BABYLON’s Cast On How the Show Has Changed Their Opinions of Policing
James Nesbitt (Richard Miller), Paterson Joseph (Charles Inglis), Nicola Walker (Sharon Franklin), Jonny Sweet (Tom Oliver), Adam Deacon (Robbie) and Jill Halfpenny (Davina) discuss the extensive research they did before taking on their roles and how their involvement in the series has affected their opinion of the police.
James Nesbitt: I think publications beforehand, particularly on the right of the political spectrum, might have thought that this was going to be a police-bashing exercise. And I think, if anything, it’s the opposite of that. I think I’ve taken from it the enormous difficulty the police are under. Of course I’d seen that, growing up in Northern Ireland. But I think nowadays, with the fact that everyone is a news cameraman, it makes it harder than ever. Camera phones are slightly the bane of my life, but they’re certainly the bane of the police’s life as well. When we filmed in Miller’s office, I’d stand there and look out over the whole of London, and it was very helpful in reminding you of the impossibility of that job, of trying to govern and protect an entire city. Of trying to make the right decisions when there are those in politics who are against you, and the public are against you. But one of the things that was important for me to remember was that kids still want to join the police when they grow up, and that says something about the police. That doesn’t seem to have been lost.
Paterson Joseph: Babylon has definitely added a degree of sympathy to my opinion of those at the top of the major police forces in the UK. Their challenges in a digital age, to keep us safe but keep us totally informed, are monumental and unenviable. At the same time I think they need to truly work on being transparent about their major flaws: Racism, sexism and bullying.
Nicola Walker: I completely respect the job our police do. I knew nothing about this level of it before. I had a very funny incident happen to me after the pilot episode went out. Standing getting some money out of a cash machine, I felt someone behind me, and I turned, suspiciously, like many Londoners do, and it was an armed police officer in full gear. And I went “Oh, I don’t have to worry about you being there.” And they pulled up in their van and said they’d watched Babylon and really enjoyed it. And I said “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to do with the boots on the ground, I’m one of the top brass.” And he said “Yeah, you’re one of the top brass, you don’t know what’s going on.” We spoke to some people who are or were really high-ranking in the force, and the respect I have for what they do is enormous. The amount of pressure they are under. One man, who’s retired now, said the things he misses are the chronically stressful situations, which ordinary people would run away from. That’s when he would step forward. It’s just a completely different mind-set.
Jonny Sweet: I think I probably had a vague instinctive distrust of the police before, which was founded on very little. I don’t think this show assuages that entirely but I think it’s given me a more complicated sense of why the police is like it is, and how for ninety per cent of the time people are trying to do the right thing.
Adam Deacon: I think they’re in a really hard place. Obviously we need protection. But for the Armed Response guys it’s particularly hard. If they do their job, they’re going to get blamed, and if they don’t do their job, they’re probably going to get blamed. I think they’re in a hard place. But in doing this, and in making a documentary a few years back called Can We Trust the Police, I just think a lot of the police officers out there are confused. A lot of them want to do the best they can, but they feel like their hands are tied by the government. But I think there’s good police and bad police, the same as there are with any job.
Jill Halfpenny: I think what’s changed for me is I’d never really considered the level of criticism that they come under. I’d probably been the one criticizing before. I’d never really thought about the impact that would have, not only on them, but on their families as well. Even down to their children, who probably go to school the next day and have comments made to them about something that was on the news the night before. It’s a really tough job. But with the police I’ve spoken to, and in the books that I’ve read, it seems to be a compulsion for them – policemen and policewomen just have it in them. That’s what they want to do, and that’s why they put up with it.
Watch BABYLON Thursdays at 10/9C on SundaneTV.