The Virtues: Stephen Graham Reunites With This Is England Creator Shane Meadows In His Deeply Personal New Drama

Ash Percival

While John Corbett’s body is barely even cold after meeting a particularly grisly end in Line Of Duty, actor Stephen Graham is already back on our screens this week.

He is taking the lead role in brand new Channel 4 drama The Virtues, which sees him reunite with This Is England creator Shane Meadows.

And while his character is a world away from the rogue undercover operative Stephen played in Line Of Duty, he is equally troubled.

Stephen Graham is returning to our screens in The Virtues

Joseph is a recovering alcoholic whose sobriety is threatened when his ex-partner moves to Australia with their young son.

With his life turned upside down, he decides to confront demons from his past, which he has spent years using alcohol and drugs to cover up.

The new four-part series see him head to the south of Ireland to revisit his childhood, which was largely spent in the care system, in a tale of repressed memory, apocalyptic revenge and the hope of redemption.

It is a hugely personal story for writer Shane Meadows, as it is based on his own memories of childhood sexual abuse, which he spent years trying to block out.

Stephen plays Joseph in this new Channel 4 drama

At the age of nine, Shane was sexually assaulted by an older child – something he admits deeply affected the rest of his life.

He says: “I’d suffered on-and-off with anxiety and depression for a lot of my adult life. In the late ’80s and early ’90s I’d tried to keep it at bay by going out clubbing, but I realised the route of all this was something in my past that I hadn’t really acknowledged, let alone properly dealt with.

“So, the essence of Joe’s journey was borne out of me discovering that things that happen to you as a kid can be so traumatic that you can completely push them out of your mind as some kind of survival mechanism.”

Of making the The Virtues, he continues: “It became both a way for me to turn a damaging event in my childhood into something positive, while at the same time, shine a light on how deeply childhood trauma, abuse and neglect can affect us in our adult lives.”

Working with Shane was the one thing that immediately signed the deal for Stephen, who he says has found real truth with The Virtues.

“He’s amazing, just wonderful. He’s an actor’s dream,” he says. “Shane represents everything I ever hoped acting would be.

“If I could sign a paper saying once a year I could make a film with Shane, I would.”

This Is England creator Shane Meadows based The Virtues on his own childhood trauma

Stephen says the show – which is largely improvised – is one of the proudest moments of his illustrious career.

“It’s the one I’ve put everything into,” he says. “I’m extremely proud of it. I really hope we’ve created a character of complete truth. It means the world to me, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever worked on.”

And as someone who has just had a starring role in the year’s most popular and critically acclaimed dramas, that’s a ringing endorsement for The Virtues.

The Virtues begins on Wednesday at 9pm on Channel 4.