For Jonas Armstrong, filming the new ITV drama series The Bay was something of a homecoming.
The former Robin Hood star has lived on the Lancashire coast since he was a child, after his parents brought the family to Blackpool from Dublin to work as traders on the prom.
Now he lives in Lytham, just a short hop from The Bay’s stunning locations around Morecambe.
Jonas plays Sean Meredith in the ITV thriller, which focuses on a familiy liaison officer, DS Lisa Armstrong –played by The A Word star Morven Christie – who finds herself in a tricky situation with Sean and his family after their two teenage children go missing.
Sean’s a fisherman, going out to sea to scrape the money together to provide for his family. But while he can identify with some of what Sean’s going through, Jonas says one aspect of the role left him all at sea.
“We filmed one day at sea, they had doubles out there for insurance reasons, but we’re on a pontoon in the bay unloading the catch and stuff,” says Jonas. “We were going to be filming in Fleetwood and as I just live up the road from there in the Blackpool/St Annes area, that would have been fun, but we filmed in Whitehaven.
“My friends who I’ve grown up with, some of them do have boats and go out fishing, and cockling and all the rest of it. There’s a picture of Sean and he’s wearing all the yellow gear and all that and my mates were kind of laughing at me as they go out and fish, because they’re proper lads, working men, and they’re all ‘show us them hands, they’ve never done a day’s work in their life’.
“So my mates, I was able to pick up a bit from them. I just listened and observed them. They take the mick, but it’s great, you know, they keep me grounded.”
And shooting The Bay in the north west meant the comforts of home were never far away.
Jonas says: “I live quite local so I usually zoomed home from the locations. I live in Lytham now.
“I went down to London for like eight years and then I did Robin Hood, and I was able to move back. It gave me more freedom, I didn’t have to live in London anymore, just come down when the auditions were on.
“I love it, it suits me better, my family are there.
“I was born in Dublin, but grew up in Blackpool because my parents were traders up and down the promenade there, you know the Pleasure Beach, the Tower and stuff like that. We went all around the Fylde, rented houses, and then settled in St Annes.”
And Jonas says the locations are not the only things which felt familiar about The Bay.
“Sean is salt of the earth, at the centre of the community,” says Jonas. “The one thing that I can identify with, with Sean, is that feeling duty-bound to provide for your family, by whatever means necessary, and take what you can, and run that risk if it benefits you. Yes, he’s not perfect but that’s the way he can provide, he’s desperate.
“The thing with Sean is that there might be things he shouldn’t be doing, but it’s borne out of a good place, for his family and his wife and his kids.
“I think he’s a good guy, really, I mean you can’t help your circumstance, and if you can get out of that circumstance and do something which can benefit you, if it’s not terribly wrong – you know people are stuck between a rock and hard place and he’s trying to do something about it really.
“I didn’t do that much shooting in Morecambe, a lot is interiors, and the town is a lovely place, with lovely people, but it’s a town which I think back in its heyday it had a lot of people visiting and coming for their yearly holidays, which I remember with Blackpool – you know, I remember as a kid when we moved over from Ireland, the place would be packed, you know thousands of people up and down the promenade, but you know these seaside towns are dying a bit, which is sad to see.
“But Morecambe is a big part of the drama, and it’s a town which is struggling so people get what they can, and Sean is like that, he’s an opportunist, so whatever comes up he will take, and he’ll run the risks.
“But again it comes from a good place, you know he’s got four kids, and one on the way and a wife.”
The Bay, written by Lancaster-based Daragh Carville, focuses on the disappearance of teenage twins, and tackles themes such as peer pressure from social media, and the problems of growing up in a seaside town which has seen better days, issues which resonated with Jonas.
He says: “I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a good lad as a kid, but that was out of boredom, there was nothing to do. I mean these days you have social media and computers and all the rest of it, but as soon as I got home we were out, and you know, you get up to mischief, you do get into a spot of bother, but none of us have ended up on the wrong side as it were...
“When we were young we’d be out at the park or whatever, but nowadays they don’t do that.”
But what can we expect from Sean as the drama progresses? Jonas remains tight-lipped, but there a few things he can give away. He says: “Sean’s got a whole bagful of secrets. He has a lot going on and he finds himself in a real predicament, where he has to come clean about his whereabouts when the twins go missing, and him doing that jeopardises his relationship with his wife and his standing in the community.
“As the story progresses you learn more and more about him. This isn’t your average crime drama, it’s about family and community and secrets. I love shows like that, that keep you guessing all the time. We got the first three scripts and then I had to ask what happened because I need to know who I’m playing here, so they told me what was going on.
“It’s a suprise ending, I think it’ll be quite a shock to the audience.
“People who know me are already asking, ‘was it you’, and I say I’m not going to tell you, and my girlfriend will ask and I say I won’t tell you either, that’s just to annoy her really. But you get used to it and you say it with a smile on your face and you say, you know, watch it.”
The Bay starts on ITV on Wednesday, March 20 at 9pm.