‘The Responder’ star Martin Freeman gets scruffy in new role

‘The Responder’ star Martin Freeman gets scruffy in new role

Veteran actor Martin Freeman sports a scruffy beard and a crewcut for his starring role as a sketchy cop in “The Responder,” a new drama series on BritBox.

“As soon as I read the script I knew how I wanted him to look,” Freeman, 50, told The Post about his onscreen alter-ego. “I could see someone with a skinhead and a beard, weirdly enough. I don’t always have a strong image of someone when I read a script but … I could see him the way he looks in the series.

“I don’t know why, but it just looked right.”

The six-episode police procedural, which premiered on BBC One in the UK and will return for a second season, was created and written by ex-Liverpool police officer-turned-novelist Tony Schumacher. It revolves around Chris Carson (Freeman), who’s struggling with a bevy of personal demons, including panic attacks, that are impacting his already-fragile marriage to Kate (MyAnna Buring) and his relationship with their young daughter, Tilly. A former police inspector, he’s been demoted to nightshift beat work amidst allegations of being “bent” (a dirty cop) and he now patrols the streets of Liverpool as “The Responder,” dispatched to handle situations running the gamut from pedestrian to dangerous. (The series was shot on-location.) He’s also in cahoots with an old friend, Carl Sweeney (Ian Hart), who’s dealing drugs for a local syndicate — and who leads Chris down a dark path involving a teenaged junkie, Casey (Emily Fairn), and the cocaine she stole from his bosses.

Photo showing Carl (Ian Hart) and is goons who are trying to find Casey and the drugs she stole from them. They're lined up side-by-side and look menacing. Carl is in the middle.
Carl (Ian Hart, center) and his goons are trying to find Casey and the drugs she stole from them.
Rekha Garton/ © 2021 Dancing Ledge Productions

“When we meet [Chris] he’s already in a fairly downward spiral … he’s trying to keep on top of his work and in the first episode he gets information about a young woman [Casey] who he vaguely knows from an old friend of his [Carl] and he’s pulled in all different directions from the word go,” Freeman said. “He’s got his oldest friend who might have a reason to hurt this vulnerable young girl … he’s got a failing marriage and a patchy relationship with his young daughter who he loves very much but, given his work schedule, [he’s] seldom there. He’s not satisfied in any of the areas of his life.

“He’s like a thread that’s constantly being pulled at,” he said. “I think there’s light on the horizon because he’s self-aware; he does want to save his relationship with his wife and his daughter and for most people falling apart, their relationship with their children, if they have them, is often a saving grace because at least it gives them structure, an anchor, and that’s his true north — but there are an awful lot of obstacles in the way of that.”

Those obstacles include Ray Mullen (Warren Brown), a former colleague who’s convinced Chris is dirty and who launches a rogue operation to nail him — while sleeping with Kate — and Chris’ new partner, by-the-book rookie Rachel Hargreaves (Adelayo Adedayo), who’s leery of his sketchy on-the-job ethics as they begin to seep into her professional and personal lives.

Adelayo Adedayo as Chris' partner, Rachel Hargreaves. She's standing next to a police car and is looking off to the side.
Adelayo Adedayo as Chris’ partner, Rachel Hargreaves.
Rekha Garton/ © 2021 Dancing Ledge Productions
Emily Fairn as Casey in "The Responder." She's looking at the camera with a sad look on her face and is wearing a brown sweatshirt.
Emily Fairn as Casey in “The Responder.”
Rekha Garton/ © 2021 Dancing Ledge Productions

“The Respondent” is not the first police-procedural role for Freeman, whose lengthy resume includes “The Office” (the original series starring Ricky Gervais), “Breeders,” currently airing on FX with co-star Daisy Haggard, “Sherlock” (opposite Benedict Cumberbatch), “Fargo” and his role as Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit” movie franchise.

“I did [a procedural] in the UK called ‘The Confession’ a few years ago where I played a detective. It was based on a true story about a murder inquiry,” he said. “But whether [Chris] is a copper or not, this felt particularly different — everything from the physicality to the [Liverpudlian] accent to the tunnel he’s doing down for the entirety of the series.

“There are bits of humor sprinkled in there … and I should add there are some hilarious jokes thrown in,” he said. “It’s not all dark; people need a bit of relief and you can’t have every episode with horrendous stuff going on.

“Human beings will always find a way to fight through things, and usually that’s through humor.”

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