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A deep and meaningful police role.

A BUILDER, a priest, a cutthroat TV journalist and an alien - they're all just in a day's work for Stephen Tompkinson.

However, the actor is currently enjoying his most challenging role to date - that of an undercover cop with a mysterious background in In Deep.

His character, Garth, often seems just as dark and devious as the criminals he's attempting to track down, and that's exactly why Stephen enjoys playing him.

"He's cut off from his personal life, although you get to see a little bit more of that in this series, " says the 36-year-old of his small-screen alter ego.

"He skates very close to breaking the law and actually did in the paedophile story when he murdered the prime suspect. We didn't receive one letter of complaint, which we found very bizarre. Everyone seemed to think it was justice that he got away with it." You might think dealing with such grim storylines on a day-to-day basis would be difficult, but he claims not: "I don't take them home with me, but they do stay with you." In real life the actor couldn't be less like Garth. Rather than shying away from family ties, he embraces them. It was his grandfather who persuaded him to become an actor, and he remains close to the rest of his clan - his father, Brian, was even the best man at his marriage to Scots-born Nicci Taylor in August last year.

"It was tremendous, the best day of my life, " says Stephen of his wedding. "Nicci absolutely took my breath away when I saw her - she looked like Audrey Hepburn and my knees gave a bit of a wobble." The couple are the proud parents of toddler Daisy, and he's looking forward to spending time with her in the coming months.

"Daisy's got nine teeth now, she's taking four steps at a time and it won't be long before she's talking, " he explains. "She's changing day by day and I don't want to miss out." However, the actor will remain in the limelight for some time to come.

As well as appearing in the remaining In Deep episodes, he's looking forward to the broadcast of his new sitcom ? which will hopefully go down better than his last comedy series, the critically mauled Mr Charity.

In Ted and Alice he plays an extraterrestrial who arrives in the Lake District looking for love ? and finds it with Dawn French.

"Work's been terrific and incredibly varied; it doesn't get much more varied than playing an alien and it's a lovely story ? an unashamedly romantic story, " he smiles.

But does the down-to-earth actor believe in life on Mars and beyond?

"I've never had an alien experience but I'm very open-minded, " claims Stephen . "It seems the universe is a bit too vast for it just to be on Earth where life exists, so you never know. . ."

In Deep (BBC1, 9pm)
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Media
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2002
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