YOU WORK HARD TO BE LUCKY IN THIS BUSI­NESS

JAMES NES­BITT FEELS BLESSED WHEN IT COMES TO HIS PRO­LIFIC CA­REER – BUT IT HASN’T BEEN AN EASY RIDE. HE TELLS GEMMA DUNN WHY HE WILL NEVER TAKE HIS WORK FOR GRANTED

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JAMES NES­BITT may play a luck-con­trol­ling de­tec­tive in Sky One drama Lucky Man – but that’s far from where his good for­tune ends. The charmed ac­tor – who has of­ten ex­pressed his con­cerns about “over­ex­po­sure” – has en­joyed a three­decade ca­reer, from his early days on stage to count­less TV hits that fol­lowed such as Bloody Sun­day, Mur­phy’s Law, Jekyll and Oc­cu­pa­tion. Not to men­tion his film suc­cess with Five Min­utes Of Heaven and The Hob­bit tril­ogy.

“Michael Win­ter­bot­tom, who I used to do a lot of jobs with, al­ways used to say, ‘Your next job is your first job’ and that was re­ally just about not get­ting com­pla­cent, not be­ing wea­ried by it and be­ing grate­ful for the priv­i­lege of luck,” says James, 53.

“Fun­nily enough – and I don’t think I’ve ever said this – I re­ally have been a lucky man in terms of my ca­reer,” he rea­sons.

“But you work hard to be lucky in this busi­ness, and I feel that as long as peo­ple are pre­pared to keep watch­ing me, hope­fully peo­ple will be pre­pared to com­mis­sion things, and I’ll be very happy to do them.”

If the past three years are any­thing to go by – James has nailed the likes of a tor­mented fa­ther in The Miss­ing, a killer den­tist in The Se­cret and, of course, reprised his role as the lov­able rap­scal­lion Adam in cult hit Cold Feet – there’s plenty more to come.

Next, the North­ern Ir­ish star is set to please super hero fans with a third in­stal­ment of comic book leg­end Stan Lee’s cre­ation Lucky Man.

The British crime drama – Sky’s most suc­cess­ful orig­i­nal drama to date – fol­lows the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Harry Clay­ton (James), who, while strug­gling with a gam­bling ad­dic­tion and debt, dis­cov­ers an an­cient bracelet that grants him the power to con­trol luck.

While the sec­ond sea­son bowed out with a dra­matic show­down, the third run sees Clay­ton in Hong Kong where he is look­ing for an­swers about his “lucky” charm. It’s here he comes up against some nasty un­der­world char­ac­ters who have their eyes on more than just his bracelet.

“He comes across the big­gest arch-neme­sis he’s had in any of the three sea­sons: Sa­muel Brake, played by Ru­pert (Penry-Jones),” James ex­plains.

“So right from the off, it’s much more am­bi­tious,” he says. “The scale of it is big­ger, the comic-book genre is ex­plored fur­ther and we have the back­drop of Hong Kong.

“Clearly Lon­don has al­ways been a very im­por­tant char­ac­ter in the se­ries, as it re­mains so in the third sea­son,” he has­tens to add. “But to start at a very grand scale, al­most fea­ture-film for the first episode, re­ally ups every­thing.”

That said, can we ex­pect some epic stunts? “Well, it’s get­ting harder!” he con­fesses, hav­ing spent the past few hours re­peat­ing a key fight scene. “We’ve got great stunt guys – I try to do as much as pos­si­ble – but yeah, there ares huge drops, huge chases, a lot of run­ning...” As for the magic ban­gle, James, who once said wear­ing it took some get­ting used to, has be­come quite at­tached. “Now I don’t know if it’s on or it’s not!” he says with a smile. “I took one – they gave me one at the end of last sea­son – so I used it when I was play­ing golf over in Portrush,” he ad­mits. “I wore it one day, yet it’s go­ing to take more than a lucky bracelet to change that!” he quips of his game. “But it’s be­come a real part of me, and I shall miss it, ac­tu­ally.” That’s not the only piece of Stan Lee mem­o­ra­bilia he will cher­ish, how­ever. “One of my trea­sured pos­ses­sions is some­thing he sent me last year, a lovely still of one of the posters, ‘To Jimmy from your friend Stan’,” he re­mem­bers. “For some­one who wasn’t reared on Stan Lee, it was never re­ally my genre, I’ve dis­cov­ered him through this, which has been lovely,” James says, re­fer­ring to his new­found fan base. “I’m hon­estly stopped by peo­ple in the street talk­ing about Stan Lee more than al­most any­thing else, about Lucky Man, and bizarre peo­ple – Alex Ferguson or some­body – will ask, ‘Have you got the bracelet on?’

“It re­ally ap­peals to peo­ple, such a sim­ple no­tion. And of course the idea of luck is some­thing that we all live with. At some point in your life you think, ‘If only I could con­trol that’.”

He fol­lows: “I think it’s un­likely that I’ll play an­other super hero – I’m 53 – but it’s been a real voy­age of dis­cov­ery and I’m de­lighted.”

In re­al­ity, find­ing the time to do so would be quite some­thing.

To­day James has come full cir­cle, for 20 years af­ter land­ing his break­through TV role in the award-win­ning Cold Feet, he is back film­ing the show’s eighth se­ries, fol­low­ing a suc­cess­ful re­boot – and sub­se­quent sev­enth se­ries.

“It was good that it was a suc­cess!” he says of its 2016 re­vival, af­ter what had been a 13-year hia­tus. “I was re­sis­tant to do­ing it for years, then the good scripts came up, and I’m re­ally ex­cited about what we’re do­ing with it.

“We are re­ally go­ing to try very much and get back to what it was at its ut­ter best, about those char­ac­ters and what hap­pens to peo­ple at that stage of their lives.”

So what’s next on James’ hit list – will he ever just re­sign him­self to the golf course?

“Well, I say that, but my ex (fel­low ac­tor So­nia Forbes-Adam) and my kids all say, ‘You won’t stop!”’ re­veals the fa­ther-of-two, with a laugh.

“I’m very priv­i­leged in that I can take time,” he adds. “I’ve known what I’ve been do­ing for the next year or so for a num­ber of years now, and that’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary priv­i­lege.”

Putting luck to the test – DI Harry Clay­ton (James Nes­bitt) and Eve (Si­enna Guil­lory)

DI Harry Clay­ton (James Nes­bitt) and new arch­neme­sis Sa­muel Brake (Ru­pert Penry-Jones)

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