Bloodlands: Cast, plot, release date and filming locations of the BBC drama

James Nesbitt returns to our screens with a new BBC One crime drama executive produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio.

By Becky Gamester-Newton Published: 18 February 2021 - 5.51pm

If you're hooked on The Bay and Marcella, and just can't wait for Line of Duty to return, Bloodlands is set to be your new crime thriller addiction.

Starring James Nesbitt, Bloodlands – which consists of four hour-long episodes - is a cat-and-mouse thriller with the scenery of Northern Ireland - and its troubled past - as its backdrop.

The series is executive produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio, so you can guarantee you’ll be on the edge of your seat…

What is Bloodlands about?

James Nesbitt in Bloodlands

Bloodlands is a new thriller following DCI Tom Brannick, who is sent on the hunt for an assassin known as 'Goliath' after pulling a possible suicide note out of Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

He connects the find to a cold case that has personal significance - and James Nesbitt says viewers should prepare to be gripped.

“It is a cat-and-mouse thriller but the fact that it has the legacy of the Troubles brings an added depth to it," Nesbitt explains.

"It’s also a story about a father and daughter, and of loss, so there are real human stories attached to it. At its key it’s really about relationships, I think it’s something that audiences will invest in, invest in the characters.

“But also, it is a classic Jed Mercurio thriller, where you’re not really sure what’s going on, with many different stories interwoven into it. I think it will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.”

Executive producer Mercurio adds: “Bloodlands is a contemporary thriller series with one foot in Northern Ireland's emotive past. The present-day hunt for a suspect opens up the cold case of a legendary serial killer, codenamed Goliath, who evaded capture during the Troubles.

“In addition to being a gripping police thriller, Bloodlands explores the dilemma of whether seeking justice for Goliath's long-dead victims should jeopardise the fragile and hard-won peace of present-day Northern Ireland.”

Where was Bloodlands filmed?

Bloodlands was filmed in and around Belfast, Strangford Lough and the Mourne Mountains in early 2020.

Mercurio says the winter weather made filming difficult out in the open.

“Bloodlands was mainly filmed in the rural area around Strangford Lough, a rugged and beautiful location that serves as the eerie setting for the series,” he explains. “It looks amazing on camera but the weather can be quite challenging at times. We all made sure we had our thermals and waterproofs with us.”

Lisa Dwan, who plays Tori Matthews in the BBC drama, recalls: “Jimmy and I had a series of very intense filming days up the Mourne Mountains. And I remember one day filming in a snow blizzard, having to make our way to set by jeep as the cars couldn’t make it up the mountain.

“Once I sat back into the car after a take and Lola Petticrew burst into a fit of giggles as I looked like an extra from [disaster movie] Alive, there were little mounds of snow caked over my lashes and my lips were blue!”

Who’s in the cast?

DCI Tom Brannick – James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt plays Tom Brannick in Bloodlands BBC

“Tom Brannick has been a policeman for over 20 years,” explains Nesbitt. “He started out when it was the RUC that transformed to the PSNI and would have been there when peace came to Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement.

“He’s a decent man, someone who has known real tragedy during the Troubles. When the name ‘Goliath’ comes up, an assassin possibly in the police force, we find out that one of the victims was his wife, Emma.

“Tom is devoted to his daughter, Issy, he is very protective over her.

“He was a well known character because he played rugby. He’s quite familiar to me, because I knew a lot of police officers when I was younger and my family was in the police and also I played rugby at school and followed rugby a lot, so it was familiar territory.

“I think as he’s coming to the end of his career, the idea of this old case rearing its head again is terrifying to him and everyone in the force - lots of suspicions, paranoia - and there’s great danger of what this means for the peace process.”

Tori Matthews – Lisa Dwan

Lisa Dwan plays Tori Matthews in Bloodlands BBC

Dwan says of her character: “Tori Matthews is a bright and friendly doctor who has returned to Belfast after living several years abroad to look after her ailing mother. She begins teaching at Queen’s University, where she runs into to Tom’s daughter. She is smart, inquisitive and resourceful with a painful past.”

Jackie Twomey – Lorcan Cranitch

Lorcan Cranitch plays Jackie Twomey in Bloodlands BBC

Lorcan explains that Jackie is similar to Tom in many ways, but working with each other again is far from straightforward.

“Like Tom, Jackie has been in the police force all his professional life. When he joined, it was known as the Royal Ulster Constabulary. As a young recruit from the catholic, nationalist community, it was a brave step. But Jackie believed and still does, that the way of peace is best served by seeing things from another side.

“He has gained great respect among his peers and those in the force. He is due to retire shortly, and so for both professional and private reasons the timing of the quest that Tom wants him to go along with is wrong.

“His friendship and professional relationship with Tom was stronger in the early part of their careers. But they chose different paths within the force, and reuniting is not now the joyful event it should be.”

DS Niamh McGovern - Charlene McKenna

Charlene McKenna plays Niamh McGovern in Bloodlands BBC

Together Niamh and Tom try to hunt down the assassin known as ‘Goliath’.

Charlene says: “Niamh is a cool customer. She is at times hard to read, and she reveals very little about her personal life. Her cogs are always turning and she is like a bloodhound, very instinctive. She is incredibly bright, and the fact that she is already a DS and a woman at such a relatively young age is an incredible feat.”

When will Bloodlands air?

Watch Bloodlands from February, Sunday 21st at 9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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