What was the last show you recommended?
Luther. Idris Elba is phenomenal, but it’s the whole package – the tone and look of it – that makes it seminal TV. I’m thrilled that it’s a global success.
Both you and Idris have been linked to James Bond…
Pierce Brosnan has put my name out there a few times. I believe I can do it, but one of the reasons I don’t really get into the debate is people keep talking about a black James Bond: how a black man should play him. I’ve been in this country since birth and if you’re only considering the colour of my skin I get bored.
What were your favourite programmes growing up?
I liked Z Cars – just hearing the music got me going! Coronation Street was massive in our house. My mum used to say Ena Sharples reminded her of Gran, which she wouldn’t have been happy to hear!
What whet your appetite for drama?
I started to watch Play for Today and plays like Cathy Come Home, and Kenneth Branagh’s Billy trilogy in the 1980s, which took us into the world of the Belfast family. As a kid in Luton, how was I ever going to know that world otherwise? It changed my perceptions – I heard Northern Irish accents differently after that – and I believe that’s what drama at its best does.
What makes you reach for the “off ” switch?
I can’t take 24-hour news. Life is what it is and we can handle it, but when you’re getting it pushed down your throat, it’s too much.
If you were DG of the BBC…
I’d bring in a live theatre channel. Having done Strictly in front of 11.4 million people I now realise the rush both sides get from live performance. And I’d talk to more young people about what they want to see. As an older guy, I have to remember I don’t know everything.
Have you embraced Twitter?
It’s brilliant. I like the democracy of hearing from thousands of people. The airwaves has been dominated by a certain group and it’s time that clique is broken up. Some of it is utter rubbish, but occasionally a diamond drops in and makes you think differently.
Colin Salmon in No Offence
Cop comedy drama No Offence is very dark – were you worried that viewers wouldn’t see the funny side?
Paul Abbott is a master at balancing darkness with a genuine sense of humour and honesty. This makes his work feel very real. The situations the police face on a daily basis are extraordinary and some of the research for the series is not a million miles from the end result. Look away if you dare.
Did you base your character Det Sup Darren Maclaren on anyone?
I based him on a few characters I’ve met over the years, not all policemen! The one policeman I used as a touchstone helped me on Prime Suspect.
Your characters are often slick dressers – is that your influence?
The costume designer has the most input into what I wear. Darren’s taste in socks leaves something to be desired. I played myself in an Aziz Ansari comedy and that was funny to see how they saw me… flowing scarves and a flourish of pink! Eek!
Colin Salmon is in No Offence on Channel 4, Tuesdays at 9.00pm