Ross Kemp: ‘There are people who thought I would take sides in Northern Ireland’
Kemp feels the depiction of Belfast’s marching season in his new series is balanced, but is he as neutral as he believes?
‘I’m about getting people who wouldn’t normally care to take an interest in what’s going on around the world.’ Ross Kemp in Dublin recently. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Over a cup of frothy coffee in a swish Ballsbridge hotel, Ross Kemp recalls the diciest moment he has endured to date while filming his documentary series Extreme World, which returns to Sky 1 tonight.
“One guy’s got his weapon pointed at me, yeah?” he says, acting out the incident. “I’m thinking, right, is there a round in that gun? Now his mate pulls a shotgun at me. So I’m pushing it away, going: ‘Are you going to shoot me? Are you going to shoot me?’ ”
The incident occurred in Papua New Guinea (which Kemp confusingly refers as “PNG”, so that I’m initially picturing the offices of some high-rolling firm of financial consultants). The gunmen ordered Kemp and his crew down on their hands and knees. Kemp refused. “We could get raped,” he says, “our camera could get stolen. Or maybe they just want to have a laugh at us. I don’t know. But if either of these guys pulls the trigger, I’ve got a hole in my back.”
Thankfully, the situation was defused and the former soap star has once again lived to yell the tale.
The new series of Extreme World finds Kemp prowling the streets and slums of Mumbai, Kolkata, Rio, Beirut and Belfast, often without security. What provision have the producers made for the possibility of their star getting kidnapped?”
“We get daily intelligence updates wherever we go,” he says. “I can’t really go into that side of things, but yeah, we’re fully trained. The insurance companies wouldn’t let us out there if we weren’t.”
If the worst came to the worst, presumably Sky would fork out a few quid for him? There is a Sky representative seated at the other side of the room. Kemp glances around at her.
“That’s what I like to think,” he grins.
Not given to introspection
In person, the TV hard man is very much as he comes across on screen: polite, confident, forceful in his opinions, prone to overusing military-style acronyms and jargon without warning or explanation, and – you would have to say – not especially given to introspection.
Kemp shot to fame playing Falklands war veteran Grant Mitchell in the BBC’s EastEnders from 1990 to 1999. He has returned a couple of time since then and he refuses to rule out the possibility of yet another return. “Never say never,” he shrugs.
Subsequent acting roles included a string of mostly turgid ITV dramas, in which he played security specialists, police detectives and a staff sergeant in the SAS.