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What would you do if you stumbled across a murder then found yourself accused of being the killer? That’s the nightmare scenario for John Simm in ITV’s new three-part thriller Prey – that and hanging from a bridge.

BAFTA-nominated John, who has starred in top TV dramas including Life On Mars, Doctor Who, The Village and Mad Dogs, plays Detective Sergeant Marcus Farrow, a popular member of a Manchester police force and a dedicated father of two.

“Marcus is a hard-working Manchester detective who is devoted to his wife and sons,” says John. “However, when we meet him, his relationship with his wife, Abi (Heather Peace), is going through a rough patch. He’s living apart from her but is confident they can get their relationship back on track. He’s a great dad and would do anything for his two boys.”

However, Marcus’s very ordinary life takes a terrible turn when he begins to investigate a seemingly forgotten case – and finds himself wrongfully charged with murder.

As Marcus is being led away to prison, he escapes, and goes on the run, trying to outwit his own colleagues.

“Because he’s a detective, Marcus knows the methods the police will use to find him. He knows all the procedures and he knows Manchester, so he really has a head start over his colleagues,” John tells the Daily Express. “When he’s really up against it – desperate and willing to go to any lengths to prove his innocence – that’s when we see how good he is at his job.”

As the police try to track him down, Marcus is on a hunt of his own – to find the real killer and clear his name.

“When I met with the director, Nick Murphy, and producer Tom Sherry, their take on Prey was very exciting,” says John. “I liked the ideas and the vision they had for the piece, about how it was going to be filmed using a minimal crew, fast-paced and on the hoof – no time to hang around or get bored… Apart from when I had to dangle from Trafford Park bridge for a scene!”

The drama certainly has plenty of heart-racing action sequences and a tense and thrilling plot. To prepare for the role, John, 43, admits to hitting the gym so he was ready for the stunts and the exhausting running scenes.

“When you hit your mid-forties, it’s a good idea to keep your fitness levels up,” he says. “It was a very physical role, with lots of running and climbing fences. It was hard work, but I absolutely loved it.”

Prey also boasts a strong supporting cast. Craig Parkinson (Line Of Duty) plays Marcus’s best friend, Detective Inspector Sean Devlin, and Rosie Cavaliero (Pat & Cabbage) plays Acting Detective Chief Inspector Susan Reinhardt, who is in charge of the operation to catch Marcus. Adrian Edmondson also appears as Assistant Chief Constable Warner.

Prey is written by television newcomer Chris Lunt.

“Chris has done a really great job. It’s a cracking, high-octane, unapologetic thriller that never stands still, never lets up,” John says. “But the characters are real and complex and completely believable. When I read it I just thought it was terrific stuff and unlike anything I’ve done before.

“The script reminded me of The Fugitive, and I’m a big fan of Harrison Ford [star of the 1993 version of the movie], so it was exciting to say yes to it,” John adds.

Prey, ITV, Monday, April 28