TV Times talks to South Riding star David Morrissey about why he couldn’t resist taking a role in BBC1’s latest Sunday night epic – and his imminent return to Liverpool…

How did you find out about the role of Robert Carne?
“A script came through the door with Andrew Davies’s name on it, and you just think: ‘I had better turn the phone off now and get reading.’ I worked with him on Sense and Sensibility and love his writing.”

Did you make up your mind immediately?
“Yes, the first couple of lines were: ‘A man gallops across the beach on a big black horse. It’s rather a magnificent horse, and he is quite magnificent himself. This is Robert Carne!’ And as I read on, I loved the world he was writing about. It is not a rarified view of England. It is very much about people dealing with concerns that we face now, about economic hardship, tough decisions being made, local government, how community looks after itself. From then on I had to do it. I needed to do it. When you are reading something that good and you picture another actor in the role, it drives you mad.”

Did you enjoy all the galloping about?
“It was great for me, I love riding. There are health and safety issues, but I’m really happy on the horse. In that very first scene, Carne was on his horse, but is halted by traffic. So he is already battling with the modern world.”

What about his relationship with Sarah Burton?
“She is absolutely the kind of woman he can’t stand. He is very much about the Empire, he served in the war, he is a Conservative – and she is out there and will likely be forming Spare Rib [legendary 70s feminist magazine] in the next couple of years! Because he doesn’t like her, he doesn’t feel the need to protect himself and leaves himself vulnerable.”

What is next for you?
“I am about to go back up to the Liverpool Everyman Youth Theatre to do Macbeth with Jemma Redgrave. I’m looking forward to it immensely. The Everyman is a very special place. It’s where I started as an actor, and Liverpool is obviously my home town. It will be bittersweet, though, as we’ll be one of the last productions there before the whole place is refurbished. Hopefully then we’ll be doing more Thorne, but I try not to make plans. The wonderful thing about being an actor is that you are constantly being surprised about where your life takes you…”

South Riding continues on Sunday February 27 at 9pm on BBC1.