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Judgement Day; 7 days TV Why Martin has always wanted to be an exorcist 7heaven treat of the week.

Byline: by Roz Laws

IT seems a strange ambition for an actor, but apparently Martin Shaw has always wanted to exorcist.

The Brummie star of The Professionals, Judge John Deed and George Gently dons a dog collar to play a Roman Catholic priest in a hard-hitting new six-part drama series.

Apparitions takes viewers on a terrifying journey into a world of possession and satanic conspiracy. As the BBC portentously puts it: "All out war between good and evil is imminent and it's time to choose sides."

Audiences may find this a little hard to swallow if they don't believe in God and Satan.

Martin stars as Father Jacob, who is working to promote candidates for sainthood but is drawn against his will into the world of exorcism.

Casualty star Elyes Gabel plays Jacob's protege, a trainee priest cured of leprosy after praying to Mother Teresa, while John Shrapnel is a Cardinal and Jacob's boss at the Vatican, who worries his best miracle investigator is being groomed for a career in demonology. Jacob's unofficial investigations are exactly the kind of thing that brings the Church into disrepute and he believes the priest must be stopped.

Guest stars include Neil Pearson, Cherie Lunghi and Shaun Dooley.

The idea for the series came from difficult find

Martin himself as he had long wanted to play an exorcist.

The 63-year-old says: "I've felt for a long time that we need something very different on television apart from doctors and cops. Nowadays nd producers cult to fi it's very diffi who are willing to take a chance on something that challenges the norm, but Tony Wood at Lime Pictures was prepared to take that chance.

"We've managed to create something that will force viewers to think and engage in the programme rather than view it passively.

"I think it's absolutely vital to challenge yourself as an actor. You do need to explore, it's all too easy just to stay in the same place and stay in the comfort zone.

"The exorcism scenes were difficult to film, particularly as in one of them I was connected to a high wire. I had to be thrown across a room and hit a wall with quite a bit of force."

Martin thinks Apparitions will tap into a growing interest in the paranormal, adding: "I believe in God and I have a huge respect for all religions, though I don't follow a manmade religion.

"Religion doesn't play a part in my life but I follow a spiritual path which is right at the centre of my life."

Apparitions, BBC1, Thursday, 9pm
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2008
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