The Identity star talks classic cops, celebrity culture and The Wire

Your character in Identity, DI John Bloom, is quite a complex person, isn’t he?

“He certainly is. Bloom was a former undercover cop and there is a high burn-out rate in that profession. He was always quite comfortable pretending to be other people and he is still dipping into that life because he feels at home there.”

Are you worried about identity theft?

“I couldn’t care less. I put all kinds of the wrong stuff in the bins all the time. I have a natural watchfulness, but I wouldn’t go overboard worrying about somebody attempting to be me.”

Do you get recognised much in the street?

“Yes, mostly for playing Tommy Carcetti in The Wire. It’s been shown all over the world and so I even get recognised for it in places like France, but I’m not interested in being a celebrity.”

Why was the show such a cult hit?

“The Wire was rooted in realism and honesty. You don’t see that many dramas on TV with eight-year-old kids on street corners selling drugs. Filming in Baltimore was a world away from the West Coast sheen of something like CSI. There were no big stars with blonde hair and white teeth worrying about the size of their trailers.”

Why do British actors get so much work in the US?

“Perhaps because many American actors don’t really want to appear as scumbags. British and Irish actors are less bothered about playing disgusting or flawed people. They’re often the most interesting roles, but in the US they can be career death.”

How did you get interested in acting?

“As a kid I used to make fake movies in the back garden. I was the cameraman, director and star.”

Is there any TV job you would never take?

“I would never do an advertisement or a voiceover, no matter if I was completely broke. I don’t really see that it’s a job for an actor. I can see why people do it – you can earn a lot of money – but I’d rather not.”

Which other TV detective would you like to be?

“I grew up on detectives like Kojak and Columbo, but it would have to be Steve McGarrett in Hawaii Five-0. Jack Lord, who played him, had caves for eyes. He looked more like a vampire than a detective.”

What are you watching on TV at the moment?

“I don’t watch a lot of TV. In fact, at our home in Ireland our TV has three channels and a hanger stuck in the top as an aerial. My kids are really into crime shows and they love trying to work out who did it. It is so funny watching them.”

Identity can be seen on Mondays at 9pm on ITV1