Ex EastEnders star Ross Kemp is used to interviewing armed gangs in war zones such as Afghanistan and Venezuela, but in his new documentary to launch ITV’s latest Crime and Punishment season, he looks at gun crime in the UK. Here Ross, 54, reveals more…
You spent a year with West Midlands Armed Police Force, covering Birmingham. How did you find the experience?
Ross Kemp: “If it hadn’t been for the work I’ve done in other countries, I wouldn’t have got this access. To get to meet the mother of a murdered teen, a gun smuggler, an armed gang and also get front-line access to armed policing in one programme is extraordinary. Sadly, we live in very violent times. Gun crime has risen by 20 per cent, knife crime has risen by 20 per cent [in 2017]. It’s a complex subject.”
Were you shocked by the level of violence?
RK: “It is truly shocking. We haven’t got the gun issues some other countries have because of our strict laws, but I spoke to a gun dealer smuggling handguns and he didn’t care where the weapons ended up. They wind up in the hands of kids in gangs who have less of an understanding of the repercussions of their actions.”
Do you think the UK will end up with an armed police force?
RK: “I would prefer to see a specialised, bespoke team of armed officers rather than every officer carrying a gun. To me, more guns on the streets means more deaths. But there is a strong possibility that officers in the UK will be armed within the next 30 years, which would be sad.”
It must have been hard meeting Keisha, whose 14-year-old son, CJ, was shot dead in London…
RK: “I got very upset. A lot of people make assumptions like, ‘Oh she didn’t care enough,’ but she did everything she could for her boy and still a mother’s love wasn’t enough to save her son.”
How does it affect you filming a programme like this?
RK: “Normally I’m in a foreign country, so I get a lie-in after being out all night filming. But when you’re at home with 10-month-old twins and a three-year-old, it’s tough… ”
Your career has gone from acting in EastEnders to making BAFTA-winning documentaries!
RK: “I’m lucky that the public has accepted me in both roles. I’m pleased ITV gave me the opportunity to make these films. I hope to make more.”
Any dramas you’d like a part in?
RK: I’m not a great watcher of TV, I read books and I like sport [we certainly remember Ross giving the England football team passionate support this summer!] which is very male, isn’t it? I’ll watch Vanity Fair because my wife wants to!
It could be the new Poldark…
RK: “Funnily enough my mum was reading the Poldark novels when she was pregnant, so I was named after Ross Poldark – not many people know that!”
Do you have any other exciting projects coming up?
RK: “I’d like to look at knife crime and I’d also like to do something looking at the state of Britain. I love foreign travel but with a very young family, it’s been good to be able to stay at home. I’m very lucky to be able to do something I really enjoy and feel passionate about for a living.”
Ross Kemp and the Armed Police is on Thursday at 9pm on ITV.