Stephen is not so wild at heart

Actor Stephen Tompkinson
Actor Stephen Tompkinson

A STREET in Hartlepool saw a touch of the big screen when it was turned into a film set.

Actor Stephen Tompkinson was the star on set as filming for new cop movie Harrigan centred on the town’s Carr Street.

Mark Thompson (left) interviews Stephen in the Sandringham Road club

Mark Thompson (left) interviews Stephen in the Sandringham Road club

“I’m from Stockton and still have family there, so I know the area and it’s great to be here,” said Stephen, who plays no-nonsense police officer Barry Harrigan.

“We’ve had a warm welcome and it’s all going really well. There’s a nice atmosphere.

“There’s such a creative vibe happening in the North-East and I am really proud to be part of it.”

Stephen spent half of last week in Carr Street, off Hart Lane, which has been transported back to the 1970s for the film with old street lamps put up and houses painted as part of the £1.25m production by TallTrees Pictures.

The Hartlepool Mail was lucky enough to be invited onto the set to witness the drama unfold, with a car smashed up and set on fire, yobs hurling bricks and punches being thrown.

Stephen, who described Carr Street as “perfect” for the scenes, said: “It’s really giving me the chance to stretch my acting muscles and it has been a challenge.

“It’s a gritty film and we’ve been filming lots of action in Hartlepool. The climax of the movie is taking place here, which will be good for everyone to see.”

I spoke to Stephen over a coffee in the Hartlepool United Supporters’ Club, in Sandringham Road, which was turned into the base for cast and crew.

Stephen also managed to sign autographs at the club and enjoy a drink with regulars during his short visit.

He is an avid Middlesbrough FC fan and it didn’t take long for his beloved Boro to crop up in conversation.

He admitted to taking a break from work to watch the FA Cup fourth round replay against Sunderland in the club on Wednesday last week.

Stephen, who shot to fame in Ballykissangel, said: “There were a few of us watching it here. I was really proud to see how Boro did, even though they lost and with all the kids from the academy.

“I suppose it is a bit like this film. There are a lot of boys who have just graduated and here they are getting a chance and they have a lot of spirit.

“This is very much a North-East production and that’s why I’m so happy to be involved.”

Harrigan has been written by former Newcastle cop Arthur McKenzie, who rose through the ranks of vice, beat, CID and the Serious Crime Squad before retiring after 31 years as Detective Inspector in charge of the toughest division of Newcastle’s West End.

Using many of his own experiences, his storyline sees Harrigan return to his patch after an 18-month secondment in Hong Kong to find there have been massive changes to policing while he was gone – and not for the better.

Arthur has been on set giving advice and making sure the cast and crew capture the 1970s accurately.

Stephen said: “It’s been great to have him here. He’s full of stories, some of which you would hardly believe because he was in the thick of it all.

“It’s obviously deeply sentimental for him and we are doing it for him.

“Everyone looks at him and sees how passionate he is about it and that pushes everyone on. It’s also a great insight into what it was like for police then and how it all worked.”

Stephen revealed that the film captures a time when the “local bobby” was taken off the streets and replaced by panda cars.

Small police offices on estates were closed down and some areas were “left lawless”.

“This captures a certain time,” said Stephen.

“It’s when these changes happened and people no longer had that contact with their policeman.

“People like Arthur knew their areas and could just look people in the eye and they would stop what they were doing.

“It wasn’t a case of fighting, but that look said ‘I’ve clocked you’.

“There was a bit of respect there. I think we’ve lost that a bit.”