Sean Bean on playing a caring Catholic priest in Jimmy McGovern’s though-provoking and powerful new drama Broken
After his Bafta-nominated turn as a transvestite in Jimmy McGovern’s Accused, Sean Bean is teaming up with the acclaimed writer again for another equally challenging role as a caring Catholic priest in BBC1’s blistering new six-part state-of-the-nation drama Broken. Here he reveal all…
Tell us about Broken… “I play Father Michael Kerrigan, who is a good priest and has a radical and open vision for the church. As the title suggests, his parish is broken and it reflects what is happening in many UK cities, especially up north. The community doesn’t have a lot going for it, there are no jobs or money around; it has been downtrodden and decimated.”
How does Father Michael try to help? “He is like a social worker and counsellor. This is his vocation and he is at his happiest talking to people, that is where his heart lies. But he is under pressure and feels frustrated that his hands are tied and he can’t go as far as he’d like to help them. It’s great playing someone who is trying to deal with people’s problems because usually the characters I play cause problems, which is why I always get killed off!”
The first episode sees him attempt to comfort struggling mum Christina Fitzsimmons (Anna Friel) when she loses her job. What is their relationship like? “Everyone has their problems and Michael deals with them all in different ways to ease their pain. Christina does something that she shouldn’t, but Michael understands and puts a word in for her. He will be for there for anyone, his empathy is inexhaustible.”
Do we see much of Father Michael’s private life? “Yes, the show’s title is doubly fitting because Father Michael is broken, too. Underneath all the vestments he is a man with his own demons and scarring memories that that he is trying to come to terms with. He has awful flashbacks about his family that strike at inopportune times. In solitary moments when his mask slips you see his loneliness and his hopelessness.”
You are good friends with Adrian Dunbar who plays Father’s Michael’s mentor Father Peter Flaherty. What was it like to reunite with him? “I’ve known Adrian since I was about 21 when I was at drama school. We weren’t at the same school, but we always used to end up at the same parties and he was always singing his head off and he still does! I suggested him for the part and it was great because we worked really well together.”
What research did you do? “A lovely man called Father Denis came on set a lot showing me the protocol. It was great to talk to him and other priests. I was surprised because I thought they would be solemn, but I enjoyed their company and we’d have a laugh and chat about football. I also saw the effort and energy that priests give, I didn’t realise how busy and selfless they were. I wouldn’t say I ever thought about the priesthood as a calling, I was more interested in football and pop music as a young man. But I now have a lot of respect for them and they put me on the front cover of a Jesuit magazine recently, so the priesthood must be pleased with what we have done too!”
Broken screens on BBC1 on Tuesday, May 23 at 9pm
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