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Murder on the picket line? Sherwood turns the clock back to 1984

© BBC/House Productions/Matt SquireLesley Manville as wife of murdered miner in James Graham’s Sherwood
Lesley Manville as wife of murdered miner in James Graham’s Sherwood

Lesley Manville remembers the miners’ strike from her days growing up in working-class Hove. So she’s well aware of the impact it brought to the communities affected by the closures.

The Oscar nominee for Phantom Thread describes the new drama in which she’s starring, Sherwood, as one of the most moving attempts to tackle the fallout from the strikes.

Describing James Graham’s “emotional intelligence” when it came to crafting the show’s characters, Manville, who also stars in The Crown, says her working-class upbringing allowed a notable level of empathy when it came to her character Julie Jackson.

“I remember the miners’ strike,” recalls Manville, 66. “It was something I grew up with but I’ve never seen anything so beautifully written about that time.

“I sort of grew up with a sense of community – not quite as politically fired as this community, but I get Julie.

“She’s been a very passionate supporter of the striking miners. Her husband was a striking miner. And as you see in her flashbacks, she’s tough – and that kind of stoicism has stayed with her.”

Julie is estranged from her sister Cathy, played by Claire Rushbrook, it’s a relationship that reflects the wider divisions tracing back to the miners’ strike of 1984. They are joined by The Walking Dead’s David Morrissey as Detective Chief Superintendent Ian St Clair – a renowned officer who is forced to work alongside Detective Inspector Kevin Salisbury, played by Cold Feet’s Robert Glenister.

With stark fractures already present within the small community, any remaining threads of comradeship are entirely severed when two killings rock the area.

The first victim is Julie’s husband, Gary – a vocal former miner who stood on the picket line in ’84. After his body is found metres from their home, suspicion quickly engulfs the community.

For actor Morrissey the writing, by Graham, who penned Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-inspired ITV drama Quiz, was what drew him to the role.

“It was important for me to play this policeman as someone who was the weight of the whole force on him,” says Morrissey, 57, whose other hit shows include State Of Play.

“He wasn’t a representative of the whole force. He was very much an individual in this specific circumstance.

“I just felt, as with all the characters actually, that personal history was dictating their behaviour.”

Sherwood, BBC1, tonight, 9pm