The Street

Jimmy McGovern makes nothing but brilliant television. His contribution to British drama is outstanding. Second Coming blew everyone away and his work on Cracker is pretty much unparalleled. He is, in my humble opinion, bona fide TV royalty.

Which is why I’m saddened that The Street, part-written by McGovern, is about to leave our screens forever and ever amen. Especially given that, it could well be McGovern’s greatest televisual acheivement.

This, the third and final series, that is currently airing, has been staggering and arresting viewing, with tales of love, loss, anger, strife, war and power. Universal themes run hot and cold through the paving stones and tobacco stained fingers. It’s immense television.

What makes the current crop so riveting is how the show gets down and dirty and tackles the things that most dramas shy away from. It meets society’s issues in place too uncomfortable for most shows. Yet still, it doesn’t leave you with an easy answer – ever.

Last night’s show dealt with racism in white working classes. The show could’ve easily gone for the easy line, but instead, blurred it and left you second guessing ’til the close. Instead of relentless gloom, the show managed to find warmth in the most dire circumstance, just like real life.

That’s something that’s been a constant in McGovern’s work, especially in The Street. There’s heart and soul in each beat of the script and dialogue flows naturally, quickly and with real wit and verve.

The assembled actors are always inspired and, credit too must go to the whole team that make the show, right down to the tea-lady. There’s a harmony off-camera that translates to screen. You sense that there is one vision and everyone knows exactly what is needed to make one of the best things ever aired on TV.

Enjoy it while you can.

For the third series in a row, Timothy Spall plays Eddie.

Last season, Eddie lost his licence, so he is working as a controller for Alpha Zero Cabs. His wife Margie (Ger Ryan) goes to look after her ailing father and Eddie finds himself taking pity on Sandra (Ruth Jones), a lonely colleague at work. But, for the married Eddie, the relationship with Sandra soon grows too close for comfort, and the ramifications are not good.

Timothy explains more about the doomed relationship between Eddie and Sandra: “She is clearly fond of him. He doesn’t fancy her, but he feels sorry for her. She’s a bit of an Eleanor Rigby.

“Eddie is a sucker for a victim. He can’t help but help people to death sometimes! He comes to work with these dreadful sandwiches, so Sandra starts to bring him a smorgasbord every day. And before you know it, shock, horror, they are getting closer and closer.”

The actor reflects on why Eddie – who also vainly tries to help Paddy in his battle with Miller in the first episode – has been such a lynchpin over the three series of The Street.

“He is the catalyst for so much of the action because he’s got a very big heart. He is always struggling between honesty and uselessness. He knows he’s not up to much and can’t avoid a bleeding heart, but he’s a genuinely kind man.”

Timothy, one of our best-loved actors, underlines that it is a delight to portray such a rich character.

“Eddie is fantastic to play. There is a price to pay for doing all this emotional stuff. It’s tough and draining. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but playing a part like this you have to dig deep and go to some dark places within you.

“But you don’t get many chances to act out such an array of emotions, so it’s always a challenge and a delight. For an actor, this is a choice part to play.”

Timothy relished collaborating with Ruth: “What a delightful woman and a smashing actress! She’s tremendous to work with. I was a huge fan beforehand. I love Gavin And Stacey.

“She’s funny and a very warm person to be around. We had a gas. It was a real treat working with her.”

The actor has a complete affinity with Jimmy McGovern’s work: “The bedrock of his writing is the tragic-comedy of everyday existence,” muses the performer, who has shone in all manner of drama over the last three decades, from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Secrets And Lies, Our Mutual Friend, and Topsy-Turvy to Shooting The Past, Oliver Twist, All Or Nothing, Pierrepoint and Harry Potter.

“Jimmy understands that tragedy and comedy often appear in our lives at the same time and at the most unexpected moments. They can seem bizarrely contradictory, but they are inextricably linked. Jimmy manages to convey this brilliant mingling of tones. He makes us laugh and cry at the same time and that’s a rare talent.”

Above all, Timothy concludes: “Jimmy’s genius lies in his ability to reflect the drama of daily life. He has an uncanny knack for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. And that’s why it’s always such a pleasure to work on The Street.

“I feel delighted to have been in this for three series. Some people claim that TV drama is in the death throes, but The Street shows we can still pull it out of the bag. It’s no coincidence that it wins all these international awards.

“I was having a drink at a farmers’ market in LA the other day, and this American woman came up to me and said, ‘hey, when’s The Street coming back? We get it on BBC America and I love it!’ That’s a mark of this show’s quality. It strikes a universal chord.”

Ruth Jones takes the role of Sandra.

A rather sad, isolated young woman, she works alongside Eddie (Timothy Spall) in the control room at Alpha Zero Cabs. She takes a shine to her colleague and, noticing that he is struggling to cope while his wife Margie (Ger Ryan) is away caring for her sick father, starts to make him lunch.

The two work mates begin to grow closer – he mends a window pane at her home. When Sandra lures Eddie back to her flat one evening, she makes a move on him. He feels desperately sorry for this lonely woman, but will he succumb to her advances and jeopardise his marriage to Margie?

Ruth, who has become a major star since playing Nessa in, and co-writing, the hit sitcom Gavin And Stacey, says she was delighted to land a part in Jimmy McGovern’s The Street.

“I was thrilled to get the call for this,” enthuses the actress. “I’ve always been a huge fan of this show. It’s one of the finest drama series around.

“The moment I saw it, I thought, ‘that’s TV drama at its absolute best’. The casting is always amazing. It has a compelling premise and brilliant ingredients. As a writer, I’m constantly watching The Street and thinking, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ It always keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

Much of Ruth’s work thus far has been in comedy. She made a name for herself as the barmaid Myfanwy, patiently dealing with the strops of Dafydd, ‘the only gay in the village’, in Little Britain. So she was particularly pleased to be offered this more serious role.

“For me,” she says, “it’s an enormous compliment to be considered a straight actress and not seen as solely a comic actress.”

Ruth, who has also had significant parts in Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Little Dorrit and Torchwood, goes on to contemplate the character of Sandra.

“She works with Eddie in the control room at the cab office. She catches him when he’s at a low ebb. She’s a lonely person and latches onto him. She views him as a friend and sees in him things that others don’t see.”

The actress, who has also appeared in Nighty Night, Saxondale, I’m With Stupid, Fat Friends and East Is East, says Sandra “is not intentionally destructive. She’s quite a loving soul but she causes a stir in a gentle way. She’s quietly manipulative.

“She’s always been on her own and has lived her life without anyone paying any attention to her. So when Eddie, who is a big-hearted guy, comes to her rescue and mends her window, she is instantly drawn to him. It’s a simple act of kindness of his part, but she reads more into it.”

Ruth sighs: “It doesn’t end joyfully for either of them. It makes them both think about where they are in life. In true Jimmy McGovern style, when their paths cross, there is a significant knock-on effect. Sandra is part of the domino effect which is what makes The Street such a great drama.”

The actress praises Jimmy’s writing: “I love Jimmy’s writing. He sees people as they really are. He’s really good at portraying anti-heroes. He is always able to find the heroic in a non-hero. Eddie is just like that.”

Ruth adds: “The joy of the series is that you dip into a character’s life one week and the next week he or she is gone. That’s really brave in this day and age. You’re dropped in at the deep end with a character and, because Jimmy’s writing is so strong, you immediately know what’s going on.

“You could ask, ‘would all those things happen to all those people in one street?’, but none of us knows what’s really going on behind closed doors.

“The Street is such a great premise because there are a series of doors and no one knows what’s happening behind them. The public persona people present on the street is very different from what goes on inside.

“Another added bonus for me was getting to work with director David Blair again, who also directed Tess. His attention to detail is remarkable and he gets so much out of people’s performances. I love working with him.”

Ruth closes by praising her co-star: “Timothy has always been a hero of mine. I loved him in everything from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Shooting The Past to all the Mike Leigh films he’s done.

“He’s such a subtle actor. There’s always so much going on beneath the surface. He has huge depths.

“I must say that, beforehand, I was nervous because he’s done so much great work and I was in awe of him. But in the event, it was delight. Tim is a joy to work with!”

Stephen Graham, one of the most magnetic actors currently operating in this country, portrays Shay, a betting shop manager whose life is in chaos. Since he was held up by armed robbers at the shop, Shay has been a serious alcoholic.

His life is thrown into further turmoil when his ex-girlfriend, Madeleine (Maxine Peake), turns up out of the blue and announces that Shay has a son he never knew about. Sixteen-year-old Otto (Leon Harrop) has asked to see his dad for the first time. However, when his son comes around, Shay realises that Otto has Down’s syndrome and reacts very badly indeed. For Shay, things then go from bad to worse.

Stephen, who has delivered incendiary performances in everything from Occupation, The Passion, This Is England and Public Enemies to The Damned United, Inkheart and Gangs Of New York, was very flattered to be series creator Jimmy McGovern’s first choice for the role.

“I was delighted because from day one Jimmy said he only wanted me to play Shay. It’s an absolute honour.”

The actor, a Liverpudlian like Jimmy, has known the writer for years.

“I remember having a pint with Jimmy at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool about six years ago,” Stephen recollects. “I said to him, ‘I’d love to work with you’, and he replied, ‘don’t worry, it’ll happen’. So good things come to those who wait. I only had to wait six years!”

Stephen paints a picture of Shay: “He’s a lost soul. His life is just going along uneventfully until a horrific incident in his betting shop changes everything. He says, ‘before it happened, I used to like a drink every night. After it happened, I had to have a drink every morning’. That sums up the effect of the robbery on him.”

Shay turns to drink, with disastrous consequences. Stephen did a great deal of research into the part.

“I read a lot of books about alcoholism, and I know one or two people who used to be alcoholics. With Shay, it’s a case of just continually topping himself up. I love Shameless, but I couldn’t play someone constantly drunk like Frank Gallagher.”

The heart of this moving episode is the difficult relationship between Shay and his son Otto.

“That’s so beautifully written,” observes Stephen, a diehard fan of Liverpool FC.

“All of a sudden, from nowhere, Shay finds out he’s got a 16-year-old son. He goes round to all the people in the boozer boasting, ‘me son’s a boxer and he’s going to play for Liverpool’. He believes his gene pool is that strong! The idea of a son gives Shay hope, and he tries to get himself together.

“But when he sees his son has Down’s syndrome, that sends him on a rapid downward spiral. He can’t deal with it, so he drinks more and more and tries to pretend that Otto is just not there.

“He loses his steady job and ends up on streets, scrapping over drinks. He tries to find solace in the bottom of a bottle rather than inside himself.”

Stephen adds: “Then there’s this lovely switch from hate and anger, as Shay is forced to look inside himself and understand that he has to sort himself out.

“He slowly realises that Otto’s condition is not his fault and that he’s his boy. Like any addict, Shay has to lose everything and hit rock-bottom before he can pick himself up again.”

The actor had to shoot some tough scenes where Shay abuses Otto but Stephen says that was made easier because his off-screen relationship with Leon is so strong.

“Leon is a lovely lad. We instantly hit it off. He’s a Manchester United fan, and he gave me lots of stick about Liverpool. I brought him a Liverpool top with ‘Otto’ on the back. The next day, he brought me a Man U top with ‘Shay’ on the back. In front of everyone in the canteen, he made me put it on. He’s a smashing lad, a real credit to his parents.

“He’s also a fantastic actor – he took his performance as Otto to a different level.

“At first Shay hates Otto, and that was difficult to play. But, because of our great off-screen relationship, Leon accepted it was just acting. He was so receptive to everything I did. There were no problems at all. It was a beautiful thing to make. Lee will go far.”

Stephen, who is about to embark on his biggest adventure yet, playing the lead, Al Capone, in Boardwalk Empire, a major new HBO series directed by Martin Scorsese, only encountered one difficulty while making The Street: the amount of Pepsi he had to drink.

“I had two days of downing Pepsi non-stop, and I just couldn’t stop burping. Before every scene, I’d be saying, ‘excuse me’. There were all these big emotional scenes, and there I was, just burping my mouth off!”

Joseph Mawle plays Kieran, a bigoted, grumpy head chef. He’s a racist, particularly about the Poles. He blames them for, as he sees it, pouring into this country and stealing jobs from people born in the UK.

When his malingering mate Duffy rescues a Polish girl from a burning building, he insists that Kieran take the credit, so Duffy can carry on claiming invalidity benefit. Kieran is hailed as a hero, and the girl’s hugely grateful mother, Olenka, become close. Gradually Kieran starts to soften in his opinion of foreigners.

But will his burgeoning love for Olenka survive if the truth about his deception ever emerges?

Joseph is a rising star who has given highly-regarded performances in Freefall, Soundproof, Red Riding and Clapham Junction. He also received wide acclaim for his leading role as Jesus in The Passion. He begins by outlining Kieran’s characteristics. Is he is a racist or just very angry?

“It would be easy to see him as simply prejudiced – as others do in the drama – but the writing goes deeper than that, his bigotry has a reason. Kieran’s not a BNP member who walks around with tattoos and flying the English flag.

“He has no family, which brings up all these issues of identity and loss. He has been brought up by his grandfather who is forever slagging off foreigners. These are the attitudes he has grown up with. So we get to understand his limitations and arrested development. In short, why he is like he is.

“But then an incident causes a shake-up with deep tremors, he falls for this Polish woman, and he slowly begins to change.”

The actor reckons that Kieran is an utterly believable character, for which he credits the series creator, Jimmy McGovern.

“Jimmy’s so focused he just concentrates on the central character’s journey for an hour, we never really deviate from that.

“We get to live with that person, so to speak. It’s a chance for us to get to know those characters. There are scenes in this episode of Kieran just working as a chef. I see it as Jimmy writes people first rather than plot.”

Can you identify with these characters?

“We shot in a real street and the stories that came out there were eye opening,” Joseph recalls.

“One woman walked past with blood all over her face and announced, ‘My boyfriend just beat me up’. Another was seemingly dying from drug abuse.

“Meanwhile, yet another woman in the street cancelled a hospital appointment just so she could stay at home and watch her neighbour being evicted.

“You can find real-life drama on any street in this country. We may like to pretend that it’s nothing to do with us or that these people are outside our circle of life, these stories are all around us. We can’t ignore them.”

Joseph concludes that what Jimmy captures above all is the authentic texture of people’s lives.

“His writing is rich, sometimes with a touch of the classics or Greek tragedy about it and set in the suburbs. He’s thoughtful, sensitive and aware of other people. He’s wonderfully humane. He writes not about cardboard cut-outs but about real people. And that’s what makes The Street such an outstanding series.”

Jonas Armstrong, best known as the title character in BBC One’s popular Saturday prime-time drama, Robin Hood, portrays Nick, a soldier who returns home after suffering a catastrophic injury in Afghanistan. He finds life extremely difficult as he tries to come to terms with a devastating facial disfigurement.

Deeply depressed by this life-changing event, Nick starts using drink and drugs as a crutch, and his relationship with his fiancee Gemma suffers. At the end of his tether, he takes drastic action, which has highly unexpected consequences.

For Jonas, this was a dream job.

The actor recalls: “I remember having a chat with another actor on the set of Robin Hood and we both said we’d love to work on The Street. Within two weeks, both of us had auditions for it. At the audition, I really went for it and shouted the house down. When I was told I had got the part of Nick, I was so excited.

“The great thing about Jimmy’s scripts is that they’re so believable. Because the drama is set in an everyday street in Salford, the characters within it are so real. The directors shoot it like a semi-documentary – it’s as if the camera just comes around the corner and finds these characters. Also, the writing is incredibly moving. You’re totally affected by these stories.”

Jonas assesses his character: “Nick’s face has been completely destroyed by a suicide bomb – his eye and ear are moulded into his face. The drama is about how he tries to re-adjust back home. It’s very hard for him because of the way in which people react to him. He’s acutely aware that children burst into tears when they see him.

“Nick tries to return to his old job working with his mates, but they can’t take him back because the contract has changed. His sex life dips because he feels inadequate and he turns to drink. He can’t even go back to work as a squaddie because he would damage morale. He doesn’t know who to blame for his problems.”

The toughest part of the job for Jonas was the time it took each day to make him up as the terribly disfigured soldier.

“It took four hours to do the prosthetics every morning,” the actor reveals. “I’d be up at 4.45am every day, while the rest of the cast would be arriving at 8.15 for a nice leisurely breakfast. By the time filming started at 10.00am, I’d already done five hours!

“We tried to make it look as authentic as possible – that really helps you get into the part. My eyelid was pulled down and I could only partially see. The costume guy said he couldn’t look at me for long because it upset him. When I turned up on set on the last day with my own face, everyone was very surprised.”

Playing the role of Nick, Jonas says, “helped change my perception of soldiers. It brought it so much closer to home. Making this film, I learnt so much about what soldiers do for us.

“When they come back home from a tour, many soldiers find it nearly impossible to readjust to normal life. It must be hellish out there. Even wearing all that kit in the boiling heat must be tough. They make an incredible contribution for us.”

Jonas, who has also starred in Teachers, Ghost Squad and Losing Gemma, feels that this episode of The Street is very timely.

“The script is so contemporary. The subject of what British soldiers do for us in Afghanistan is so topical. I think it’s important that drama depicts that. Our soldiers are dying and losing their limbs out there because they’re fighting for us.”

“These lads are risking their all for us – and yet they don’t get the pay or the respect they deserve. We undervalue them. We should never forget the sacrifices they make for us. I feel very strongly about that.”

Anna Friel plays Dee in the second episode of Jimmy McGovern’s The Street.

She is a mother who would do anything for her two young sons. One of them is being so badly bullied at his rough school that he wets the bed at night. So Dee decides to move into the catchment area of a better school. But the move increases her mortgage to such an extent that she is forced to subsidise her earnings from her day job in a DIY store. What does she do to raise extra cash? She works weekends in a sauna in Bolton.

She meets Mark, a really nice plumber and single dad who comes to mend her boiler, and they soon start dating. Can Dee keep her double life under wraps and hold onto this lovely man? Or will her secret slip out and destroy everything?

For Anna, joining the illustrious cast of The Street was the fulfilment of a long-held dream.

“I’d always wanted to work with Jimmy,” says the actress, who first broke through as Beth Jordache in Brookside some 16 years ago.

“Jimmy and I never worked on Brookside at the same time, but I’ve loved all his work. I adored Cracker and The Lakes,” continues the Rochdale-born actress, who is now a major-league name in the States after her starring role in the hit US TV series, Pushing Daisies.

“Jimmy writes the best gritty Northern drama. It was lovely to go back to where I started. If you can, it’s always best to keep working on great scripts, and this is one of the best scripts I’ve ever been involved with.”

Anna, who is headlining this summer in the Hollywood dinosaur blockbuster, Land Of The Lost, with Will Ferrell, expands on her character in The Street: “Dee is a very hard-up mother with two boys. She works at a DIY store, but at weekends she turns into ‘Ruby’ at a nearby sauna. She has to become Ruby because she has absolutely no money – she’s up to her eyes in debt.”

The actress, who has also starred in Our Mutual Friend, The Tribe, Rogue Trader, Me Without You and Land Girls, goes on to explain to explain what motivates Dee: “One of her children is being badly bullied, and she is desperate for him to move schools. She’s a single mother, and all she cares about is the welfare of her children.”

Anna, whose partner David Thewlis starred in the first episode of the last series of The Street, says that she absolutely identifies with Dee’s drastic actions.

“I prize our own daughter, Gracie, above everything else in the world. Having a child completely changes your perspective on everything. The drama demonstrates what a woman will do to protect her children, and I quite understand that feeling.”

In researching the role, Anna met a real-life prostitute: “She taught me that when she’s at work she puts her mind into a different place. She absents herself. I didn’t have a sex scene as Dee – you didn’t need to see that. But I got the sense from the woman I met of the prostitute’s disregard for men.

“In a sense, the woman has power over the man, she manipulates the situation and is in charge of how it goes. The strange thing for Dee is, after a night as Ruby, she has to come back to being a mum again. She has to go home and do the school run. It makes you realise just how lucky you are.”

Anna concludes that Jimmy’s depiction of Dee shows characteristic humanity: “The piece is saying that, while prostitution is never the answer, people should not get too judgemental about women who have to go down that path. We always have to look at why people do things. We judge people too easily.

“I hope this drama will make people empathetic of those in Dee’s situation. It’s all about the forces that drive you when you’re a mother – and that’s something many of us can relate to.”

Frances Barber, one of our best-loved TV actresses, was delighted to accept the offer to play Lizzie in the first episode of The Street.

Lizzie is the hard-working, courageous wife of a publican called Paddy (Bob Hoskins). She supports him to the hilt as he resolutely stands up to Miller (Liam Cunningham), a thuggish, bullying gangster, in a question of honour.

“I had no hesitation in taking this role,” beams Frances, who has starred in pieces as varied as Funland, Hustle, King Lear and Beautiful People.

“The Street is quite simply one of the best things on television! The proof of that is that attracts the starriest casts. People like Jim Broadbent and Bob Hoskins, who don’t usually do TV, are eager to appear in it.”

Frances runs through the strengths of this particular episode: “It’s a compelling drama. It’s set in a pub which is an archetypal centre of the community. It’s no surprise that The Rovers Return and the Queen Vic are at the centre of Coronation Street and EastEnders. When I was a student, I worked in our local in Wolverhampton and it was hub of the estate. The pub that Paddy and Lizzie run is exactly the same.”

The actress describes her character: “Lizzie and Paddy are the lynchpins of their community. They have built up a lot of respect in their neighbourhood because they run a good ship. It’s a great partnership. But everything is jeopardised when the stand-off happens between Paddy and Miller. It’s High Noon in Manchester!

“You know those stories you read about feuds between neighbours where a hedge grows out of control and they end up nearly killing each other? This is a similar situation. It’s a puny bit of nonsense that soon escalates into something enormous. Because Paddy and Miller are not middle-class they don’t sort it out in court, instead, they get baseball bats! It ends up like Shane, neither of them can back down.”

Frances adds that, throughout the dispute, “Lizzie is very practical. She intervenes and tries to talk to Miller’s wife. Because it’s Jimmy’s writing, there are lots of marvellous comic elements, too. For example, Eddie (Timothy Spall) says he’ll help Paddy, but he’s hopeless!”

Another attraction for Frances was the chance to collaborate with David Blair, a director she has long admired.

“I’ve always wanted to work with David, and he has exceeded my expectations. He is fantastic with actors and has a wonderful, filmic vision and an astonishing eye for detail. That is amazing when you’re having to shoot five or six pages a day. He makes you feel there is all the time in the world for the tiniest detail which takes the scene in a different direction.

“For instance, in one scene, Bob and I were walking towards the pub knowing there was going to be a huge fight with Miller, and David suggested, ‘why don’t you take his arm?’ It’s the smallest thing, but it says a lot.”

Frances goes on to pay tribute to Jimmy McGovern, the creative genius behind The Street.

“There is no question that Jimmy is one of the finest writers currently working in television,” she enthuses.

“When you work on one of his scripts, you truly appreciate the strength of his writing. His scripts are very spare – there’s no fat on them. Every line is needed.

“He also writes characters we can all identify with. Walking around the streets of Manchester, you hear people being naturally funny. Jimmy captures that precisely, and that’s why we recognise his characters. It’s been a privilege to work on The Street.”

In the first episode of The Street, Bob Hoskins plays Paddy, a principled, salt-of-the-earth publican who takes a brave stand against the local gang boss, Miller (Liam Cunningham).

When Miller tries to intimidate Paddy and his wife Lizzie (Frances Barber) into rescinding the ban on his son Calum for smoking in his pub, the landlord refuses to back down. A bloody confrontation looms…

The actor, a major movie star who has headlined in such memorable feature films as Mona Lisa, The Long Good Friday, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Brazil, The Cotton Club, Nixon and Last Orders, was lured back to television by two words: Jimmy and McGovern.

“Jimmy’s just a brilliant writer,” enthuses Bob, who has previously starred in TV dramas such as Pennies From Heaven, Rock Follies and On The Move.

“I love what he does with a script. The whole concept behind this episode is fantastic. It’s Jimmy’s version of High Noon!

“I very rarely watch telly – it’s like having a plumber round and showing him your pipes. What I love about Jimmy’s writing is that it’s so honest. There’s no dressing to it.”

Bob outlines Paddy’s traits: “He’s a very ordinary bloke. He’s a Londoner who met Lizzie and moved to Manchester with her. He changed his life to be with her. They have run the pub for 20 years. He’s a simple man – she’s the boss and the brains. She does the book-keeping and knows how everything works.”

Paddy comes into his own when he bravely defies Miller, though.

“He’s not a tough guy or a hard nut, but he takes a courageous stand against Miller. The point is he’s already banned one kid for smoking. If he lets Calum off, he’ll be in line for a five grand fine – stuff that!

“More importantly, if he caved in to Miller’s threats, Paddy would lose the respect he’s gained over 20 years. He keeps the pub in good order. All types of people drink there – everyone from footballers to OAPs. It’s a community pub and that’s very important to Paddy. But if he bowed down to Miller, he’d lose everything.”

But Paddy has chosen to take on a ferocious opponent.

“Miller is a very heavy man, the main drug dealer in the area, Bob continues. “You wouldn’t want to cross him. He can’t back down because his living is hurting people. It’s all about ‘face’ and not being seen to back down. As you can see, Paddy is in a very difficult and dangerous position.”

Bob relished making The Street. The only scene Bob found hard to shoot was Paddy’s fight with Miller.

“You could say I’ve done a few fight scenes in my time,” he laughs, “but this one was quite tough. I wound up doing my own stunts because, when the stunt man turned up, he was six foot six! Then the director said he wanted it really violent. I know how to act – it’s getting bashed up that’s not such fun!”

Bob concludes by underscoring how much he enjoyed working with Frances Barber, who plays Paddy’s wife, Lizzie.

“We’ve known each other for ages through a mutual friend, Derek Jacobi, who used to be my next-door neighbour. Frances and I have wanted to work together for years, and now we finally have the opportunity.

“It’s been terrific. We slipped into it at once – our relationship was there immediately. We were like an old married couple – ‘I’ll take the right side of the bed, you take the left!'”

Back in the cash-strapped McEvoy household, Margie (Ger Ryan) has moved in temporarily with her daddy (Tony Rohr) to take care of him after his stroke. Daughter Leanne (Lindzey Cocker), unable to cope on her own with baby Edward, has gone along too, leaving Eddie (Timothy Spall) and David (James Varley) home alone.

Eddie’s distraught and begs Margie not to go because daddy doesn’t deserve his daughter’s help because he hit both her and her mother. Because of his year driving ban, Eddie now works in control at Alpha Zero Cabs alongside new girl, Sandra (Ruth Jones). She’s a real plain Jane, but has set her sights on kind-hearted Eddie. Noticing that he’s hopeless at looking after himself, she starts making his lunches for him. She asks him over to fix a broken window pane in her flat and cooks him a meal.

Desperate for cash, Eddie tries to sell his taxi plate. Bomber (Lee Boardman) agrees to pay £30,000. Bomber shows up at Eddie’s with 28 grand saying he won’t get any more than that for cash at the moment. Times are hard, the job’s not what it used to be. Furious that Bomber has tried to cheat him, Eddie throws him out. When Eddie tells Margie he rejected Bomber’s 28 grand, she says she loves him and she’s really proud.

He begs her to come home, but she won’t leave her dad. Meanwhile, Sandra lures Eddie round again and Eddie’s kind heart gets him into deep water. Before too long Margie comes home and Eddie and the family start to regain their equilibrium, but when Eddie takes Margie to dinner to talk frankly fate intervenes with heart-breaking consequences.

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