The darkly comic cop show No Offence hasn’t shied from contentious subjects matters since its debut in 2015, and it’s no different when the Bafta-nominated TV series based in Manchester returns for a third run.
This time, the tough, no-nonsense DI Viv Deering, along with her ‘crime fighting family’ at Friday Street police station, faces members of the far right.
“Series three is about the void left by political parties, clusters of ignorance streamlined into soldier ants. Whether it’s a real or perceived void doesn’t matter. Predators will always exploit a weakness,” says Paul Abbott, the man behind Shameless and State of Play, who created the show.
“Viv Deering really earns her wages in making her voice heard to diverse cultural factions.”
Here, some of the cast members, new and old, talk about the storyline, shooting in the city and nailing the northern accent.
Joanna Scanlan (DI Viv Deering)
“At the start of the series, Deering and her team are in a good place, positive and confident and competent but a tragic event sets in motion one of the most shattering investigations of her career,” reveals Joanna Scanlan who’s starred in The Thick Of It and Getting On and brings Deering to life.
“There does seem to be a growth of organised right-wing forces, not just in the UK but in Europe. In the series we get to see how certain people manipulate their own position to exploit and use a certain anger that’s been generated by working class dispossession. The team has to come together using every trick in their book above and below the board in order that right prevails,” says Joanna, who also acted as associate producer.
“It meant I was much closer to the production process, seeing the logistical complications with pulling off such a fast and furious drama within the confines of a busy city like Manchester.”
Filming at the Jewish Cemetery for episode three “was very moving,” she recalls. “We filmed on a day it was snowing and the whole place was very sad and bleak. Respect for the dead comes to the front a lot this series and that particular episode was very painful to film.”
Elaine Cassidy – DC Dinah Kowalska
No Offence “is probably controversial to some people,” observes Elaine Cassidy. “Relevant, current, entertaining, real and gritty. It’s a whole little world in itself and it’s proper quality.” Little wonder she describes Paul as “one of a kind”.
“My husband (Stephen Lord) worked with him on Shameless. As an actor, you just want to work with really good writers as it makes your job easier. Paul’s one of those people that will be remembered and to say that you got to deliver his words – well that’s a huge honour.”
Elaine plays Dinah Kowalska, a single mum who lives with her daughter and Polish mother (“Dinah was born in Manchester, so is first generation”) and is as impulsive as ever. “There are moments she regrets it,” acknowledges Irish-born Elaine.
She hadn’t adopted a Manchester accent before No Offence but has found it relatively easy, thanks to Stephen and her in-laws.
“My husband’s from Salford and after 10 years of being surrounded by family, something has to go in, surely!” she says. The shoot’s always tough because so many locations are used in and around the city, but it means variety for the audience.
“I think it makes a very interesting shoot because of the look of it,” says Elaine. “You don’t get bored seeing the same places all the time.”
Alexandra Roach – DS Joy Freers
Prior to No Offence, Alexandra had only filmed in Manchester once, when she first left drama school. “This time round it was just revisiting the accent, hoping it was still in my muscle memory,” says the Welsh actor who came to prominence as the young Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
“I met Celia Imrie when I was about 11 and she said, ‘If you’re ever working in an accent go to that town, go into a shop, talk to the shopkeeper and order something in that accent. If they give you a funny look you haven’t nailed it.’”
Finding Joy’s voice was important to her. “She’s not got a broad Mancunian accent – she’s quite self-conscious, so she wouldn’t let herself be lax or lazy with the accent.”
In the new series, Freers is finding her feet in her new role as sergeant. “She does know her stuff, she’s a good police officer – but she does it in a different way from everyone else,” says Alexandra.
“They all follow their instincts, following their heart, whereas Joy doesn’t have that at all. She follows every rule in the book. She hates following her instinct and that’s why her and Dinah are so different.”
Lisa McGrillis – Caroline McCoy
Lisa auditioned for series one of No Offence and although “it didn’t go my way,” she wasn’t deterred from trying again, and in series three appears as grass roots politician, and unlikely mayoral candidate, Caroline McCoy. “It’s nice to be part of a show you’re a big fan of,” says Lisa who’s appeared in Inspector George Gently and Mum.
She describes Caroline as driven, ambitious and very savvy. “She grew up on the Cinderly estate,” explains Lisa. “Viv Deering and Caroline’s mum were best friends and after Caroline’s mum died, Viv has always looked out for.”
Her research into the mayor’s duties proved eye-opening. “Naively I didn’t know the Mayor of Manchester had such a huge responsibility,” she admits. “They don’t just cut ribbons and open supermarkets; they are in a great position of power and responsible for the strategic government of Greater Manchester.”
Having filmed the TV series Hebburn in the city, “I have lots of fond memories of nights out in the Northern Quarter,” says Lisa. “Along with Newcastle it’s one of the only other cities outside of London I could imagine living.”
Neil Maskell – Dennis Caddy
No Offence isn’t the first time Neil Maskell’s worked with Paul Abbott.
“I’d been in Shameless and Paul funded and supported a film called Tony about 10 years ago,” says the actor who plays Dennis Caddy, a former soldier and a ringleader inside a far right, racist organisation. “Dennis appears, at first, to be representative of the cocksure thuggery that always accompanies and characterises that brand of politics,” explains Neil.
Originally from London, he had to adopt a Manchester accent for the role “so I indulged in my love for John Cooper Clarke, Ian Brown and Shaun Ryder via podcasts and YouTube clips,” he says.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to watching a lot of early Oasis interviews as much for nostalgic purposes as preparation but at least I had a brilliant excuse.”
The filming locations might not have been glamorous, but they did provide “a decaying splendour” that was apt, he says.
“We filmed under an enormous Victorian railway bridge with graffiti, scrubland and detritus bestowing every arch. It felt like an echo of the series’ themes of nationalistic contradiction and political power.”
No Offence returns to Channel 4 on Thursday 13th September.