Welcome to Hope Street, a new crime series available on GBH Passport that shines a light on everyday life in Northern Ireland.
Set in the present in the fictional town of Port Devine in Northern Ireland, the sudden arrival of detective Leila Hussain, played by Amara Karan—the first Muslim on the police force—gets locals talking. Why is she there? The only one who knows is Inspector Finn O’Hare, played by Ciarán McMenamin, and he isn’t sharing his secret.
An English woman whose parents came from Pakistan, Hussain will need to learn quickly about a community whose habits and history are different from her own. At the same time, the residents of Port Devine will begin to question their long-held beliefs about people and cultures they’ve never experienced before.
Series creator Paul Marquess has some inside knowledge about Northern Ireland. Born and raised in Belfast, he left to pursue a career in theater and television in the 1980s, at the height of what’s known as “The Troubles.” In Hope Street, Marquess said he wanted to focus not on the region’s violent past, but rather on the Northern Irish people who help each other and get along.
“What we see is a community pulling together and trying to sort things out,” he said. “I think for a lot of people this is a view of Northern Ireland they haven’t seen before.”
At the same time, Marquess said he and co-creator Susanne Farrell—who is also from Northern Ireland—did not want to completely erase its difficult history from the series. In their mix of characters, they have included Des McAleer as Barry Pettigrew, a retired policeman who represents the unionist Protestant side.
Tony Award winner Bríd Brennan plays Concepta O’Hare, the mother of the local police inspector representing the nationalist Catholic side.
“In a way, these two are very much the heart of our show because they think they hate each other, but deep down they love each other,” Marquess said. “Those characters are based on people who Susie and I grew up with, were related to, were infuriated by and also loved,” he said. “So, there might be a little tinge of nostalgia from our childhood in some of these characters.”
Hope Street is not like other police dramas, Marquess said. “Each episode of the 10-part series is centered around a crime, but they’re not grisly murders,” he said. “We wanted to make a show that anybody could watch at any time where people didn’t feel like they were being put off by violence or bad language. It’s very accessible, and some of it is downright fun.”
The series is surprisingly upbeat and life affirming, Marquess said. “It’s about people getting into trouble, making mistakes and breaking the law, and sorting all that out as a community,” he said.
“My hope is that Northern Ireland could be more like Hope Street.”
Part of the reason the drama is so popular is that the characters are people the audience can relate to and identify with. “We wanted to create a set of characters who you would want to spend time with and a place where you would want to spend time in,” he said. “It’s the acting that really brings that to fruition. We’ve been blessed with a really fantastic cast.”
Giving it a distinctly Northern Ireland flavor, the cast of Hope Street is mostly made up of local actors, including McMenamin, McAleer and Brennan. The series is filmed in the scenic seaside town of Donaghadee in Northern Ireland.
A U.K. fan favorite, Hope Street is the right show for this moment.
“Life has been a bit tough—for two or three years at least,” said Marquess, adding that the series shows how people can bounce back after the worst of times. “I really do believe it gives audiences a fresh view of Northern Ireland.”