Downton Abbey star Allen Leech is back on our screens in a one-off fact-based BBC drama.
Written by Gwyneth Hughes, who recently adapted Vanity Fair for ITV, Doing Money tells a shocking true story about slavery in modern Britain.
The hard-hitting story follows the heartbreaking and compelling story of Ana, a young woman snatched in broad daylight from a London street and trafficked to Ireland.
The new 90-minute film aired on BBC Two earlier this month and is available for UK viewers to watch online now on BBCiPlayer.
Warning: Doing Money contains scenes that some viewers may find upsetting.
Here Irish actor Allen Leech, best known as Tom Branson in Downton, chats about his role as police investigator DI Dougie Grant in Doing Money:
What kind of character is Dougie?
“Dougie is a man with incredible integrity and a real sense of doing the right thing and doing right by these girls… He certainly took on what he was doing with great gusto and great determination, so reading what he did and the difficulties he had in how to get certain things done… and the frustrations he suffered…
“I think he’s an incredible man with amazing integrity and determination.”
Did it feel like a big responsibility, reflecting a real person in a really important case?
“I think when you’re playing anyone who has lived or is living you have a real responsibility to try and bring across that character, be it their achievements or the blemishes within what they’ve done.
“With Dougie, because he’s worked so hard on something that is so important and pertinent right now in the world there is a greater sense of duty to make sure you do right by it. But apparently he saw it last night and he was happy. That was good to know.”
Were you shocked when you read the script?
“I was shocked that this was the first time I was coming across a script like this. I was shocked that this hadn’t been brought forward into the public domain earlier. I was also shocked with how they managed to entrap these girls.
“They played on the most vulnerable parts of all of their lives, their families and those they care about the most. I think it is so chilling and evil to tell someone that they have to become the martyr to save their family’s life. It’s so insidious… someone stripped them of all of their humanity. That’s something that really shook me.
“I was also shocked by Ana’s story and her bravery to come forward – what that’s taken within her and the risks she’s taken in order to do that. And also what shocked me was, given what these girls have gone through, the pittance of the sentence that the gang got is infuriating.”
Do you think that it will make you look at people in the street differently? This situation could happen in a residential street…
“A line that really struck me within the piece is when Ana says to Dougie, “we’re all around you – you just have to look”. It does make you sit up and think. Not that you’re out there scouring every face, but it does give you a certain level of awareness that you might not have normally. It enters into your psyche.”
How did you research the role?
“I didn’t meet Dougie himself but you can find a lot of stuff that he’s talked about online. I did that. Lynsey, the director, did a fantastic job and I could go to her for advice.
“The production spoke to Dougie at length on many occasions so were able to relay a lot of that.”
What do you hope audiences might take from this?
“I think the fact that it’s a story that could be happening anywhere, it doesn’t have to be Belfast, Galway, Cork or Dublin – it could be happening in your town. I want people to have an awareness and start to talk about it. If there’s anyone who is actually using these girls… it’s a call for them to wake up and to realise that what you’re doing is an offence.
“These girls have no interest in having sex with you, so you are raping the person you go into that room with. If there’s some way of getting through to the people who are actually using these girls… I’d love to see that happen.
“I don’t know what the chances are of that happening… But we want to get people talking and bringing up the subject and questioning why it’s so difficult to save and help these girls…
“If it opens up a dialogue about what could be done to help these girls, that would be great. And also to truly applaud and recognise Ana’s bravery in coming forward to tell her story.”
Did you enjoy taking on this role? Was it challenging?
“For me it was more about the importance of doing the piece.
“I think the challenge was to make sure that you portray the character as he was; to make sure he had that level of integrity and determination, to highlight the frustrations that he had to go through, and to make sure you do right by your character and to make sure that the piece does right by Ana.”
Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection box set is available on Amazon here.
The Downton Abbey movie will be released in cinemas next September.