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Martin Clunes: Real-life detective was his 'target' for 'Manhunt' authenticity

Martin Clunes: Real-life detective was his 'target' for 'Manhunt' authenticity
Martin Clunes will be seen in "Manhunt: The Night Stalker" starting Monday. Photo courtesy of Acorn TV

NEW YORK, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Doc Martin and Men Behaving Badly actor Martin Clunes says picking the brain of the real Colin Sutton aided him immensely in portraying the former police detective in the British TV drama Manhunt.

"It was helpful hanging out with Colin on so many levels," Clunes told reporters during a recent video conference call.

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"Initially, just to ask him lots of questions about what it is like to be a policeman and operate within the rank system, but also helpful just to sort of get eyes on him and hear him talk and get a sense of the man behind the actions," Clunes said.

"It's great to have somebody there to have at the back of my mind as a target."

Clunes said he enjoyed watching his co-stars similarly ask Sutton what their characters actually were like and seeing "how big Colin's smile was -- or wasn't" when he described them.

The Night Stalker, the second chapter in the Manhunt saga, debuts on Acorn TV on Monday.

Based on Sutton's diaries, the new fact-inspired episodes follow the retired detective as he is brought in to review a case involving a burglar and serial rapist who preyed on elderly people in Southeast London in the 1990s and 2000s -- and seems to be active again after a dormant period.

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Showrunner Ed Whitmore said the point of Manhunt is to give the viewer a sense of what it is like to be a senior investigating officer on a challenging case.

"The DNA of it goes right back to Colin's diaries, which made you feel like you were in the cockpit of an investigation," Whitmore said.

He praised Clunes' performance for reflecting what the job is like and revealing what kind of toll it can take on a person.

"He draws you in. You stand in his shoes. You feel the tiredness," Whitmore said of Clunes' depiction of Sutton.

"The police come under an awful amount of attack all the time," Clunes said. "It's good to have it made clear what they do -- the real job that the police really do, rather than whizzing around in fast cars in their best clothes."

The real Sutton echoed the sentiment, explaining he hopes the series comforts audiences by showing how hard law enforcement personnel work to protect them instead of leaving them to think they must fend for themselves.

"The reason I started writing was because I wanted to showcase this amazing work that's done by ordinary people who do an extraordinary job. It's a phrase I use often and it's a phrase I mean," Sutton said.

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"There is an absolute good in telling these stories in that it makes people understand that they have the good guys on their side."

Whitmore also wants to remind viewers that the world is a dangerous place, and they should take precautions whenever possible.

"Both seasons focus on crimes in relatively well-to-do, affluent, peaceful parts of London, and I think that is one of the sort of extraordinary things" about Manhunt, Whitmore said.

"We all know that dangerous people are to be found everywhere, but we go about our business hoping we won't be the unlucky one, we won't be the one hit by the lightning bolt. You can't educate people enough."

Although the first season of Manhunt was phenomenally popular, Clunes wasn't overwhelmed by pressure to duplicate its success going into Season 2.

"There was a concern before Ed wrote it because we had done the original as a standalone thing and not a part of a series of seasons," Clunes acknowledged.

"There was a [question of] 'Will we be doing just a B side?' Then Ed was convinced that we weren't, and that he knew how to make it something different and be its own beast, and he certainly did.

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"From that moment onward, the minute Ed said he could do it, that was good enough for us."

Clunes counts himself as fortunate since he presently stars as contrasting characters on two different shows.

"It's really nice because you are really lucky to be re-employed, but you need stuff to feed on if you are an interpreter, so the more I've got to feed on, the better I enjoy it and the better job I make of it, probably," the actor said.

He joked that he hopes he never gets the wires crossed for the prickly small-town physician he plays in the comedy Doc Martin and the weary, but eager-to-help detective he portrays in Manhunt.

"The joy of Doc Martin returning -- and having a character that I don't have to summon too hard -- is that I can concentrate on, 'Is this the funniest way to tackle a patient?'" he asked rhetorically.

"With Colin, it's 'Am I operating in the right context of who is above me and who is below me in terms of rank? Am I paying attention to the right sort of detail?'"

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