I'm good with a gun for a hippy pacifist.
WHEN Liverpool actress Leanne Best was recruited to the third series of BBC's acclaimed police drama, Line of Duty, she knew she'd have to learn to be a crack shot.
Her character is a member of the elite armed response unit being investigated and that meant intensive firearms and combat training.
But what she didn't expect was quite what a natural she'd turn out to be at the firing range.
"I'm a bit of a hippy pacifist so I wasn't sure how I felt about firing a gun," she admits. "But we had to have proper training because it's all got to be very real. A lot of people in the forces watch Line of Duty because it's so true to life, the terminology and every detail, so they would pick up on even the smallest thing.
"On my first day of training, I was thinking, 'Oh, the violence, it's so awful'. And within a few seconds, I was like 'boom, 10-outof-10'!" she laughs. "And apparently I was quite good at it. The lads who trained us were amazing and they told us 'a lot of people hold their breath the first time they fire a gun out of anticipation of the kick. Make sure you don't fall backwards and aim the gun up because it's live ammunition' so my heart was pounding when I picked it up.
"Then I hit the target, every time straight in the head, and honestly I was pretty proud of myself. It's the adrenaline, it's a real rush, although I have to say I'd love to do it again for work but it's not for me, doing something like that for fun. And we didn't use live ammunition on set - imagine Danny Mays in a scene with me running behind him with a gun, the clumsiest actress in the world!" The part of officer Jackie Brickford came up when 36-year-old Leanne had just opened in Educating Rita, at the Liverpool Playhouse, last February.
"I was so knackered but I was really excited to do it so I kept thinking, I really hope I can pull this one out of the bag," she says. "I went on the Sunday and had the audition first thing on Monday morning, then I was back on stage in Liverpool on Monday night. She's a bit different from anything I've done before so they really wanted me to go in, they wanted to see everyone and how they'd fit together in the team.
"When they told me I'd got it I was beside myself, I was so thrilled."
It did require quite a transformation on Leanne's part - from natural brunette to bleach blonde overnight.
"My hair is so dark, I had to have my roots done every 10 days for three months of filming. By the end, I was just trying to keep my hair in my head."
Leanne says being on set was tense and exacting but fascinating as the nail-biting action unfolded and storylines were revealed even to the close-knit cast.
"There was certain information that was withheld from us so we couldn't give anything away subconsciously to the audience, so as we were filming there were things that even we didn't know," she says.
"But it was just a phenomenal cast to work with. Vicky McClure, I think, is an astonishing talent, and the calibre of writing and the way it's shot is amazing. Line of Duty is definitely up there with my favourite things."
Episode one of the new series ended with Danny's rogue copper, Danny Waldron, taking a bullet from one of his team. There was a deluge of blood - "it was in his eyes, in his ears, everywhere," jokes Leanne - but she says the gore was never a problem.
"If I see someone spit in the street, it turns my stomach but I'm totally all right with blood," she says. "When you're there, you're just looking at the people doing the effects and thinking, you're so clever. It looks like he's had half his neck blown off, how have you done that?" As the six-part drama pieces together all its backstories, viewers will get to see more of Leanne. Although the actress jokes that won't really be a problem over the next few months.
Not only is she in Line of Duty, she's about to return in ITV's Sunday night wartime period drama, Home Fires. Switch over at 9pm and she's in Undercover on BBC1 with Sophie Okonedo and Adrian Lester and she's also filming a new eight-part series of '90s favourite Cold Feet.
"It's going to be a really, really busy year, so I'll keep popping up in everything. It's a bit like Where's Wally?" |Line of Duty is on BBC2, Thursday, at 9pm.
Leanne Best, as PC Jackie Brickford, in BBC TV's Line of Duty