A local rented his house to the production company producing the highly anticipated new Liverpool series The Responder.
In one of the opening scenes of the new BBC police series The Responder, Martin Freeman jumps out of bed, pulls open the curtains and looks at his eight-year-old daughter playing in the back garden.
And it all seems a little odd to Mersey motorsports writer Mike Torpey, as he says, “Martin Freeman was in my bed!”
The father-of-seven “lent” his Blundellsands home to the production company producing the five-part drama – which begins Monday January 24 – as the home of lead character Chris Carson.
“So I can actually say that Martin Freeman slept in my bed,” smiles Mike. Though he adds, “They actually bought a new bed that we kept, so maybe I should say I slept in his!”
The Responder will follow the fortunes of Chris (Freeman), a troubled emergency officer who pulls a string of night shifts in Liverpool to the beat.
As he tries to stay afloat personally and professionally, Chris is forced to onboard a new rookie partner, and they both soon find that surviving in this high-pressure night world depends on helping one another.
It’s Mike’s first time involved in anything like this and it all happened while answering a knock on his front door.
“It was around this time last year and it was the location manager at Dancing Ledge Productions who was doing the drama and he said they were looking for suitable premises for Chris’ house,” explains Mike. “He said it would be a major point in filming and asked if I would be interested.
“They had already found a house on the Wirral that they thought would be ideal, but the headmaster took one look and said no, ‘it was too plush’.
“Ours is the biggest house on our street, but it’s not the best decorated or the best looking, so it suited their purpose well.
“We had a kitchen extension a few years ago, so it’s probably huge by most standards, and all the fixtures and fittings are wood, which seems great for filming. And because you could split ours in two, you could create a lounge at one end and use the kitchen part for the cameras, and then when you filmed the kitchen you could use that part for cameras.
“There were video calls in three countries before they decided to use it.”
For four blocks of filming between March and late June last year, Mike and his wife Moyra and their two children, who are still at home, moved out and are staying in apartments on Castle Street in the city center and the Hope Street Hotel.
And the production team made a ton of changes to Mike’s oceanfront home before filming began.
“They completely remodeled the kitchen, repainted everything,” he says, “and they took out the table and replaced it with another one. They redecorated one of the four bedrooms into an eight-year-old girl’s bedroom, all in pastel blue, they redesigned the bathroom, and they repainted our bedroom (which became Chris’s), re-carpeted, rearranged curtains, replaced the bed and added new oak cabinets and dresser.
“Once they finished filming, we had the choice of taking everything back as it was or leaving it as they did, with the exception of the little girl’s bedroom, which we repainted let’s do it with the old one.”
Mike continues, “People have asked if we found it an ordeal, but we really didn’t.
“We moved out four times and it was absolutely fine. People were all helpful, they were respectful and I have no regrets.
“It was actually nice to be a part of something like this and it was really interesting.
“There are things you don’t expect, like how many people they have on site at one time – it was like 40! The road was blocked with trucks and mobile changing rooms and mobile toilets because everything was filmed during Covid.
“We came and watched from the outside and you don’t realize how big an operation is or how long it takes to film. It took three or four hours and 18 takes to capture a 30 second scene in front of our house.
“Sometimes Martin Freeman would sit against our wall in a gray robe while they were filming across the street and people would walk by and watch the filming on the other side and not even notice him!”
He adds: “They did some scenes where Martin was chasing someone on Sweeting Street, off Castle Street, when we were staying there, so we had to look at those. And they used the old State Ballroom on Dale Street to film and we could go in there and watch from behind the cameras.
“They were also filming remakes of The Ipcress File in the City, Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders at the time.”
Mike says, “There’s a chance there will be a second season of The Responder, and I would probably do it again.
“It paid off well and we did a lot in-house,” smiles Mike. “We’ve been watching the trailer to see how much we can make out, so we’ll definitely be watching the show when it comes out – and no doubt spotting the things that look awful about our house and, ‘Oh no!’ to say.
“But it was an interesting experience to be a part of and one that makes you feel quite involved in a small way. And all from a random knock on the door…”
The Responder, BBC One, launches on Monday 24th January.
Article by Janet Tansley
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