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Interview: James Barriscale (WPC56)

22nd January 2014 14:47:53

It was last year’s surprise hit show for the BBC and, this February, the hugely popular WPC56 will be back on our screens for a second series on BBC1. 

The drama follows WPC Gina Dawson (Jennie Jacques), the first woman police constable to serve in her West Midlands hometown in 1956, and the challenges she faces both as a woman and as a member of the police force.The cast from series one will be joined by a host of new faces, including James Barriscale (The Bill, Silent Witness) as Sargent John Swift, who gives us the lowdown on what to expect from his character and the new series.

One of the main focuses of the first series of WPC56 was the daily challenges facing WPC Gina Dawson, the first policewoman to join a West Midlands force in the 1950s. Is there a shift in attitudes towards Dawson in this new series, or will she continue to face similar challenges?

I think there are new challenges for her with the new characters. There are five new regular characters including my own, and they are all new relationships for her.

Can you tell us a bit about your character, Sargent John Swift?

He’s a firm but fair guy, who fought in Italy in the Second World War, so he’s seen a lot. He looks after the new recruits and tries to guide one in particular, PC Perkins, onto the right path, while a new civilian who comes to work at the station throws up a whole new set of problems for him.

What do you think fans’ reactions will be to Swift? Is he a likeable character or more of a ‘love-to-hate’ type?

He hopefully will be very likeable! His relationships on screen will leave viewers in no doubt that he means well. The bottom line is he looks after people and joined up to do just that. Policing was different then, the world was different then, but there have always been good people; but even good people sometimes make mistakes along the way. These stories are about ‘them and us’ – I think that hasn’t changed, that’s why we are still fascinated by police stories.

Does Swift ruffle any feathers with his arrival, or does he fit fairly comfortably with the dynamics of the team?

He gets on with the job. There’s a new boss too, so Swift is often trying to keep him happy as well as guide his young constables; there is a raised eyebrow or two along the way which should be the lighter, more humorous side to the show. He does play detective at one point during the season, to help protect someone, but that’s all I can say at this point…

What are his views towards female police officers – is he fairly liberal, or does he share the sexist attitudes held by most members of this largely (in the ‘50s, at least) male-dominated profession?

He thinks a good copper is a good copper. He has a better heart than some of the younger officers, and it’s his job to lead the way; to show them that to be a good police officer you need to be part of a team, nothing else matters more than the man (or woman) next to you.

What is his relationship with Dawson like?

My character has very little to do with her really, I have much closer relationships with other characters such as Sgt. Fenton, Perkins and Chief Inspector Briggs.

What do you think it is that made the first series of WPC56 such a huge success?

It’s a bloody good show that took everyone who caught it by surprise! I just hope they publicise it more than they did last year. It has a really great look by the crew behind the scenes - writing direction, score, camera work - it’s a top notch team doing great work.

Jennie Jacques said last year that episodes 4 and 5 of this new series are ‘gritty and gripping’; can fans expect as much drama and as many thrills this time around as there were in the previous series?

I think it has just the right amount of everything, it honestly does. Every character has a great arch, even Sgt. Swift has some lovely tense moments, and a few funny ones too! All in all it’s a great show and one that I hope will run for a few more seasons. Season 2 has a couple of cliffhangers, and that really is all I can say!

For the latest news on WPC56, visit www.bbc.co.uk.

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