TV & Movies

BBC’s New Martin Freeman Drama Holds A Mirror Up To British Policing

The Responder takes inspiration from the creator’s own experiences in the police.


BBC’s new drama, The Responder, holds up a mirror to the challenges faced by officers on the front line of British policing, and centres on the story of an urgent response officer in Liverpool over the course of several high-pressured night shifts. But, what is it that inspired the BBC’s latest crime-drama, and is The Responder based on a true story?

In short, yes, The Responder is based on true events. The series is created, written, and executive produced by the author, screenwriter, and broadcaster, Tony Schumacher, who previously worked as a response policeman in Liverpool. While penning the BBC drama, he drew from his real life experiences on the job.

“I feel that I am The Responder to a degree and that this is my story,” Schumacher said in an interview ahead of the show’s debut. “I was a police responder who was out in the rain at one o’clock in the morning, two in the morning, three in the morning, chasing people up and down alleyways and running over rats. The Responder is in me, it's in my writing and in my script.”

In the small-screen adaptation of his time in Merseyside Police, Schumacher is portrayed through the character of Chris Carson, played by Martin Freeman of Sherlock and Fargo fame. The Responder follows the “morally compromised” Carson as he is forced to take on the new rookie officer Rachel – played by Adelayo Adedayo – in the exceptionally tense world of night-time policing.

Joining Freeman and Adedayo in the cast of The Responder are newcomers Josh Finan and Emily Fairn, Tin Star’s Ian Hart, The Salisbury Poisonings star MyAnna Buring, The English Game’s Kerrie Hayes, Luther’s Warren Brown, Afterlife’s David Bradley, and Ridley Road’s Rita Tushingham.

Discussing the new series, show-writer Schumacher explained how the drama explores the “darkness” of the mental health struggles he had dealt with in his own life. “When I wrote that element in the script it was like having paid therapy, because it was in me. I got to write it down on the page and see Martin play it out on screen,” Schumacher said of the show’s development.

However, there are lighter elements of the story. “It’s funny, it's dramatic, it's exciting. It is beautifully acted and it's something that you probably haven't seen before and you will really enjoy it,” he added.