Martin Freeman has enjoyed high praise from critics and audiences alike for his powerhouse performance in The Responder, where he plays troubled Liverpool police officer Chris Carson.


Working a thankless night shift has already driven his mental health and his marriage into the ground, but things get even worse when Chris is drawn into a drugs theft that threatens to throw his life into even more chaos.

While the crime thriller and the characters featured therein are fictitious, The Responder was inspired by the experiences of its screenwriter Tony Schumacher, who once worked as a response policeman himself.

"In some way I feel that I am The Responder to a degree and that this is my story," he said. "I was a police responder who was out in the rain at one o’clock in the morning, two in the morning, three in the morning, chasing people up and down alleyways and running over rats.

"The Responder is in me; it's in my writing and in my script."

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Much like his protagonist, Schumacher also found that the pressures of the job put an enormous strain on his mental health, leading him to compare writing The Responder with having "paid therapy".

He continued: "I quit the police because, and there’s no getting away from it, I was cracking up in the police force and I had this overwhelming urge to write. I was really struggling mentally and I needed to get away and find myself."

The cop-turned-writer, who has also worked as a taxi driver, explains that one tough aspect of police work is the heavy responsibility that comes with only ever delivering "bad news" to people.

"But conversely, it’s incredibly exciting," he adds. "Occasionally, you do things that change people's lives be it saving someone’s life or locking up a criminal – you and your colleagues are working all night, every night and living constantly on your wits."

Adelayo Adedayo, David Bradley and Martin Freeman in The Responder
Adelayo Adedayo, David Bradley and Martin Freeman in The Responder BBC

Given how close this story is to Schumacher's heart, it was important to get the casting exactly right, which is why he was so delighted that Freeman agreed to come on board.

Schumacher revealed that he had written the role of Chris with the former Hobbit star specifically in mind, feeling that there was something untapped within him that he wanted to "bring to the fore".

"Seeing Martin playing Chris - driving round the streets that I once drove around, sitting in a police car I had once driven with the streetlamps strobing on the glass was incredible to watch," he recalled.

"Even though the story is inspired by my story, not everything that happens to Chris happened to me, but seeing Martin bringing him to life, totally inhabiting the character that I've created, talking like Chris and moving like Chris was just incredible and very emotional."


The Responder is available to stream on BBC iPlayer. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.