Speaking exclusively to Radio Times for this week's issue, Nesbitt reveals that his casting in Bloodlands came about after he bumped into Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio at a party.
“I said, ‘Come on, Jed, when are we going to get a chance to work together?’” he remembers. “Even though Line of Duty had been shot here for years I was never considered for it, which has always slightly galled me.”
Mercurio then sent Nesbitt the script for Bloodlands, which his production company, HTM Productions, had in development.
Written by Chris Brandon and executive-produced by Mercurio, the thriller follows detective Tom Brannick as he investigates a series of disappearances that took place during the Troubles, linking them to a mysterious assassin known as 'Goliath'.
The Bloodlands trailer was released in early February, and revealed that Tom has a personal connection to the Goliath case: the same murderer also killed his beloved wife, Emma.
“I recognise a lot in Tom,” said Nesbitt. “There’s an affability, a quiet strength. He’s someone who has really been through a lot in the Troubles, one of the silent ones who never reveal what they’ve been through.”
The series was filmed in Belfast before lockdown, and co-stars a number of other Northern Irish actors including Ian McElhinney (Derry Girls, Game Of Thrones), Lisa Dwan (Top Boy, Trust) and Michael Smiley (Luther, Death and Nightingales).
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During the Radio Times interview, Nesbitt also addresses the criticism that he is a 'lazy' actor for always using his own Northern Irish accent. “A lot of the naysayers go – because I always do my own accent – ‘Oh, he always does the same bloody thing’," he says. "But I would say that Tom Hanks is always just using his own accent too.”
Speaking of his long-running role in Cold Feet, he adds: “The idea of having a leading character in a prime time comedy drama speaking with my accent but having no real political baggage was deemed quite unusual. I’m lucky to have been involved in getting that accent into living rooms all over Britain, where I could put a dent in the notion that that sound was only associated with conflict.”
Read the full interview with James Nesbitt in this week's Radio Times, on sale tomorrow. Bloodlands begins Sunday, 21st February at 9pm on BBC One. In the meantime, check out our TV Guide for something to watch tonight.