Stephen Tompkinson is still Wild At Heart and missing the furry members of the cast

Stephen Tompkinson admits he misses the animals from Wild At Heart so much he can’t get them out of his head.

The popular actor, back in the new series of ITV hit DCI Banks, was shattered when the Africa-set vet series was axed despite healthy viewing figures.

It meant he didn’t get to spend the second half of last year with the wildlife he’d become so close to.

“I dream about the animals a lot,” Stephen told The Sunday Post.

“I knew I was going to miss them but I didn’t realise how much.

“What was extraordinary was spending so much time with them and gaining their trust. Each year you went back they let you in a little more closely. I miss that contact.

“There was always something every day that you wouldn’t see on any other set anywhere else in the world.”

Dour copper Banks is a world away from happy-go-lucky vet Danny Trevanion. So, is he the grumpiest character he’s ever played?

“I suppose he is,” smiles Stephen, who met Scots girlfriend Elaine in a Glasgow bar. But I really respect him for that.

“When I first started playing Banks I flew out to Florida to spend three days with the author Peter Robinson. He lives in Canada now but thaws out in Tampa during the Canadian winters.

“I wanted to pick his brains and reassure him that I was going to get as close to the character he’d created as possible. Banks is absolutely married to the job and Peter was saying that all the policemen he’d interviewed had to keep an emotional detachment.”

But Stephen says it’s a role he was happy to leave behind at the end of a filming day.

“Police dramas are the most popular form of drama watched worldwide because we all want to believe in a justice system. We want baddies to be caught and we want to sleep safer in our beds knowing there are people like Banks out there.

“But it’s a gruesome job and one that I couldn’t do. I’m too sensitive and would get too emotionally involved.”

The series sees the return of copper Annie Cabbot, played by Andrea Lowe, after maternity leave.

“In the story Annie has a little girl but in real life she has a glorious wee boy,” adds Stephen who admits he shelters 13-year-old daughter Daisy from the series’ more gruesome scenes.

“So there was a lot of cooing on set with the real life and fictional babies.”