Ray Winstone chats about playing escaped convict Abel Magwitch in BBC1’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (Tuesday, Dec 27-Thursday, Dec 29)…

What was it about Dickens’ Abel Magwitch that made you interested in playing this part?
“I’d never thought about playing the part. I remember the original film with John Mills and Alec Guinness. It was always my favourite Dickens. I never reasoned why I liked it when I was a kid but, as I get older, I realise the subtext of the story. Great Expectations is, for me, about the snobbery of coming from your lot – of being forced into something you’re not, and about leaving behind the things you loved and treasured. In a nutshell, for me, it’s about love.”

Why do you think Great Expectations is such a popular story?
“Great Expectations is about love, loss and hope. It makes us look at ourselves. That’s why they keep making it, I guess.”

Does this version have a strong thriller element to it?
“It’s hard to tell really as so many people know the story, but I hope so. Hopefully we can bring it to a new generation of kids who’ve not read the story or seen it.”

How do you feel about Magwitch – what’s your take on his character?
“In a way, Magwitch is London. He’s a reflection of the filth. He’s a product of the environment he grew up in; he thieves to feed his family and is a bit of a wrong ‘un. But one innocent act of kindness from Pip [played here in his older years by Douglas Booth] changes his whole outlook. Magwitch wants to do something he thinks is good. When we first meet him he’s a monster of a man – your worst nightmare! Yet goodness comes out of evil sometimes.”

Did you enjoy playing the darker side of Magwitch?
“I love the dark side. I should have been Darth Vader! I’d really love the chance to play a lover – although at 54 I’m probably past playing a lover!”

This is going out at Christmas, which means it will be a part of peoples’ festive viewing. Is that something special to be a part of for you?
“To be in something showing over Christmas that my kids can watch is great – rather than me stabbing someone or biting someone’s head off! I haven’t done that many classics, and to be part of something you’ve known since, near enough, the day you were born is an honour. I’m very proud to have the chance to do it.”