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“Martin Freeman was in my bed!” Meet the man who lent his house to the production of new series The Responder

2 years ago

“Martin Freeman was in my bed!” Meet the man who lent his house to the production of new series The Responder

A local man lent his house to the production company that made new highly anticipated Liverpool-based series The Responder.

In one of the opening scenes of the new BBC police series The Responder, Martin Freeman leaps out of bed, draws open the curtains and looks out at his eight-year-old daughter playing in the back garden.

And it all seems slightly strange for Mersey motoring writer, Mike Torpey, because he says: “Martin Freeman was in my bed!”

The father-of-seven ‘lent’ his Blundellsands house to the production company making the five-part drama – which starts on Monday, January 24 – as the home of lead-character Chris Carson.

“So I can actually say Martin Freeman slept in my bed,” smiles Mike. Although he adds: “They actually bought a new bed which we kept, so maybe I should say I slept in his!”

The Responder will follow the fortunes of Chris (Freeman), a crisis-stricken urgent response officer tackling a series of night shifts on the beat in Liverpool.

The Responder

While trying to keep his head above water, personally and professionally, Chris is forced to take on a new rookie partner and they both soon discover that survival in this high-pressure night-time world will depend on them either helping each other.

It’s the first time Mike has ever been involved in anything like this, and it all came about when he answered a knock at his front door.

“It was about this time last year and it was the locations manager of Dancing Ledge Productions which made the drama, and he said they were looking for suitable premises to use for Chris’s house,” explains Mike. “He said it would be a principal point of filming and asked if would I be interested.

“They had already found a house on the Wirral which they’d thought would be ideal, but the director took one look and said no, ‘it was too posh’.

“Ours is the biggest house on our road but it’s not the best-decorated or the best looking, so it suited their purposes well.

“We had a kitchen extension a few years ago so probably by most standards it’s huge, and all of the fittings are wood which, apparently, is great for filming. And, because you could split ours into two, at one end you could create a lounge and use the kitchen part for the cameras, and then when you were filming the kitchen you could use that part for cameras.

“There were video calls across three countries before they decided they were going to use it.”

For filming in four blocks between March and the end of June last year, Mike and his wife, Moyra, and their two children still living at home, moved out, spending time in apartments in Castle Street in the city centre, and at Hope Street Hotel.

And the production team made a host of changes to Mike’s seafront home before filming began.

The Responder

“They completely changed the kitchen, everything was re-painted,” he says, “and they took out the table and replaced it with another. They redecorated one of the four bedrooms as an eight-year-old girl’s bedroom with everything a pastel blue, they re-did the bathroom, and they re-painted our bedroom (which became Chris’s), re-carpeted it, put up new curtains, replaced the bed and added new oak wardrobes and a chest of drawers.

“When they finished filming, we were given the choice of having it all put back the way it was, or keeping it as they’d done it and, except for the little girl’s bedroom which we had painted again, we kept it the same.”

Mike goes on: “People have asked if we found it an ordeal, but we really didn’t.

“We moved out four different times and it was absolutely fine. The people were all helpful, they were respectful, and I have no regrets whatsoever.

“In fact it was nice being a part of something like this, and it was really interesting.

“There are things you don’t expect, like how many people they have on site at any one time – it was around 40! The road was gridlocked with lorries and mobile changing rooms, and mobile lavatories because it was all filmed during Covid.

“We came and watched from outside and you don’t realise how big an operation it is or how long it takes to film. It took three or four hours and 18 takes to record one 30-second scene outside our house.

“At times, Martin Freeman would be sitting on our wall in a grey dressing gown while they were filming on the opposite side of the road, and people would walk past, looking at the filming on the other side, and not even notice it was him!”

And he adds: “They filmed some scenes with Martin chasing someone in Sweeting Street, off Castle Street, when we were staying there, so we got to watch those. And they used the old State Ballroom on Dale Street to film from and we were able to go in there and watch from behind the cameras.

The Responder Photographer: Rekha Garton

“At the time they were also filming the remake of The Ipcress File in the city, Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders.”

Mike says: “There is a chance there may be second series of The Responder and I probably would do it again.

“It paid well and we got lots done to the house,” smiles Mike. “We’ve been watching the trailer looking at how much we can recognise so we’ll definitely be watching the series when it’s on – and no doubt spotting the things that look awful on our house and going ‘oh no!’.

“But it was an interesting experience to be a part of and one in which you feel quite involved in small way. And all from a random knock at the door…”

The Responder, BBC One, starts on Monday, January 24.

Article by Janet Tansley

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