Filming starts on 'masterful' Liverpool drama

Sean Bean will play Fr Michael Kerrigan in the BBC drama 'Broken': flickr/Public Domain
Sean Bean will play Fr Michael Kerrigan in the BBC drama 'Broken': flickr/Public Domain

Filming has begun on a new BBC drama series entitled Broken, which has been written by Jesuit alumnus, Jimmy McGovern, and stars Sean Bean and Anna Friel. Centred around a Catholic priest in a Northern urban parish, the Church of St Francis Xavier in Liverpool is being used as a location for the six-part series which is due to be shown on BBC One after Christmas.

Jimmy McGovern was brought up five minutes’ walk away from Saint Francis Xavier’s Church (SFX) and went to SFX infants and primary school. He then went on to be taught by the Jesuits at St Francis Xavier’s College in Liverpool. Among his many scriptwriting credits are Brookside and Cracker; he also wrote the screenplay for the 1994 drama Priest.

The central character in Broken is Father Michael Kerrigan, played by Sean Bean. The BBC has described the character as “modern and maverick, yet reassuringly flawed”, adding that he “must be confidante, counsellor and confessor to a conflicted congregation who, like himself, struggles to reconcile its beliefs with the hypocrisies demanded by contemporary Britain”. In the first episode, Fr Michael states that he was inspired in his vocation by The Windhover, a sonnet by the Jesuit poet and priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins.

St Francis Xavier’s is a popular Merseyside church for film-makers and television dramas. It has been used as a location for films such as Liam, which was directed by Stephen Frear, and provided the setting for some of the action in the police series L1.St Francis Xavier's Church, Liverpool

A brave and truthful script

Jimmy McGovern previously worked with Sean Bean in Accused, which ran on BBC One between 2010 and 2012; he was also the creator of Banished. Bean – who recently starred as Ned Stark in the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones – says he is very excited at the prospect of working with Jimmy McGovern again. “His scripts are raw and real and he creates fantastic and interesting characters that resonate with society today.”

Anna Friel first worked with Jimmy McGovern on the award-winning show The Street and she says she is also looking forward to his latest drama. “The Street gave me one of my most rewarding roles and afterwards I promised myself that I would collaborate with Jimmy McGovern again. When the chance came up to work on Broken I jumped at it,” she says. “It’s a typically brave and truthful script from Jimmy and I’m back up North. It’s an important subject and a unique character. I can’t wait.”

Broken will be produced for BBC One by Colin McKeown and Donna Molloy for LA Productions. McKeown described it as “a state-of-the-nation piece in Liverpool”. The executive Producer will be Lucy Richer, Acting Controller of BBC Drama. “Jimmy McGovern is a masterful storyteller whose characters truly strike a chord,” she says, “and I am thrilled that the brilliant Sean Bean is taking on the lead role in his fantastic new series for BBC One."

Founded by the Jesuits in 1845, SFX was at one time the largest Catholic parish in England, with 13,000 parishioners. It suffered from depopulation in the area in the 1970s but the parish is now witnessing a rebirth after many years of neglect, with a multi-million pound renovation of the church.