A real life undercover cop who the IRA tried to murder has been revealed as Jimmy Nesbitt's inspiration for his role as TV's hardest detective, DS Tommy Murphy.
Ex-cop Peter Bleksley - who was shot at, stabbed and held hostage during 10 years working undercover - has been hailed by the Ulster-born star as the man who put the steel into the revamped BBC1 series, Murphy's Law.
Bleksley has been inspiring the actor with stories of how he passed himself off as a criminal low life to infiltrate ruthless gangs - including taking drugs, driving while drunk and even having drug-fuelled sex with a woman linked to a cocaine smuggling racket.
Nesbitt, who is in awe of Bleksley, says the retired detective helped transform his character and the series when he was recruited as a consultant a couple of years ago.
"Murphy was a loveable Irish rogue and I wanted to get a way from that," he says.
"I wanted to find a real character, with real pain and a real life. Pete gave us a believable case to work on."
Bleksley talks candidly about his dangerous former existence working undercover in England and the toll it took in his personal life in an interview in the current edition of the Radio Times.
"I was shot at, stabbed and held hostage," says the ex-detective who reckons he "put hundreds of people in jail".
But it was case involving IRA drug dealers that led to him suffering a nervous breakdown.
He spent a year in disguise and the pressure put paid to his long-term relationship with the mother of his 19-year-old son.
When it emerged that IRA drug smugglers had recruited a hitman to kill him, he had to relocate to a safe house.
"I'd put the key in the door and the first thing I'd do was drink. I was drinking too much and became a monster. I became increasingly paranoid, perhaps not surprisingly with all that pressure."
Of his breakdown, he says: "I was very seriously ill and I spent three-and-a-half weeks in a lock-in psychiatric ward."
Happily, he made a full recovery and after leaving the police in 1999 got married and became a father again. He's now a consultant on four TV dramas.
Looking back on the days when he had to take drugs or drive while drunk to pass himself off as a credible crook, he says: "Sometimes it was the only way that the job was going to be progressed."
He says that some senior officers were deliberately kept in the dark about his methods. And he reveals how he once literally had to go under cover to smash a cocaine smuggling operation.
Posing as a bar owner, he befriended a female health club worker who was involved with a foreign embassy official suspected of bringing drugs into Britain inside diplomatic bags.
"In the run-up to the deal, she and I got closer. And if you're going to act the role, you've got to be the role. And yeah, we slept together," Bleksley tells the Radio Times.
Jimmy Nesbitt says that having spent so long with Bleksley, he sometimes wonders why undercover cops carry on because "they end up drinking too much, getting screwed around in the head, their lives often destroyed."
Bleksley himself says bluntly: "I look back on it now and it was all a waste of time. Today there are more drugs on the streets than ever. Everything I went through, the relationships I sacrificed, all of that, and for what?
"I wish I'd just walked the beat for 30 years."