll go to the gym together. Occasionally we’ll go to dinner. So, yeah, we hang out, but other than that we just relax.
WOTV: That must help with your chemistry in Bulletproof?
NC: Yeah, you know people say our chemistry is, I think someone said palpable and beautiful. It really comes across that we get on with each other.
Bulletproof begins on Sky1 this Tuesday at 9pm.
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Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.