The Bill has always aimed to keep it real – and the latest eight-parter looks at what’s really happening out on the beat, as Alex Walkinshaw – aka Sergeant Smithy – explains…

Tell us about The Bill’s special eight-parter…

“It’s called Witness and it tackles some very topical issues – those of gun crime and inter-gang rivalry.”

Sergeant Smithy is heavily involved. How?

“He’s devastated when Carly, a young single mum he’s taken under his wing, is gunned down in a drive-by shooting following a stabbing on the Jasmine Allen Estate. He frantically tries to save her life but fails. Later, he does manage to save Carly’s mum though when she attempts suicide.”

Do the police know who shot Carly?

“Smithy and his colleagues set up a mobile unit on the estate where the violence is escalating at an alarming rate and threatening to run out of control. It’s very powerful.”

How is this story different from normal?

“The way the episodes are shot make it look like a movie. It’s very modern and the directors have done a fantastic job. Witness pushes boundaries and we’ve all upped our game.”

It’s a first for The Bill. How did you feel about Smithy being the key character?

“Delighted and incredibly flattered to be trusted with such a special storyline. That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous – it’s a big responsibility – but I was mostly very chuffed. I just hope I’ve done it justice. I’ll be able to tell that from the reaction I get in the street.”

Do you get much attention from fans?

“Quite a bit. Smithy’s a nice guy and people like him, they trust him.”

Is this eight-parter a one-off?

“Witness will be the first of many ‘multi-parter’ specials. There are several other ‘mini-series’ already in the planning stages. Viewers are in for a very exciting year.”