Christopher Eccleston

First image credit: Super Festivals / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)
Second image credit: Ian West

Salford actor Christopher Eccleston returns to our screens in the emotional drama The A Word  – and says the series has provoked a special response from television audiences.

The show, which begins a third series next week, focuses on an autistic boy called Joe and his family in which Eccleston plays the grumpy-but-loveable grandad Maurice Scott.

Eccleston said: “This programme has connected me with the public like no other, because everybody seems to be touched in some way, by autism or Down’s syndrome.

“People are going to be watching it in lockdown, and it’s about families being on top of each other and involved in each other’s lives – it will be quite an interesting reaction.”

Since The A Word last aired in 2017, fans have been eagerly stopping members of the cast on the street to find out when the poignant show would be back.

In the third series – once again written by Peter Bowker – Eccleston’s character has seen some changes.

“At the grand old age of 56, he’s involved in a settled relationship again, and his children are all falling apart. He’s quite bewildered by that,” he told the Press Association’s Georgia Humphreys.

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“That’s what Peter’s strength is – he writes about ageing and sudden changes in people’s lives, and communication.”

The A Word is the longest job Eccleston has ever done.

“We’ve made 18 hours of telly, playing these characters,” he continues, avidly.

“A lot has happened to me in the last five years, between 52 and 57, and similarly with Maurice. At the beginning, he was grieving his wife, he’d lost any sense of anchor and then we see him meet Louise… loads has happened. It’s odd playing a character for this long.”

He later touches on how supportive The A Word team were about his mental health issues (in early 2016, he had a breakdown and spent his 52nd birthday in a psychiatric hospital).

He said: “I got poorly towards the end of the first series, and then I think the second series was only the second job since I came out of hospital.”

The cast are hopeful they’ll get to work together again on The A Word in the future.

Eccleston, best known as the ninth Doctor Who, has made several appearances in blockbuster films such as Thor: The Dark World and 28 Days Later.

He has also appeared in West End productions, including both Hamlet and Macbeth.

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The A Word returns to BBC One on Tuesday, May 5

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