New BBC crime drama Bloodlands sees the reunion of pals Ian McElhinney and James Nesbitt who both started their acting career at the same time in the same production of Oliver!
Game of Thrones and Derry Girls star Ian told Showbiz Life ahead of tonight's airing of the show's first episode that he has known the Cold Feet actor (56) for more than 40 years.
The Belfast actor said: "I've known Jimmy since he was 13 years of age. It's extraordinary how small the world can be. My first job as a professional actor was when I was 30 years of age. I decided, 'if you're going to do this, you'd better get on with it'. And it was playing Bill Sykes in Oliver!
"At the time, the kids in the show were cast from local school kids and one of them was Jimmy Nesbitt. He played the Artful Dodger (below), and Mark Curruthers of the BBC played Oliver. He and Mark were school kids together in Coleraine Inst. Jimmy had never been on stage before but he was born to do it. I thought if this kid doesn't go into the theatre, there's something wrong, because of the natural confidence on the stage and he had a lot of charm, which he has always and he had great singing voice. So, it wasn't a big surprise whenever Jimmy did opt to go into it.
"Occasionally, our paths have crossed but although I've known him for a long time we haven't actually worked that much, a few times like Cold Feet and Murphy's Law. So this was really nice."
While Ian has become much loved as the grumpy granda on Derry Girls the 72-year-old is happy to return to dramatic acting for his role in the BBC One drama.
He explained: "I am absolutely delighted as the more variety, the better. No actor in an ideal world wants to get stuck with a certain kind of label where he only does x, and that's all you ever get to do. You want ideally to be to be doing serious heavy drama if that's what is offered you and you want something lighter. You want to sort of have a bit of variety in the characters you play and the worlds in which you're involved so the more variety, the better and the happier I am."
Ian plays Ian Corrie in Jed Mercurio produced drama, which was filmed around Northern Ireland while Jimmy is police detective Tom Brannick, who connects an infamous cold case to a car containing a suicide note, which is pulled out of Strangford Lough.
"It's fiction," the actor explained. "But in a sense it relates to a truth. Back in the day, people went missing and certain things were probably not thoroughly investigated because it was the Good Friday Agreement and nobody wanted to rock the boat. But it looks like a past case is being dug up again and seems that the evidence that's coming forward suggests that in some way these are all connected.
"My character lost a brother in these events."
Bloodlands starts tonight at 9pm on BBC One.