Hope Springs:

The local policeman caught between two women, handsome detective inspector Gil Cameron – played by The Thick Of It actor Paul Higgins – is a troubled guy who has a sense of failure haunting him over the unsolved murder of a local girl. A man of high moral integrity, he is generally respected by the locals, has a deep hatred of any injustice and trusts his own judgement of character above everything else.

“Gil tries to be the good guy of the village, but his big failure is that this young girl [Katie] was murdered in his area of responsibility and he hasn’t really made any progress on finding her killer. That’s what really troubles him,” says Paul.

“This is a young girl that he knew and, whilst he has a few ideas about her death that turn out to be wrong, he hasn’t got any evidence yet and he’s pretty much in the dark about what really happened. Gil’s very keen to put that right somehow but I don’t think even he knows how he’s going to do it. He’s a bit too trusting to be a really good policeman, I reckon.

“He’s certainly very different to Jamie, the character I played in The Thick Of It. For a start, Gil’s good-hearted and always trying to do the right thing and I don’t think you could ever say that Jamie was any of those things. Jamie would’ve probably solved the murder by now. He’d probably have beaten it out of somebody. It’s likely he would’ve got the wrong person, but there’s no doubt he’d get a confession.”

Gil’s engaged to be married to the village sweetheart Ann Marie (played by Ronni Ancona) but theirs isn’t a perfect relationship. She seduced him when he was feeling lonely and, unbeknown to him, had her own secret affair with local bad boy Euan Harries (Alec Newman).

And now Ann Marie’s pregnant and Gil naturally assumes he’s the father so he’s done the honourable thing and proposed to Ann Marie, even although he knows in his heart of hearts he doesn’t love her. However, he does love the prospect of being a dad at long last. But then Ellie (Alex Kingston) walks into his life and knocks Gil sideways.

“There’s no way that Gil is in love with Ann Marie, but I think he’s persuaded himself that he’s in love with her,” reveals Paul. “She’s a very attractive woman, she’s pregnant with his child and so he’s going to do the right thing.

“He’s nearly 40, he’s never settled down or got married so he probably thinks this is the natural next step. I can relate to him on that score. I think most of us have been in relationships where you kid yourself things are okay, when they very clearly aren’t. Basically Hope Springs is a wee village and they are two single people of a certain age. There’s not much choice of potential partners to be honest, so maybe he thought there was an inevitability they would end up together. But then these exotic, glamorous women arrive in the village and he gets his head turned.

“Because he comes from this little tiny place he hasn’t met anyone like Ellie before – she’s different and exciting and she’s on his wavelength or, at least, so he thinks. Clearly he doesn’t know she has all these secrets. If he did then obviously he’d realise that maybe she’s not a very suitable partner for him.

“For Ellie, I suppose Gil’s very different to the men she’s known in the past – he’s honest for a start. But the problem is she will always have this secret that she can never tell him.”

Whilst Gil may enjoy the more relaxed pace of country life, Paul admits Hope Springs wouldn’t be his first choice of abode.

“I couldn’t live somewhere like that and I never will, I hope,” he says, with a grin. “My in-laws have a house in a little village in Wiltshire where I’ve spent a lot of time, which is lovely. These places are nice to visit and I’m fine for a couple of days, but then I want to go to the cinema or a restaurant or something like that and there’s nowhere.

“Wanlockhead where we filmed on location is lovely, but there isn’t even a shop. I would hate not being able to pop out and get a paper or a pint of milk. Although it has got a pub, so I think if I was forced to live somewhere like that I’d be in the pub rather a lot!” laughs Paul.

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