Ben Daniels returns as SCP James Steel to continue the fight for justice in a third series of ITV1’s Law & Order: UK.
Have you enjoyed filming this new series?
“Yes, Law & Order: UK is such a treat to do. It is very self-contained and we all get on so well. There is such a shorthand on set now and everyone has an amazing time. I certainly have. We also get such great guest artists on too.”
Have you had more of a say this time about the way your character’s personality develops?
“Yes, it has been brilliant and we have had lots more input about where the character should go. In this series, James definitely has more fun and lightens up. He has more of a sense of humour. He still cares but in this series he talks a lot less about it! I was very keen to move him away from someone who talks about “justice for all” to more of a man of action.
“In the first two series, he was coming through his divorce and he threw everything into work, and in this new series, he is a bit sneakier! You see him behaving more like a defence lawyer. I do still enjoy playing him. Every episode is a new challenge and the stories are so different – that is what is so great about it.”
This series sees many gritty storylines including a child murder, a story about a serial rapist, cyberstalker and several gruesome murders. Do you like the fact that they are such hard hitting subjects?
“Yes I do and it feels like the series has been written on the back of recent headlines. What I love about Law & Order: UK is the fact that you do get to see how the story is played out. You see the conclusion and without repeating myself too much, that is why it is such a great format!”
Would you feel it is fair to say James is tested to the hilt during some of the cases?
“Yes. In episode 2 (‘Hounded’), he hounds a man with a tenacity that is not healthy. I loved this episode and it was my favourite in this series. I really felt I got my teeth into it.
“James is much more aggressive in this series which I really like, and to bring about justice he doesn’t always stay entirely within the law. Or rather he massages the law to attempt to bring about a conclusion. I think it’s a nice development.”
Do you still do research for the role?
“Yes. Any legal issue I don’t understand, I will look into it. Freema and I are very hot on this. We make sure we know exactly where we are and what is going on. We have to. We are both very thorough. I love working with Freema. You could not ask for more as she is such a hard worker.”
Does filming such gritty storylines take it out of you emotionally?
“Sometimes, but that is down to the research you carry out rather than the actual episodes themselves. You will read about real murders and real court cases and they can stick in your memory. There was one story I read about involving a guy who was killed in the woods. It was all filmed on a mobile, and then the video was uploaded on to the internet.
“The story stayed with me for weeks after I had read about it. I was very keen to see whether the guys were brought to justice and what sentence they got. I became obsessed and that was partly due to the fact I was working on Law & Order:UK and wanted to know the outcome!”
This is the third series. Are you surprised it has become such a big hit for ITV1?
“I am not surprised it is popular. If I remove myself from the equation, I loved the American show and I have always been a huge fan of it whenever I sit down and watch it. It is a fantastic format and it is very satisfying to watch. It captures all our imaginations.”
If the Americans ever invited you to have a role on the US version, would you be tempted?
“Yes of course! That would be amazing.”
What have you been doing since finishing filming?
“I went to South Africa to film another show. I then finished a movie which I first started 18 months ago. Now I am just relaxing! Law and Order is a long old stint and so it’s nice to have some time off.”
Do you think you get the work/life balance right?
“I try not to take on too much, but inevitably things crop up. I have a house in France which I can zip over to. On a good day, it takes four hours door to door. Even if I go for a couple of days, I feel better.”
Any other personal ambitions you really want to fulfil?
“I would love to go back to Broadway and do another play there. I have talked to some producers about various different things. It would be great as I love it there. I love the buzz and New York is an amazing place to do a play.”
Would you ever give up acting or do you want to go on forever?
“(Laughs.) I would really love to live up a mountain. The older I get, the more of a recluse I turn into. I love the social aspect of my work. It’s like a commune and gets very intense and very sociable. Then when I am not working, I shut myself away, so I can see myself living up a mountain.”
Sounds like you are very happy…
“I really am very happy. It is fantastic and we are having a nice summer too – so what could be better?”