Ross Kemp on his ITV prison documentary: 'You can never show fear'

Ross Kemp Behind Bars
(Image credit: ITV)

Ross Kemp on spending seven days with the inmates at Glasgow's notorious Barlinnie prison...

Ross Kemp has spoken to TV Times about his new ITV documentary, Ross Kemp Behind Bars: Inside Barlinnie, which starts tonight at 9.00pm.

What's the story?

Before his interview with TV Times, Ross had spent the last few days in hospital with his wife, Renee, following the birth of twin girls, Eva and Kitty but kept his appointment to chat about his new documentary, which takes him inside one of the toughest prisons in Scotland.

"I didn’t get much sleep last night," said Ross, 53. "The twins have been great, but my two-and-a-half year old son has chicken pox. I’m a father of four now and I think that’s enough!"

The goings-on in the Kemp household are a far cry from HM Prison Barlinnie where Ross spent seven days behind bars.

Here, Ross Kemp tells us more…

TV Times: Why did you want to make this documentary?

Ross Kemp: "I wanted to find out what life was like in British prisons, if they worked and if they’re designed to work. Can you rehabilitate someone while also punishing them?"

TVT: How did you prepare?

Ross Kemp: "People say Barlinnie is the most dangerous square mile of the UK, so I knew I had to be careful. I got myself fit beforehand and did self-defence training in case things kicked off."

TVT: Did you ever feel in danger?

RK: "Prisons are intimidating places, but you can never show fear in such situations. Luckily most of the inmates respected me. On one occasion a guy was giving me some abuse and the inmate I was with told him to be quiet and this guy shut up immediately. There’s definitely a hierarchy."

TVT: You entered the prison in the same way that a convicted criminal would…

RK: "They march you in, strip you naked and give you a uniform; it’s an intimidating experience. You feel very vulnerable and it makes you realise that you’re no longer part of society. You’re not a citizen anymore – you’re a number. I spent an evening locked in a cell and I can tell you it's a very lonely experience!"

TVT: What did you do in the prison?

RK: "In the kitchen, I worked next to an inmate who had stabbed someone in the face several times with a carving knife, but there we were cutting up sandwiches together. It was surreal. The next day he wasn’t there. Someone told me he’d attacked someone overnight."

TVT: Did any of the inmates recognise you from the telly?

RK: "They have access to TVs so a few asked about the documentaries I’ve made on gangs and I got called Grant Mitchell a few times!"

Sean Marland

David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years working for TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer for TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!