In his years in the industry he has developed a chameleon-like ability to slip into myriad characters. As such, the roles he bagged were deliciously complex and layered.
Right now, he’s in BBC First’s new six-part drama, Broken, in which he’s been cast as a Catholic priest.
Shedding light on his character, Bean reveals: “Father Michael (Kerrigan) is the parish priest for the particular small town where Broken takes place. He’s embedded in the community and he has an interesting relationship with many of the characters that you see across the series. He’s fighting an uphill battle with quite a few of them.
"To them, he represents an organisation - a religion - that has not really lived up to their or their loved ones’ expectations in the past. This means some are reluctant to have anything to do with him and don’t believe in what he believes in. Then there are others who see him as a figure of respect and go to him for advice when they’ve no one else to turn to - it’s a real mix.”
He continues: “Father Michael therefore has to adapt to each character as he sees them. In a productive way, he understands that there’s a certain kind of negativity towards the priesthood and towards religion in general, so it’s not a simple job for him to find his way through this mini battlefield of how people regard him as a priest.
"He does his best to accommodate and approach them in a way that is very honest. It’s a community that has mixed feelings about religion these days, which I think is representative of our country as a whole. He’s very well-meaning, and he’s also someone who is carrying a lot of sadness, grief and guilt - and horrific memories of the past.”
Of all the characters he has tackled in the past, playing a priest was never on his artistic radar.
He admits: “Though I’ve had dealings with priests and churches before, I’d never really thought about playing a priest. I’ve been in church and seen priests in front of me, but when you’re actually up there, and vested in the story, let me tell you I found it quite nerve-wracking the first time. I wanted to get everything right. We worked with a wonderful guy, Father Denis. He’s a very approachable man, very knowledgeable and he helped me through the process of making the character look authentic.”
On working with writer-creator Jimmy McGovern, he says: “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. 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.”
He recalls: “I met Jimmy about two years ago in London alongside Colin McKeown (executive producer for LA Productions), 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. He described 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.”
His excitement about showcasing his craft in this series is unmistakable.
He explains: “Jimmy’s writing is so visceral, real and just straight from the heart. I think it’s one of the reasons why a lot of actors want to work with him. He’s got a brilliant gift for flowing natural dialogue and he intersperses it with very dry, very funny lines. How he’s written six episodes I think is quite incredible. It involves so many characters who are all dealt with very deeply. There’s no padding. Each character has been heavily invested in by Jimmy and they’re there for a reason. They’re essential to the plot, to the script, to all our characters. How he’s managed to do that is incredible.”
Aside from Broken mirroring the harsh realities and struggles of life, McGovern has planted a few twists to ensure there’s plenty of dramatic sway for viewers.
* Broken airs on BBC First (DStv channel 119) on Sundays at 9pm.