BBC One is to air a new drama from Jimmy McGovern, starring Sean Bean and Anna Friel.

Broken is made by Liverpool’s LA Productions and has previously been described as a “state of the nation” piece.

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Sean Bean stars in Jimmy McGovern’s Broken

Bean is Father Michael Kerrigan, a Catholic priest in a Northern urban parish, who must be confidant, counsellor and confessor, to a community, struggling to cope with its beliefs, faced by the realities of modern day living.

“The idea dates back to around 1982, when I was working on Brookside and kept pushing for a Catholic priest character,” explained McGovern.

“After I left Brookside in 1989 I kept coming back to the idea, but when I couldn’t get it made as a drama series it became the script for my feature film Priest. There was still so much to cover that the idea then stayed with me over the years.”

He said that the appeal of placing a Catholic priest at the centre was down to Confession – “where a person will walk into the room and tell a priest the absolute truth – and the viewer will know it’s the absolute truth, because it’s Confession.”

“I’ve also spoken to so many wonderful priests on Merseyside, and I wanted to write a drama about a priest who’s a good man trying to do the right thing to reflect that.”

Sean Bean added that the idea of playing a priest wasn’t something he’d ever thought of before:

“I’ve been in church and seen priests in front of me, but when you’re actually up there, looking the other way and you’ve got the vestment on it’s quite a different story, let me tell you. I found it quite nerve-wracking the first time. I wanted to get everything right – I guess that’s the thing.”

However, when asked to play the part, it was working again with McGovern which drew him in:

“I worked with Jimmy on The Accused and I had a wonderful time. It was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and when Jimmy came up with the idea of playing a priest I was very flattered that he should think of me to play the role. I just jumped at the chance.

“I met Jimmy about two years ago in London alongside [Executive Producer for LA Productions] Colin McKeown, and he was enthusiastically throwing out ideas – acting them out in front of me – and it was just fascinating to see what he had in his head. Describing this character who did some pretty bad things – that we don’t know about at the beginning of the series – before discovering something else and deciding to become a priest. That’s how it all began.

“Jimmy’s scripts for the series started arriving two years later and I was just flabbergasted by them, because he had really thrown his heart and soul into it. The depth of the writing and the honesty and the bravery of what he was getting down on paper – he really went for it. So I wanted to play Father Michael because it’s such a terrific story.”

Despite the prolific nature of his writing recently, McGovern admitted that sometimes it doesn’t feel that way:

“I sit down to write eight hours a day and sometimes I don’t write a word; it’s so bloody hard, you may as well write about something that matters because it won’t be any harder. And of course, if you can do somebody a favour or if you can help a cause or help people searching for justice then it’s a no-brainer to do that. If you are helping people who are searching for justice that provides you with an energy that wasn’t there before. They keep me going – touching on important issues that affect people who are skint.”

Broken airs on BBC One from 23rd May at 9pm.