When writer Chris Brandon first came up with the idea for Bloodlands five years ago, he never for a moment thought that the end product would be a prime-time series on BBC One.
"I think, in my head I was like, I'm gonna make this for a fiver with my best friend," laughs the 39-year-old, who grew up in Strangford.
"I'd been working as an actor in London for about 10 years and then I started writing and I've been doing that full-time now for five years."
Bloodlands is Chris's first original drama series commission and the first drama from newly-formed production company HTM Television.
His previous credits include several episodes of the TV3 police show, Red Rock, and the online comedy series Woodville.
"I'm absolutely delighted that the first opportunity I get to tell a story on this scale, is one that's so close to home and the people and places that raised me," he says.
"I first got the idea in 2013 when I came back to Strangford to visit family and to help a childhood friend make a short film," recalls Chris, who now lives in London with wife Emily, an interior designer, and their two young children aged four and one.
"My friend's film was set in the house next door to where I grew up and my own memories of the land and its people came flooding back. It was then that the idea occurred to me to tell the story of someone whose journey is inextricably linked to that of the land - a kind of allegory, if you will, about the moment Northern Ireland finds itself in now.
"It's also absolutely inspired by the area. Strangford Lough is such a beautiful place. I was inspired by the islands - that great sort of archipelago of islands - and the light. It always felt very cinematic and I thought it would be a great place to tell a story that had a very distinct sense of place.
"I wrote a speculative script and gave it to my agent and she somehow got it into the hands of Jed Mercurio. He liked it and he knew Northern Ireland and was keen to go ahead with it, which was fantastic.
"Together with executive producer Mark Redhead, whose own experience of working in Northern Ireland, on projects such as Bloody Sunday, had given him an exhaustive knowledge of the Troubles, we were able to collaborate on building a storyline across four hours that could be both a thrilling and resonant drama."
Although he was born in England, Chris grew up in Northern Ireland (his mum is English and his dad is from Ballymoney) and attended Rockport School in Holywood before going to Dublin to study English at Trinity College and then moving to London to study acting at LAMDA.
"I come back to Northern Ireland regularly to see friends and family - in fact one of our family friends plays a farmer in episode one of Bloodlands and some of the crew actually knew me when I was a baby, which was very strange," he laughs.
The legacy of the Troubles provides the backdrop to Bloodlands. Growing up, how did Chris view what was happening in those days?
"It was just part of everyday life, part of the woodwork," he says. "Nobody has captured it better for me than Lisa Magee with Derry Girls, which I thought was fantastic.
"I was roughly the same age at the same time so even the music resonates. What was going on was always part of the conversation and part of our consciousness. You look back now and think how strange it all was, but then it was very much part of day to day life. We thought it was normal.
"It's 23 years since the Good Friday Agreement, but the foundations of peace are delicate. The legacy of violence has left indelible scars. How Northern Ireland moves forward, depends very much on how it deals with its past.
"Many feel there may be peace but there is still injustice. Many question how there can be reconciliation without truth."
He adds: "These struggles exist in Tom Brannick, the central character in Bloodlands. As a veteran detective, he has a foot in both the past and the present.
"He has hope for the future in the potential of his daughter but he is stopped from moving forward by the resurrection of an assassin myth; a symbol of police collusion in past violence that holds deeply personal significance.
"Having James Nesbitt in the lead role was beyond my wildest imagination," says Chris. "But he came on-board really early in the project and was very instrumental in getting it commissioned.
"He is absolutely brilliant as Brannick. It's a very difficult and very multi-layered performance."
Chris reveals that when he was studying English at Trinity, he was toying with the idea of becoming a journalist.
"I didn't think that acting and writing and TV was a possibility until I went to university then I started doing a lot of plays - probably more plays than work," he laughs.
Although he enjoyed roles in ITV drama Endeavour, he was mostly a theatre actor. The last job he had was in London's West End playing the manager of The Kinks in a show called Sunny Afternoon.
"That was great fun," he says. And a really great way to end my time as an actor."
Could he ever be tempted to 'tread the boards' again?
"Never say never," he laughs. "But I'm writing full-time now and I'm very happy - maybe happier than I was as an actor."
One thing that really stands out in Bloodlands is how beautiful Belfast and the area around Strangford Lough is.
"Peter Travis, the director, has done an amazing job," says Chris. "But it was an unbelievably cold shoot," he laughs.
"Jed really encouraged me to be on set, and to see how everything works and to see the implications of what you write, and how that's interpreted, because obviously, as soon as it leaves your hands, it becomes a collaborative project with hundreds of people to make it work.
"When I originally wrote it, I'd written it for autumn and then at one point we were thinking of shooting in the summer. Then we ended up shooting in January and February last year.
"My influences and indeed inspirations come from Scandinavian police dramas and American shows such as True Detective and of course Jed's work as well, so the bleakness of winter was the perfect backdrop.
"The area around Strangford Lough is so incredibly beautiful even at that time of year. The austere beauty of scarred and sodden hillsides, the windswept islands and bouldered shorelines always seemed, in themselves, to hold the memory of stories past."
With Covid hitting last year, Chris realises that they got filming wrapped up just in time.
"It's impacted everyone and it has been an incredibly challenging year for those people who work in and around production itself, because nothing's been going on," he says.
"As a writer you can obviously go back to your desk and keep developing your own ideas. I've been very fortunate that I haven't necessarily noticed a sort of a full stop.
"And because I'm early in my writing career I don't know otherwise - I don't know how full-on I'm supposed to be."
So, is there a chance that we could see more of Tom Brannick in the future?
"That's the hope. That would be great. Who knows? Maybe…" he laughs."
Bloodlands begins this Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.
It's hard to believe, but the normally chatty James Nesbitt was often rendered speechless while filming Bloodlands.
"At times it was hard to speak, my mouth would be paralysed and I just couldn't get my jaw moving," he says.
"It was incredibly cold, particularly when we had to go down to the islands of Strangford Lough.
"We'd be transporting crew, equipment, food, toilets, to these remote islands and it was bitterly cold, the wind really comes and cuts you through to the bone.
"It was a hard and brutal shoot - challenging but at the same time, fabulous."
James reveals that he jumped at the chance to play detective Tom Brannick having always wanted to work with executive producer Jed Mercurio.
"A couple of years ago, Jed showed me Chris's script. It was a real thriller and had Jimmy Mulville and Mark Redhead attached, who I had worked with before on The Secret and Bloody Sunday, and Pete Travis who directed me years ago on Cold Feet.
"So, it felt like familiar ground with people I really respected, and it was such a perfect fit going back to Northern Ireland, doing something contemporary and brilliantly written.
"I was also attracted to it because of my involvement with the charity Wave, and its work with victims and survivors over the years."
James adds that he felt an immediate connection with Tom Brannick.
"Brannick has been a policeman for more than 20 years. He started out when it was the RUC that transformed to the PSNI and would have been there when peace came to Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement.
"He's a decent man, someone who has known real tragedy during the Troubles. When the name 'Goliath' comes up, an assassin possibly in the police force, we find out that one of the victims was his wife, Emma.
"Brannick was quite familiar to me, because I knew a lot of police officers when I was younger and my family were in the police, so it was familiar territory.
"We had a police advisor on set, who was great, just in terms of technical things; the way you communicate with people, the relationships that you have, the attention to detail, particularly worrying about the constant threat from paramilitaries.
"But also, so much of it was already imbued in me.
"The series is a classic Jed Mercurio thriller, where you're not really sure what's going on, with many different stories interwoven into it. I think it will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
"And they'll get a chance to see Northern Ireland in its beauty. It will show Northern Ireland in a different light for people, on both sides of the water."