Stephen Mackintosh has reunited for his Inside Men director, Tony Basgallop, for his latest role in BBC1 crime drama What Remains. He plays journalist Kieron Moss - father to a troublesome teenager who finds himself and his neighbours implicated in a murder investigation when top floor occupant Melissa Young is found dead in the attic more than two years after she was killed.
DI Len Harper (David Threlfall) is called in to investigate her death but he is on the very cusp of retirement and his colleagues are keen to close down the case. As he investigates, Len comes to learn that each of Melissa's neighbours are harbouring secrets and every one of them has a reason to do her harm. But will he ever get the chance to solve her case?
RadioTimes.com caught up with Stephen on the set of What Remains to hear all about the darker side to his character Kieron and his quest to find exciting new roles...
What can you tell us about your character?
Kieron is an editor of a local paper, he’s split from his wife a few years prior to the beginning of the story and he’s got a son who is 17. He’s starting a new life, really. He’s had a fairly dark past, he’s struggled with alcohol and things. This is a new phase in his life, a new house. In the beginning of the story, we find him in a new relationship as well with Patricia [his colleague on the paper]. So that’s sort of where he is at the beginning of the story. Gradually, as things get darker, some of his old demons emerge.
You've worked with Tony before on Inside Men - what is it about his writing that keeps drawing you back to his scripts?
He’s not afraid to tackle a subject head-on. The premise of this was really lovely - I shouldn’t say lovely - it’s an interesting premise. A body is found and nobody seems to know who this person is. The body has been there for a long time and it’s trying to piece together who this person was. I think it’s such a disturbing, strange idea. And then to bring the other element into it - were any of the people living in the block of flats responsible? [Tony's] not afraid of dark subject matter which I really like. He’s not afraid to expose the darker side of people and sometimes the crueler side. We tend to show different sides of ourselves to different people at different times and I think he’s managed to capture that really well.
Kieron has quite a difficult relationship with his son Adam, doesn't he?
I think he struggled with his son's teenage years. He struggles with the fact that the boy has quite obviously suffered with the breakup of their marriage and he feels horribly responsible for that. So it’s left him with lots of mixed feelings and not knowing how to deal with this quite unruly teenager, but at the same time it’s always mixed with that awful guilt and responsibility. He doesn’t quite know how to deal with it. Sometimes he feels like he needs to be really firm about it and other times he thinks “I can’t, it’s my fault. I can’t say anything.” So I think that’s really real and kind of touching. I think there’s always this underlying sense that Adam really wants him to get back with his mum. Kieron feels the weight of that. He knows that’s never going to happen but doesn’t know how to address that with his son.
How well does Kieron know the other residents in the building?
He’s not at all comfortable with Joe [Sellers, played by David Bamber]. They have some history together. He feels that Joe’s kind of mean and seems intent on spoiling everybody’s fun - generally a pain in the ass. I think he likes the two girls, Elaine and Peggy, but really it’s just a relationship of passing on the stairs like a lot of people do in flats.
Would you describe What Remains as a crime drama or a whodunit?
It's not a straightforward whodunit. I mean, obviously there is an element of who’s culpable and who’s to blame and who’s not. They’re all guilty in some way, but it’s not just about that. It’s about the sadness - how was this woman so isolated that no one would miss her? And you’ve got all these different layers of these relationships some of which cross over. Of course there is a police element, but even Len’s story is not a straightforward police procedural because he’s got things he’s not being honest about as well. There are some murder police elements, but they’re dealt with in a pretty unusual way.
Inside Men was widely regarded as a high quality drama. Are you quite selective when picking which jobs to take?
I try to be. It’s always about trying to do the writing you really believe in and can invest in. Inside Men was such a great role and a great project. It’s tiresome when you read stuff that feels generic and you feel like you’ve read or seen hundreds of things like it before. And that’s why this is refreshing - I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it before. That’s what I’m always looking for. Something that bucks the trend, something that doesn’t play the obvious themes and also a bit of variation as well. I don’t want to try to repeat myself too much or people think, “He’s the guy who always does that”. I don’t have all the choice in the world. I try within what I get.
What Remains begins on Sunday at 9:00pm on BBC1