Christopher Eccleston: The Safe House was 'always going to blow up in Robert's face!'

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston plays a troubled former detective who moves to the Lake District to escape his past in new three-part ITV drama Safe House (ITV, Monday). He explains what to expect from the unusual thriller...

Tell us about Robert…

He’s a former police detective who embarks on a new life in the Lake District after being seriously injured in the line of duty. He was looking after a witness who was due to testify against her gangland husband, when he was ambushed and she was killed."

Does the death of that witness still affect him?

"He's haunted by the fact that someone died in his care. Robert witnessed them die, which I don’t think had happened to him before, and also he nearly died. He and his wife buy a remote guest house in the Lakes, but Robert is still haunted and it’s him that haunts the house!"

In the opening scene of the series you’re swimming across a lake – it looks pretty cold!

"I had to wild swim in Coniston Water once or twice and I was in Derwent Water three times … and it was very cold! I was in a wet suit. Everybody who swims in there swims in a wetsuit unless it’s the height of summer."

Were you dreading filming those scenes?

"The swimming scenes are not the greatest thing to contemplate the night before, but it was exhilarating to do them. I’ve never felt so alive. The crew found it pretty amusing as well!"

Peep Show star Paterson Joseph plays your old boss, tell us about his character…

"Paterson plays Robert’s best mate DCI Mark Maxwell and they go back a long time. There was a brotherhood between the two of them. When Mark asks Robert to get involved in police work again by turning his guest house into a safe house Robert leaps at the offer."

Does he regret it?

"It’s always going to blow up in his face! And, most importantly, he knows that he still doesn’t know the whole story of what happened to him on that fateful night 18 months ago."

Did you enjoy working with Paterson?

"Paterson is one of the finest actors of my generation. He’s a real actor’s actor. I’ve come close to working with him on a couple of occasions. Once in Doctor Who and once in the American series The Leftovers. Finally in Safe House we got eyeball to eyeball and we got on famously. Working with him was a great experience!"

You grew up in Manchester, did you ever visit the Lake District as a child?

"My parents took me on holiday to a caravan site in Arnside and I remember watching the locals fishing with their feet – they call it treading – as a child from a council estate I thought it was amazing. When the tidal bore was out we would walk on the channels, find flat fish, put them in your little string bag and go home and cook them!"

Safe House premieres on Monday, April 20 at 9pm on ITV

Sean Marland

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 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 I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.