We need to talk about Phil Collins. Not the Genesis musician who created the most climactic drum break in history, but the world’s most dedicated brother who is the backbone of new ITV drama Innocent.
Played by Home Fires star Daniel Ryan, this Phil Collins has devoted the last seven years to a campaign to free his brother David Collins (Lee Ingleby) from prison. David was convicted of the murder of his wife Tara, but Phil always believed in his innocence.
Now David is free on a technicality – but the story is far from over.
“This guy really, completely, is sacrificing his life for his brother,” Ryan tells RadioTimes.com. “One of the things we find out is he’s ended a relationship because of the level of focus.
“I think the thing is, he so believes his brother to be innocent. I think he puts himself in his brother’s shoes and is probably the only person to be able to do that. He thinks, ‘If I was behind bars for seven years and nobody was helping me and nobody was giving me any hope or believing in me, then who else have you got?’
“Because there is actually nobody else: him and a team of lawyers. I think it takes a really selfless and probably lonely person to make that decision.”
Phil was also horrified to see David separated from his two children, Jack and Rosie.
“They’ve got no family, Phil and David, so the only people left are those kids,” Ryan explains. “And I think he really wants to put a dad and his children together. Phil doesn’t have his own children, either, so it’s just a really selfless act.”
In a crime drama where everyone is under suspicion, “He’s the only one who seems completely honest,” Ryan says. (But does that make him more suspicious? Time will tell…)
Innocent is the work of Unforgotten screenwriter Chris Lang and airs in four parts from Monday 14th May to Thursday 17th May.
But while the central enigma is whether David Collins is truly guilty or not, this is far from a police procedural. Alongside the police investigation we see the fallout from David’s return from prison.
His late wife’s sister Alice (Hermione Norris) and her husband Rob (Adrian Rawlins) have taken custody of the kids – but now Jack and Rosie have the opportunity to build a relationship with their biological father, who is desperate to see them.
“It doesn’t feel like a crime drama,” Ryan says. “It feels like a family drama, it feels like a relationship drama.
“It’s an emotional journey that happens to have this underlying need for us all to find out – ‘well if it wasn’t him then who was it?’ But it’s about a man and his family and someone trying to get their kids back and that really spoke to me. I found it very moving.”
Still, it’s an uphill struggle for David: everyone except Phil thinks he is a murderer.
Ryan explains: “Until you are proven innocent you are guilty. And that’s what David is in that village. And that is everything that Phil has been fighting for, for seven years.
“And the fight continues – because he wants his brother to get his life back.”