No Offence’s Will Mellor on the return of Channel 4’s dark, funny police drama: “Nobody’s safe – this show pulls no punches”

The Friday Street gang return this Thursday

“There’s supposed to be a full moon tonight and I’ve got my knickers on back to front. They’re usually both bad omens,” warns maverick DI Vivienne Deering (played by Joanna Scanlan) as a far-right rally breaks out in the opening moments of the third series of Channel 4’s police drama No Offence, which impressively walks the high wire between being grippingly dark and riotously funny. Ahead of the new season starting on Thursday, NME caught up with Will Mellor – who stars as DC Spike Tanner – to find out how the series will see the team tested and “shaken to the core”.

It’s fair to say the new series of No Offence hits the ground running…

“The thing with No Offence is, it doesn’t wait for anybody. If you’re not ready, it’ll certainly wake you up, especially in the first 20 minutes.”

What can you tell us about what happens in season three?

“If anyone’s seen No Offence, it’s of the typical ilk. It’s got a bit of everything. Nobody’s safe. It’s a show that doesn’t suffer fools. It’s very current as well. The story this series is centred around a far-right group who make their voices heard when there’s mayoral elections in Manchester. One of the candidates is called Kashif Hassan and they’re anti-Muslim and against his policies. They claim they’re just being vocal but we think there’s a lot more to it, and in the first episode there’s something that happens that shakes the department to the core and it’s going to test us. Some programs are scared of tackling these issues because they’re scared of offending people, but we don’t pull our punches. We’re politically incorrect and show people how they really are, good and bad, warts and all.”

Did you do much research into your role as a policeman?

“Not really. My brother in law was a policeman and CID, and he actually advised Paul Abbott on the scripts. When it comes to the character of Spike, I’ve played him a few years now, so as soon as I put the suit on, I step back and run with it. The scripts of No Offence are very different because you’ve got very heavy drama, very shocking stuff is happening plus there’s comedy in there as well. It’s a new genre so it’s hard to look towards anything else to see how to do it.”

What’s been the most bizarre moment to film?

“It’s hard to pin down because when you read the scripts, there’s just some stuff that comes out of nowhere. The first time I read No Offence, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know whether it was amazing or rubbish. I didn’t understand it. ‘Cos in the first series, there was a guy who was raping and killing girls with Down’s Syndrome and the next minute, there’s something you’re laughing at. I’ve worked it out – in the detective world, every day throws so many things at you that you’ve got to find light in the darkest of places and just roll with the punches. There’s always something else around the corner. You haven’t got time to take a breath. I think one of the most shocking things was that I read the first script of the first episode and – spoiler alert! – there’s a death where a guy gets expanding foam sprayed into his throat and it comes out of his nose and swells his neck up. (Laughs) It’s a bit warped but I like that because you don’t expect it. I mean, death by expanding foam? Come on!”

“The first time I read No Offence, I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know whether it was amazing or rubbish!”

Has your brother in-in-law ever shared any equally jet-black real life moments with you?

“Years before all the police programs we know today, he used to bring home his police videos so we’d see all this footage he’d recorded in the night. He’d say ‘Watch this! I had to chase this guy last night!’, and we’d watch him chasing cars through the streets of Manchester. He told me of all sorts that went on. When he left the police force, he said you don’t realise the trauma of what you go through when you’re doing the job, but afterwards there’s a comedown from it. You’re being rammed by people in cars, threatened, punched. If that happens on a regular basis, something’s got to break.”

Have you ever had any brushes with the law?

“To be honest I was too scared of my dad, who was strict when it came to me getting in trouble. He was in prison when I was younger and drilled it into me that’s not where I go.”

Which of your roles are you recognised for on the street the most? 

“I still get Jambo from Hollyoaks a lot. But mainly it’s Gaz from Two Pints [Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps] because that was a massive cult hit and it was on all the time – sometimes three or four times a night – and repeated for years after we finished doing it.”

Ralf Little once said that, no pun intended,  “after a couple of pints”, he finds himself “whinging to anyone who’ll listen” about the “snobbish” critical reaction to Two Pints…

“I agree. Massively. I think people appreciate it more now that it’s gone because they weren’t ready for it. It was a show that was ahead of its time. We said things other shows didn’t. Critics wanted to label it as foul-mouthed humour and base, but the reason it ran for so long – nine seasons – was because of the people who watched it, because the critics never gave it a chance. They slaughtered it. We weren’t even invited to the Comedy Awards. When they did the long list of comedies people could vote for, we weren’t included.  The working class man – which I am – loved it and the viewing figures were huge, but the powers that be just banned it. I’m very proud of that show.”

How do you look back on your brief  pop career?

“It was a childhood dream to be honest. Growing up, I wanted to be a pop star and I played the piano and I write music and I’ve always sung. In Hollyoaks, I sang a song in the program and they did a deal with Pete Waterman for me to release a song and I was thrust into it. I went along for the ride and I came out of it because I knew what I looked like doing it and what people were saying about me and it affected me. ‘Soap star turned singer’, there’s no respect for you there. I really love music, but nobody gave me a chance to do anything decent. It was just singing cover songs or cheesy music. I was either going to do proper music or not at all. So I just said this is going to hurt my career as an actor if I carry on. (Laughs) Listen, I laugh about it now.”

What was the worst review it had?

“It really upset me at the time, which was stupid but I was in the bubble thinking my shit didn’t stink. I’d released the song ‘When I Need You’, I was at number five in the charts, and I remember turning on the radio and my song was on. I rang my mum and went ‘Mum! My song’s Radio 1. You won’t believe it!’, but just then they stopped the record and they smashed it up with a hammer. It was a regular part of the show – a band would listen to three songs and they’d smash the one they thought was crap. Looking back, obviously it was cheesy and crap but I was proud of it at the time and it hurt me.”

Apparently Prince William once saved you from a fight…

“He did. I was in a club and got into a scuffle with somebody. I’d met him in the toilets and chatted earlier in the night – he was a really nice, approachable, friendly guy and he didn’t have any security around him. I had an injured knee through playing football so was on crutches, and somebody tried to knock me over on the dancefloor. I’d had a few drinks and it kicked off and I dived on this lad. The next minute, somebody had their arms round my neck saying ‘Leave it Will, he’s not worth it’ – it was Prince William. My mate’s laughing, going: ‘You’ve got the future king of England splitting you up in a fight.’”

No Offence airs Thursday, Channel 4, 9pm