David Threlfall is DCS David Baker

Posted by ac555 at Mar 31, 2015 10:30 AM |
Q&A interview with actor David Threlfall who plays DCS David Baker in Code of a Killer
David Threlfall is DCS David Baker

Source: ITV Press Centre

Code of a Killer depicts the world’s first DNA manhunt for a murderer?

Sadly when these things happen they have a way of staying in the public consciousness. So I had a trace memory of both murders. But probably like anybody else, if you say, ‘When was DNA first used in a criminal case to prove somebody was guilty?’ you would start thinking about the 1950s or 40s. 1986, 1987 probably wouldn’t feature.

What was your initial reaction when you first read the scripts?

My initial reaction was, ‘Is it going to be OK with the families?’ That was my first question to the director James Strong. He assured me they were OK with it, because obviously your first human response is they will have to recall events. Although, I would imagine, it’s something that’s going to stay with the families for the rest of their days. So if it’s to re-focus people on what horrendous crimes this man committed, then perhaps you’re doing something worthwhile.

What was your take on David Baker when you both researched him and met him?

I went up to Leicester to meet him and visited all the places that I wanted to. So when I was talking about Ten Pound Lane or the Black Pad or Narborough or Enderby, I knew in my sense memory what the pictures were. When I spent time with David he was tremendously open and simple and clear about what his job was. Generally as well as specifically on the murders.”

Did you take anything in particular from what he said in terms of playing the role?

The obvious thing is the accent. I have to find the Leicester accent. It’s a mindset. I played a policeman a couple of years ago, having never really played that role before. The word David used to describe interviewing and making progress is ‘persistence’. There’s a certain quiet persistence in his approach to policing. So I got that from him. And obviously a little bit about his own background, just to help me become David Baker.

Obviously this is a drama not a documentary. James Strong, the director, having made a documentary about what had happened felt there was a drama to be filmed. So we do things - David said the police picked the phone up to Alec Jeffreys to say, ‘there’s this thing in a paper about what you’re doing with DNA and paternity and immigration. Do you think you can apply it to a murder inquiry?’ We physicalise that.

The murders had a big impact on these three close-knit villages?

Absolutely. When you go there it becomes crystal clear how much of an impact it must have had both in 1983 at the time of the first murder and then - ‘Oh my God it’s happened again’ - in 1986. 

We’re just getting on with filming but occasionally you stand back and go, ‘You actually did this.’ That’s what Leicestershire should be proud of.


David Threlfall

Particularly David, yes. He said it was always there. You start with, say, a group of 40 officers doing house to house inquiries, interviews, the forensics, the pathology. Various people attached to different aspects of the case. Then when results were not forthcoming it gradually dwindles because then other unconnected murders happened elsewhere over the next three years and also had to be investigated. But there was always a team of people trying to pursue this killer. Certainly David - it never left him. It’s that word ‘persistence’ again.

Working with John Simm again for the first time since Men Of The World in the mid-1990s?

John Simm is an old friend. We’ve known each other a long time. That was just a real bonus. I love working with John. We had talked every so often over the years, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if..?’ And then this came up and it was a nice collision of an opportunity for us to work again. Sometimes with people it’s, ‘Oh it feels a bit like last week.’ We’ve not been in and out of each other’s pockets over the last 20 years but we meet socially. It was always my desire to work with John again. He is one of our finest actors.

What was the relationship like between David Baker and Alec Jeffreys?

Professional in terms of getting the job done and in that process they got to know each other. We all went out for dinner during filming in Leicester. David and Alec are delightful company.

As an actor who has played many roles, can you imagine doing the job David did?

I think there are similarities. David talked to me about that when we met. There is a certain forensic approach to trying to get under the skin of playing somebody. Because what interests me is pretending to be somebody else. ‘I do this but they do that. I wouldn’t say that, but they say that.’ It’s being rigorous and thorough about finding something where somebody’s metabolism is different from yours - quicker, slower, more erratic. And just practising that to a level where it becomes a running condition you feel inside you - that somebody else who is not quite you. That’s just more interesting, partly because I get a little bored with being me.

We’re just getting on with filming but occasionally you stand back and go, ‘You actually did this.’ That’s what Leicestershire should be proud of. The fact these two men were literally in the vicinity. Alec doing his work and then David is forward thinking ahead of his time. Musing on how he can get a result on a case that is proving very, very difficult to find the perpertrator. Reading about Alec in a paper and thinking, ‘Maybe he could apply that technique to this?’

If they weren’t together within the radius of Leicester, would it have ever happened? I like to think it would. But the fact it came out then and in such a dramatic way to convince several thousand men to come forward and volunteer to donate blood.

Because this new thing was like a supermarket barcode. A genetic fingerprint that is completely unique. It’s getting the fact that was such a new idea. It’s such a part of our society now. But to be in at that ‘Eureka Moment’ - when you stand back, you think, ‘Wow. That’s quite a thing. A worldwide thing.’

Policing was very different in the 1980s, before national computers and tape recording of interviews - using DNA was a real leap of imagination by David Baker?

Absolutely. David also took the leap to use computers, to use tapes in interviews. There was all sorts of new stuff as well as the introduction of DNA fingerprinting. The use of computers was new. The use of recording equipment to ensure not only what the person being interviewed was saying was correct but that the police were correct. And they weren’t culpable of oppressing a suspect.

As well as leading to countless convictions, DNA has also cleared many innocent people, including some on Death Row in America who would be dead now. They are alive and free today because of DNA testing?

That happened in this first investigation. DNA evidence cleared the teenager who was arrested for the Dawn Ashworth killing. He turned out to be innocent.

An important story to be told in a TV drama?

ITV are commissioning some very interesting dramas and they obviously feel this is an important moment. DNA is used all over the world now. And back in Leicester they used DNA to confirm the fact it was the remains of King Richard III in the car park.

DNA testing has also been used to finally identify unknown soldiers in World War One Graves?

With DNA, if you do find remains you can confirm identity and give families closure.

Have you ever had a ‘Eureka Moment’ of your own?

When Sergio Aguero scored the goal for Manchester City to win the Premiership in 2012.

Source: ITV Press Centre

Share this page: