Skip to main content

Martin Freeman had big doubts about playing the lead in 'The Responder'

Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman in The Responder (Image credit: Rekha Garton/BBC)

From the Liverpool accent to the intensity of the role, Martin Freeman had doubts about whether he was the right actor to play a police officer with PTSD on the frontline in the new drama The Responder

So much anxiety, in fact, that the much-loved actor — best known for roles in Sherlock, The Office and The Hobbit — actually questioned his casting with the producers.

He told The Telegraph: “There were several times in the run-up to filming when I asked the director and executive producer if they were sure they had the right man for the job. Then Tony [Schumacher] said that he’d had me in mind when he wrote it, so that really relaxed me.”

The Responder is a new five-part drama about policing at night, constantly dealing with the worst of situations... and people. It was created by a former policeman, Tony Schumacher, who endured a mental breakdown while in the role. 

Freeman praises the unvarnished reality of the role: “I read a lot of scripts and it was one of those that I responded to because it didn’t feel like it was written by committee. In fact, it didn’t feel like it was written for anybody else apart from the person who had written it, Tony — it was just someone’s experience.”

Real it certainly is and in The Responder we see Martin’s character, Chris Carson, struggling through life. He has been demoted from detective inspector and spends his nights in a cop car while trying to maintain a fraught marriage to Kate (MyAnna Buring) and keep a lid on his psychological problems.

Martin continued: “No one in this is a goody or a baddy, but essentially I think he’s a very decent human being. He’s probably been in the job over 20 years and faced with the challenges of that job, always turning up at the worst time in people’s lives, living at night… well, that tends to take some of the shine off your character.”

He added: “There are [real-life] heroic coppers but the job takes a massive toll on people. Chris is just one of them.”

Another big challenge for Hampshire-born Martin was successfully nailing the Scouse (Liverpudlian) accent, which he prepared for in an unusual way.

“I just walked around the house a lot saying ‘forhk’ and watching Yellow Submarine,” he says. “The first Zoom read-through that we did was me and a lot of Liverpudlian actors. That was pretty nerve-racking, but it ended up being delightful because I heard a few people say afterward, ‘I didn’t know Martin was originally from Liverpool…’”

Related stories

The What to Watch team helps you find out the how, when, where and why of sports and entertainment. We provide a comprehensive guide to all the must-see movies and shows that are coming your way. Our expert recommendations will help you decide how to make the most of your viewing time and make informed choices on the best TV and home entertainment devices to buy.