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Mark Alexander 2021-07-13
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The judge referred to a video from January 6 where the man claims he's at the White House when he was actually at the Capitol.
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Mark Alexander 2021-05-26
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Sometimes the best thing to do on Twitter or Facebook is to just shut up … isn’t it?
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Mark Alexander 2021-03-04
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Nick Frost has revealed he turned down a part in the most recent Star Wars trilogy as he felt the pay he was offered “was rubbish”.

The comic actor is best known for his performances in films like Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, in which he appeared opposite Simon Pegg.

However, while his frequent collaborator appeared in The Force Awakens (in voice form, at least), Nick admitted that he was less tempted by Disney’s offer.

Nick Frost pictured in 2018

“I got offered a part in Star Wars.” he told the podcast Celebrity Catch Up. “It was only a little bit but I was like, [the part’s] really small, the pay’s rubbish... I’ve got a family – I don’t do this for free.

“I mean I like Star Wars, I like watching it. I don’t want to watch it and think ‘look at your ugly mug’.”

Nick didn’t specify exactly which part it was that he turned down, but insisted that he has no regrets about the decision.

“There’s a part of me that thinks ‘you could have been in Star Wars’... but fuck it,” he said.

“I tend to not to look backwards at all, so that doesn’t really affect me as a choice I took because I think well, it’s done. I’ve made the decision.”

Simon Pegg's character as seen in The Force Awakens

Last week, Tom Holland made another Star Wars casting admission, revealing he had been in line to play John Boyega’s character in the latest trilogy, before unfortunately messing up during a crucial audition.

Listen to Nick’s interview in full on the podcast Celebrity Catch Up: Life After That Thing I Did.

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Mark Alexander 2020-08-12
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Apple has been busy snapping up esteemed writers and directors left and right.
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Mark Alexander 2021-07-12
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Season 2 of Never Have I Ever arrives this week.
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Mark Alexander 2021-04-15
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And Biden announces the end of America's longest war.
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Mark Alexander 2021-02-05
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This week, we discuss Elon Musk's drop-in and how the platform is weathering its growing pains.
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Mark Alexander 2020-08-12
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Sharmadean Reid: 'I think to employ working mothers you have to be empathetic to their experience.'

This story is part of Black Ballad’s takeover of HuffPost UK, a week-long series by Black women on parenting, family, and our post-Covid future. 

Sitting in her car, with her nine-year-old son Roman in the passenger seat, Sharmadean Reid is refreshingly honest about parenting during a pandemic. 

“I had a massive breakdown in the beginning, because Roman was going to private school. It had lockdown a week before all of the other schools, because posh people like to travel and there were two cases in the school, even before they announced that schools needed to close,” says the beauty entrepreneur.

“I am a Black mum who wants her child to do well and be amazing and I was freaking out that he wasn’t learning anything.”

Many parents felt the same pangs of panic when the government announced school closures in March. Yet, like other families dealing with homeschooling, Reid made the best of a situation that none of us had ever experienced.  

“After a couple of weeks, I had to really organise,” she says. ”One of the critical things for us was when I went to my office and got a desk for him. I got loads of stationery and re-organised his bedroom, so it was more like a workspace and then we settled down into a really nice rhythm.”  

If you know anything about Sharmadean Reid, you’ll know that this 36-year-old is on a relentless mission to empower women through the beauty industry – and to provide working mums with opportunities to succeed beyond measure. This passion to ensure working mums can fulfil their career ambitions started back in 2009, when she founded her first business, Wah Nails.

Reid at work: 'A lot of women will eventually give other people jobs.'

Not only did Reid achieve her quest of creating the coolest nail shop in London – with stores in Dalston, east London and in Topshop’s flagship branch at Oxford Circus – Wah Nails also built pop-up nail bars for brands including British Airways, Marc Jacobs and Nike.

And it was through these innovative ventures that she was able to employ numerous single mums. “There are not many jobs you can do when you are a mum that are flexible but beauty is one of them,” she says – adding that many of the jobs that do have flexibility ”tend to not be as gratifying”.

“The thing about working in a salon is that it is really satisfying. You are tapping into your creative brain that you might not get to do when you are running around being mum and there is the social interaction element. I’ve always thought that beauty was a really important part of the future of work and the future of work for women – as it’s paid, flexible, creative and social work.”  

She adds: “The way that it happened with Wah, we just endorsed them. A lot of women who were very enterprising were like: ‘I am going to learn how to do nails because I’ve got a kid and I need to pick him up from school when I want.’

“It kinda turned out that they choose me. We all know what it is like when your babysitter cancels or your child is ill. I think to employ working mothers you have to be empathetic to their experience and that can be hard if you have never been a caregiver before.” 

The Wah Nails colour range.

Now, after a decade of revolutionising the beauty industry, Reid has closed all her stores to focus on her current venture, Beautystack, an app that acts as a marketplace for next-generation beauty professionals to sell their services and take bookings directly from clients, all through the power of their imagery.

Founding the app in 2017 while still running WAH, Reid knew, again, that she wanted to make flexible working and her staff’s childcare needs a priority. The tem had moved into a much larger office where it could run events. But Reid saw potential in the space beyond another ping-pong table or games room.

I thought: wouldn’t it be far more economical to employ a nanny then lose a team member at such a critical juncture of our startup?

“My co-founder had just had a baby, one of my founding team members just had a baby. I had Roman and I thought: wouldn’t it be far more economical to employ a nanny to help with the childcare then lose a team member at such a critical juncture of our startup? It wasn’t expensive.

“I went to Ikea and got a tent, toys and stuff and hired someone who could be with the kids.

“Some of the biggest companies in the world like Nike had a crèche. It means you can drop the kids off at the office and you work knowing that your child is cared for. Part of the stress as a parent is thinking: ‘Is my child being looked after very well?’”

Beautystack's 'See It, Like It, Book it tagline.

While doing her part to help parents in the workforce, the Wolverhampton native strongly believes the government’s approach – or non-existent approach – to supporting new parents is one of the biggest social problems that we face.

“This country has targets and mandates for productivity and economic growth without considering for the first three years of a child’s life, there is no financial support for women – therefore eradicating a huge proportion of the population who could be contributing to the economy if they wanted to,” says Reid.

“They are removing from the workforce the opportunity for productivity, innovation, research, new entrepreneurs, as a lot of women will eventually give other people jobs.

“Without making it economically viable for women to return to work easily, they are taking women out of the workforce for three years and it’s incredibly hard to return to work. It is very, very short-sighted to think tax breaks are the issue – just give full time childcare from age one for anyone who wants it.”

Sharmadean Reid at a British Fashion Council event in 2019. 

For her part, Reid admits that parenting during Covid-19 had made her a much more “relaxed” mum. “I would say I’ve gone from micromanaging and feeling very, very guilty to now being: ‘It is what it is – let’s just have some adventures,’” she tells me. But despite her self-assuredness, this confident businesswoman struggled with finding her identity after giving birth to her son.

“In the year he was born, I didn’t know what clothes I should be wearing. I was only 26. I also lost my sexual identity. I wasn’t sure the right way to be, as your body changes so much, but unfortunately as women – and this a horrible fact of the socialisation and sexualisation of women – much of your identity is defined by your physicality.

“So I was like, if I’ve lost my physical body as I’ve known it, then who am I?”

“In that first year, I was cooking, baking and doing so much mum crafting shit, you won’t believe it. I was turning into Martha Stewart,” she says with a laugh.

“What did I do to combat this? I took a full time consultancy role at Nike when Roman was one and that forced me to get my identity back and when I mean identity, I mean I got my work ethnic back.” 

As our interview continues, it’s clear Reid is juggling work and motherhood right in front of me – driving around London with Roman by her side, picking up packages for Beautystack, while continuing to interact with her son throughout. 

Looking from the outside in, it’s easy to assume she has this work-life balance thing nailed, but she is quick to reject any praise that suggests she’s a mum who manages everything with ease. 

I hate when people say you’re superwoman because you have a kid and got a business. Like no, no, I only have my child half of the week.

“The biggest challenge is energy management. I’m obviously and clearly more tired when I have my son, not because he requires my energy, but because you are double-thinking. You are thinking for yourself and you are thinking for somebody else.

“I hate the idea when people say you’re superwoman because you have a kid, you got a business. Like no, I only have my child half of the week. Don’t look at me and think that what I do is comparable or achievable, because on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I don’t have anyone to look after apart from myself. Imagine if you had all of that time, what you could achieve. Imagine your clarity of thought?” 

Reid shares custody of Roman with his father Greg. “I love and think about my son all the time but when it comes to Wednesday to Saturday I am not in mother mode whatsoever. I fully rate people who just have their kids full time – because if I’m honest, I’m not even sure how I would manage.”

Key to the co-parenting relationship is routine, she says. “By hook or by crook, Greg always has Roman at Wednesday one o’clock to Saturday one o’clock. We are obviously flexible, but I wouldn’t book a holiday on those days. Think how passive aggressive it would be,” she says. “These are the games that people play and all it is is a bid for power.” 

She also values keeping things more civil and courteous. “If there is a triangle of a relationship between mother, father and child, you absolutely have to sever that connection between mother and father emotionally and don’t let any positive or negative feelings you have towards your former partner affect the consistency of their relationship between their dad or mum.

“The child to parent relationship always stays intact even if the mother and father one doesn’t; the single thing that has made it successful has been consistency – that is what children need.” 

Reid is just as transparent when reflecting on how her own childhood and becoming a mum inspired her to empower other women economically. 

“When I was younger, we couldn’t really afford anything I wanted. I remember always thinking when I was a kid I’m going to earn money to buy the things I want,” she tells me.

“At the time I was separating from Roman’s dad, I couldn’t actually afford to move out for ages. I remember thinking I needed to do a couple of styling jobs to get money for a deposit on my flat. Luckily, I could do that and it was big chunks of money I would be paid. That is not typical.

“In the world we live in today, the freedom of choice, while it is very mental – you mentally have to choose the life you want to live – it is accelerated by having an income and being economically independent to choose the type of life that you want.”

As we edge nearer to the end of our 45-minute call, I’m curious to find out are the things Reid most enjoys doing with Roman. She laughs again.“What I like to do with him (whether he likes to do it is another story) is to go to the Science Museum.” 

She turns to Roman and asks him the same question I’ve just asked her. 

“What do we enjoy doing together the most?” 

Roman answers: “Going to the park.”

“Yes, long walks and I love travelling by ourselves,” she responds. “Staying at new hotels – he loves a hotel. We used to go cinema nearly every Saturday, that was our thing. We watch a movie almost every night, so basically we can be home and just watch a film. Roman adds: “I can only remember a few days where I didn’t watch an entire movie with my mum.”

Soon after this, Reid drops Roman off, leaving just the two of us in conversation. With the interview coming to a close, I want to know how she stays motivated to keep building businesses that put women – and by extension, mothers – at the centre? Her answer is quite simple.

“I really want to prove the point that it’s good business. I think that people bang on and on about the charitable part, the social impact part, but it’s just obvious that it is good to do, that it’s just good business.”

This article was commissioned for HuffPost UK by Black Ballad, the lifestyle platform that tells stories of human experience through the eyes of Black British women and elevates their voices. If you would like to read more, become a Black Ballad member to get unlimited access to content, events and discounts, and to connect to its community of like-minded women.

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Mark Alexander 2021-06-29

Last week, a pair of YouTube’s most popular creators was set to spar in the marketplace of ideas in a debate over the government’s simple, common sense advice to wear masks during a global pandemic to stop the persistent spread of COVID-19.

The spat grew from a series of videos between right-wing provocateur Steven Crowder and the host of the H3 Podcast, Ethan Klein, calling one another out for their purported bad takes on mask-wearing. In March, Crowder called out Klein for saying that “you shouldn’t think about” what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells you and just wear the mask, rather than criticizing the agency and its scientists.

Crowder, who is widely known as the face of the “change my mind” meme, has challenged...

Continue reading…

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Mark Alexander 2021-03-18
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To say the road to getting the new series of Line Of Duty on our screens has been bumpy would be an understatement. 

The hit BBC police drama was among the first shows to close down production when the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold of the UK last March.

Cast and crew were sent home, and while they originally thought they’d only be away from set for a few weeks, they didn’t return to Belfast – where the show is filmed – for another six months. 

There were strict protocols, bubble systems and close-contact cohorts as the production team worked away from home for three months to deliver the sixth series to the show’s loyal army of fans, who shouldn’t be able to detect a trace of Covid when it returns on Sunday. 

Ahead of its debut, cast members Vicky McClure (DI Kate Fleming), Adrian Dunbar (Superintendent Hastings) and newcomer Kelly Macdonald (DCI Davidson) sat down with the show’s writer and creator Jed Mercurio for a virtual press conference with the national media.

Here are all the juicy details they revealed about making the long-awaited new series...

Line Of Duty stars Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Kelly Macdonald

1. There was a replica set of the interrogation room built to make it more Covid compliant 

The interrogation room – which in real life is housed inside Belfast’s BT Riverside Tower – has played host to some of Line Of Duty’s famous scenes ever, but there is actually a second one that’s used on series six, not that you will be able to tell.

Vicky reveals: “Say AC-12, the [original] interview room is not great for [ventilation] in a glass, contained box – so as much as we used the original set for other things, we used another set... and you genuinely can’t tell a difference.”

2. The series had to be shot out of order

Filming on series six was suspended after four weeks of shooting, and when everyone returned to set six months later, the way they worked changed dramatically. 

Vicky says: “The schedule was probably one of the biggest changes from an actor’s perspective because it just meant we were shooting with different directors on the same day, different episodes on the same day.

“Chronology just wasn’t possible because we were bound by location and safety.”

Vicky and Kelly during filming of the first episode

3. This caused a proper headache for the cast

“I did find it difficult,” Adrian admits. “Jed had to remind me a few times. We were jumping between scenes and it’s sometimes difficult to know where to pitch something when you’re moving between directors and episodes.

“Normally we shoot in two blocks, so we have one director for the first three [episodes] then the others [have a different director].”

He adds that usually “we, Jed and the editors are watching what’s coming in, they may decide to change how episode six was looking originally”, adding: “But Covid threw that completely.”

While the cast are usually kept in the dark about the ending of the series at the start, the changes to the way they were working meant that they were privy to more storylines than usual.

4. Newcomer Kelly Macdonald hadn’t seen the show before accepting the role of DCI Davidson

Kelly is playing AC-12 latest adversary DCI Joanne Davidson

Because Kelly had spent a number of years in New York filming Boardwalk Empire, she says she “missed a huge amount of British pop culture”. 

“Line Of Duty happened while I was away – as did Broadchurch! I missed that whole thing,” she says.

“I knew about Line Of Duty because it’s a massive show and everyone is so invested in it week to week, but I did have to start watching the show when I got the offer.”

5. Kelly had a handy way of getting up to speed with all the lingo 

Having only just immersed herself in the show after landing a part in it, Kelly had to find a way to get up to speed with all the famous acronyms. 

“In hair and make-up they had a list pinned up which was quite helpful of all the acronyms,” she reveals. “I’m not brilliant at it still, but I get by.”

6. But AC-12 newcomer Shalom Brune-Franklin had the toughest job of all, by the sounds of things 

New AC-12 recruit DC Chloe Bishop, played by Shalom Brune-Franklin 

Former Our Girl star Shalom will play the new recruit DC Chloe Bishop, who Adrian says is a “fantastic and absolutely wonderful” addition to the team. 

Praising Shalom’s work, he says: “Her character was given a lot of the backstory information that the three of us needed, so that means she had to learn a lot of stuff and carry a lot of information into scenes. And she was really conscientious and really clear and a wonderful actress to work with. 

“I can’t say enough about her, she really was a bang-on piece of casting and brilliant in the role.”

7. A lot goes in to linking the show’s new plotlines with its past

Jed reveals: “When we want to create a connection with the past, often we don’t quite know the exact detail straight away. But then it’s just a case of going back into the script and we can see exactly what date something was meant to happen and what location. Even better if we have some visual reference that’s in the AC-12 files of the past. 

“That’s something we do very well in this season – we do delve into past cases a little bit. The way we do that is by, like any police unit, they keep records. When we dig into those files, hey presto we see reminders of previous seasons.”

He adds that sometimes the writers can even draw on the expertise of the cast, who are very familiar with the show’s complicated backstory. 

8. Hastings’ Ted-isms are often crowdsourced

Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Hastings

As well as suggesting his own ideas for Hastings’ dialogue, Adrian explains that fans of the show often help Jed come up with his character’s infamous one-liners. 

“Jed has got some secret helpers out there,” he says. “After some Q&As we do, we do ask the audience ‘is there anything Ted should say that’s a real Belfast idiom?’”

9. Martin had a hard time squeezing back into Arnott’s waistcoats after the break in filming

Arnott's suits were a tight squeeze for Martin after lockdown

After being unable to attend the press conference, he says in an accompanying press pack interview: “The biggest thing for me was when we started this year, I had just come off the job called The Nest and I had a few topless scenes in the show. I was probably in the best shape of my life. So, when we started the job at the beginning of this series, I was in pretty good nick! Then lockdown happened. 

“We all ate too much, drank too much. When I came back to the UK and had to quarantine, I asked our lovely costume designer to leave Steve’s suits in my room so I could try them on as they were all tailored. That was a really tough day - I was bursting out of everything! I didn’t realise how the suits were quite so tailored to my original shape! 

“I thought quarantine was going to be wine and pizza, but it was water, soup and an exercise bike for two weeks! I was chuffed to get out of it.”

10. There are some more brilliant behind-the-scenes videos on the way

If you follow Vicky on social media, you might already know she has been roping in her castmates with her TikTok videos and pulling pranks on them – but there’s a lot more where that all came from. 

She reveals she’s handed lots more videos over to the BBC that will be released over the course of the series. 

“It’s great that we’re open with the audience and go behind the curtain,” she says. “We have a laugh and it’s impossible for me not to capture some of the things that go on on set. There’s a few other bits coming. 

Adrian describes being involved in the videos as “being ambushed”, admitting he has “mixed feelings” about them. 

He says: “She asks you now and again, and you do it because you trust her, but on occasions… You have to be careful with Vicky because she will ambush you. But you take the rough with the smooth.”

11. There was so much material for the final episode, it had to be split in two

As previously confirmed, this series of Line Of Duty is made up of seven episodes rather than the usual six – a decision that was only made during filming. 

“It wasn’t a case of planning seven, it was the effect of the interruption in shooting,” Jed reveals. 

“We were able to shoot more additional material than we usually do – we tend to shoot a lot of explanations of things and then in the edit we decide whether we need them or not and if things are clear enough without all the intervening stages being explained to the audience.

“We’d initially conceived having a 90-minute episode, but what we found was when we got to the end, it was pretty clear that it was going to be two hours, so we then got into a conversation with the BBC and everybody agreed that it was best to split the last episode into two.”

12. Don’t rule out any of the main characters being killed off this season 

Could a beloved member of AC-12 be killed off?

As Jed has said on many occasions before, no one is safe in the Line Of Duty universe, and it seems things are no different this time around.

He says: “Everybody knows that we’re serving something bigger than ourselves which is Line Of Duty. 

“I know it would be a sad day, but all the main cast realise it’s possible. We’re mates, we talk about it, we joke about it, it’s something no one would relish but everyone would understand.”

Line Of Duty returns on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

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Mark Alexander 2021-01-12
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Scientists find an average of 40 microplastic particles per cubic meter of the northern water. The likely source? The synthetic clothing in our washing machines.
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Mark Alexander 2020-07-17
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Is there anything he can't do?
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Mark Alexander 2021-05-27
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We spoke to three veterinarians and tested 19 products to find the best cat toothpaste, toothbrush, water additive, and dental treats.
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Mark Alexander 2021-03-07
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Kenny Omega versus Jon Moxley for the world title, Sting returns to the ring and a "major star" will sign with AEW.
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Mark Alexander 2020-12-18
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Sending spiders to space seems like a good idea (because, science), but arachnids apparently have their own notions about living in space. NASA researchers first sent spiders to space in the 1970’s, so an arachnid-based experiment to raise science awareness among high school students in 2008 seemed logical. That was before one spider muscled his way out of his pen. But, as is so often the case, what could have been simply written off as a mistake grew into a series of experiments on spiders in space, yielding unexpected science. Someone needs to tell spiders about the scientific method… The…

This story continues at The Next Web
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Mark Alexander 2020-07-13
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New research suggests that the tradeoffs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought, though early AVs might be gas hybrids.
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Mark Alexander 2021-07-13
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The judge referred to a video from January 6 where the man claims he's at the White House when he was actually at the Capitol.
Mark Alexander 2021-06-29

Last week, a pair of YouTube’s most popular creators was set to spar in the marketplace of ideas in a debate over the government’s simple, common sense advice to wear masks during a global pandemic to stop the persistent spread of COVID-19.

The spat grew from a series of videos between right-wing provocateur Steven Crowder and the host of the H3 Podcast, Ethan Klein, calling one another out for their purported bad takes on mask-wearing. In March, Crowder called out Klein for saying that “you shouldn’t think about” what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells you and just wear the mask, rather than criticizing the agency and its scientists.

Crowder, who is widely known as the face of the “change my mind” meme, has challenged...

Continue reading…

Mark Alexander 2021-05-26
img
Sometimes the best thing to do on Twitter or Facebook is to just shut up … isn’t it?
Mark Alexander 2021-03-18
img

To say the road to getting the new series of Line Of Duty on our screens has been bumpy would be an understatement. 

The hit BBC police drama was among the first shows to close down production when the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold of the UK last March.

Cast and crew were sent home, and while they originally thought they’d only be away from set for a few weeks, they didn’t return to Belfast – where the show is filmed – for another six months. 

There were strict protocols, bubble systems and close-contact cohorts as the production team worked away from home for three months to deliver the sixth series to the show’s loyal army of fans, who shouldn’t be able to detect a trace of Covid when it returns on Sunday. 

Ahead of its debut, cast members Vicky McClure (DI Kate Fleming), Adrian Dunbar (Superintendent Hastings) and newcomer Kelly Macdonald (DCI Davidson) sat down with the show’s writer and creator Jed Mercurio for a virtual press conference with the national media.

Here are all the juicy details they revealed about making the long-awaited new series...

Line Of Duty stars Martin Compston, Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Kelly Macdonald

1. There was a replica set of the interrogation room built to make it more Covid compliant 

The interrogation room – which in real life is housed inside Belfast’s BT Riverside Tower – has played host to some of Line Of Duty’s famous scenes ever, but there is actually a second one that’s used on series six, not that you will be able to tell.

Vicky reveals: “Say AC-12, the [original] interview room is not great for [ventilation] in a glass, contained box – so as much as we used the original set for other things, we used another set... and you genuinely can’t tell a difference.”

2. The series had to be shot out of order

Filming on series six was suspended after four weeks of shooting, and when everyone returned to set six months later, the way they worked changed dramatically. 

Vicky says: “The schedule was probably one of the biggest changes from an actor’s perspective because it just meant we were shooting with different directors on the same day, different episodes on the same day.

“Chronology just wasn’t possible because we were bound by location and safety.”

Vicky and Kelly during filming of the first episode

3. This caused a proper headache for the cast

“I did find it difficult,” Adrian admits. “Jed had to remind me a few times. We were jumping between scenes and it’s sometimes difficult to know where to pitch something when you’re moving between directors and episodes.

“Normally we shoot in two blocks, so we have one director for the first three [episodes] then the others [have a different director].”

He adds that usually “we, Jed and the editors are watching what’s coming in, they may decide to change how episode six was looking originally”, adding: “But Covid threw that completely.”

While the cast are usually kept in the dark about the ending of the series at the start, the changes to the way they were working meant that they were privy to more storylines than usual.

4. Newcomer Kelly Macdonald hadn’t seen the show before accepting the role of DCI Davidson

Kelly is playing AC-12 latest adversary DCI Joanne Davidson

Because Kelly had spent a number of years in New York filming Boardwalk Empire, she says she “missed a huge amount of British pop culture”. 

“Line Of Duty happened while I was away – as did Broadchurch! I missed that whole thing,” she says.

“I knew about Line Of Duty because it’s a massive show and everyone is so invested in it week to week, but I did have to start watching the show when I got the offer.”

5. Kelly had a handy way of getting up to speed with all the lingo 

Having only just immersed herself in the show after landing a part in it, Kelly had to find a way to get up to speed with all the famous acronyms. 

“In hair and make-up they had a list pinned up which was quite helpful of all the acronyms,” she reveals. “I’m not brilliant at it still, but I get by.”

6. But AC-12 newcomer Shalom Brune-Franklin had the toughest job of all, by the sounds of things 

New AC-12 recruit DC Chloe Bishop, played by Shalom Brune-Franklin 

Former Our Girl star Shalom will play the new recruit DC Chloe Bishop, who Adrian says is a “fantastic and absolutely wonderful” addition to the team. 

Praising Shalom’s work, he says: “Her character was given a lot of the backstory information that the three of us needed, so that means she had to learn a lot of stuff and carry a lot of information into scenes. And she was really conscientious and really clear and a wonderful actress to work with. 

“I can’t say enough about her, she really was a bang-on piece of casting and brilliant in the role.”

7. A lot goes in to linking the show’s new plotlines with its past

Jed reveals: “When we want to create a connection with the past, often we don’t quite know the exact detail straight away. But then it’s just a case of going back into the script and we can see exactly what date something was meant to happen and what location. Even better if we have some visual reference that’s in the AC-12 files of the past. 

“That’s something we do very well in this season – we do delve into past cases a little bit. The way we do that is by, like any police unit, they keep records. When we dig into those files, hey presto we see reminders of previous seasons.”

He adds that sometimes the writers can even draw on the expertise of the cast, who are very familiar with the show’s complicated backstory. 

8. Hastings’ Ted-isms are often crowdsourced

Adrian Dunbar as Superintendent Hastings

As well as suggesting his own ideas for Hastings’ dialogue, Adrian explains that fans of the show often help Jed come up with his character’s infamous one-liners. 

“Jed has got some secret helpers out there,” he says. “After some Q&As we do, we do ask the audience ‘is there anything Ted should say that’s a real Belfast idiom?’”

9. Martin had a hard time squeezing back into Arnott’s waistcoats after the break in filming

Arnott's suits were a tight squeeze for Martin after lockdown

After being unable to attend the press conference, he says in an accompanying press pack interview: “The biggest thing for me was when we started this year, I had just come off the job called The Nest and I had a few topless scenes in the show. I was probably in the best shape of my life. So, when we started the job at the beginning of this series, I was in pretty good nick! Then lockdown happened. 

“We all ate too much, drank too much. When I came back to the UK and had to quarantine, I asked our lovely costume designer to leave Steve’s suits in my room so I could try them on as they were all tailored. That was a really tough day - I was bursting out of everything! I didn’t realise how the suits were quite so tailored to my original shape! 

“I thought quarantine was going to be wine and pizza, but it was water, soup and an exercise bike for two weeks! I was chuffed to get out of it.”

10. There are some more brilliant behind-the-scenes videos on the way

If you follow Vicky on social media, you might already know she has been roping in her castmates with her TikTok videos and pulling pranks on them – but there’s a lot more where that all came from. 

She reveals she’s handed lots more videos over to the BBC that will be released over the course of the series. 

“It’s great that we’re open with the audience and go behind the curtain,” she says. “We have a laugh and it’s impossible for me not to capture some of the things that go on on set. There’s a few other bits coming. 

Adrian describes being involved in the videos as “being ambushed”, admitting he has “mixed feelings” about them. 

He says: “She asks you now and again, and you do it because you trust her, but on occasions… You have to be careful with Vicky because she will ambush you. But you take the rough with the smooth.”

11. There was so much material for the final episode, it had to be split in two

As previously confirmed, this series of Line Of Duty is made up of seven episodes rather than the usual six – a decision that was only made during filming. 

“It wasn’t a case of planning seven, it was the effect of the interruption in shooting,” Jed reveals. 

“We were able to shoot more additional material than we usually do – we tend to shoot a lot of explanations of things and then in the edit we decide whether we need them or not and if things are clear enough without all the intervening stages being explained to the audience.

“We’d initially conceived having a 90-minute episode, but what we found was when we got to the end, it was pretty clear that it was going to be two hours, so we then got into a conversation with the BBC and everybody agreed that it was best to split the last episode into two.”

12. Don’t rule out any of the main characters being killed off this season 

Could a beloved member of AC-12 be killed off?

As Jed has said on many occasions before, no one is safe in the Line Of Duty universe, and it seems things are no different this time around.

He says: “Everybody knows that we’re serving something bigger than ourselves which is Line Of Duty. 

“I know it would be a sad day, but all the main cast realise it’s possible. We’re mates, we talk about it, we joke about it, it’s something no one would relish but everyone would understand.”

Line Of Duty returns on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.

Mark Alexander 2021-03-04
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Nick Frost has revealed he turned down a part in the most recent Star Wars trilogy as he felt the pay he was offered “was rubbish”.

The comic actor is best known for his performances in films like Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, in which he appeared opposite Simon Pegg.

However, while his frequent collaborator appeared in The Force Awakens (in voice form, at least), Nick admitted that he was less tempted by Disney’s offer.

Nick Frost pictured in 2018

“I got offered a part in Star Wars.” he told the podcast Celebrity Catch Up. “It was only a little bit but I was like, [the part’s] really small, the pay’s rubbish... I’ve got a family – I don’t do this for free.

“I mean I like Star Wars, I like watching it. I don’t want to watch it and think ‘look at your ugly mug’.”

Nick didn’t specify exactly which part it was that he turned down, but insisted that he has no regrets about the decision.

“There’s a part of me that thinks ‘you could have been in Star Wars’... but fuck it,” he said.

“I tend to not to look backwards at all, so that doesn’t really affect me as a choice I took because I think well, it’s done. I’ve made the decision.”

Simon Pegg's character as seen in The Force Awakens

Last week, Tom Holland made another Star Wars casting admission, revealing he had been in line to play John Boyega’s character in the latest trilogy, before unfortunately messing up during a crucial audition.

Listen to Nick’s interview in full on the podcast Celebrity Catch Up: Life After That Thing I Did.

Mark Alexander 2021-01-12
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Scientists find an average of 40 microplastic particles per cubic meter of the northern water. The likely source? The synthetic clothing in our washing machines.
Mark Alexander 2020-08-12
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Apple has been busy snapping up esteemed writers and directors left and right.
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Season 2 of Never Have I Ever arrives this week.
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Mark Alexander 2021-04-15
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And Biden announces the end of America's longest war.
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Kenny Omega versus Jon Moxley for the world title, Sting returns to the ring and a "major star" will sign with AEW.
Mark Alexander 2021-02-05
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This week, we discuss Elon Musk's drop-in and how the platform is weathering its growing pains.
Mark Alexander 2020-12-18
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Sending spiders to space seems like a good idea (because, science), but arachnids apparently have their own notions about living in space. NASA researchers first sent spiders to space in the 1970’s, so an arachnid-based experiment to raise science awareness among high school students in 2008 seemed logical. That was before one spider muscled his way out of his pen. But, as is so often the case, what could have been simply written off as a mistake grew into a series of experiments on spiders in space, yielding unexpected science. Someone needs to tell spiders about the scientific method… The…

This story continues at The Next Web
Mark Alexander 2020-08-12
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Sharmadean Reid: 'I think to employ working mothers you have to be empathetic to their experience.'

This story is part of Black Ballad’s takeover of HuffPost UK, a week-long series by Black women on parenting, family, and our post-Covid future. 

Sitting in her car, with her nine-year-old son Roman in the passenger seat, Sharmadean Reid is refreshingly honest about parenting during a pandemic. 

“I had a massive breakdown in the beginning, because Roman was going to private school. It had lockdown a week before all of the other schools, because posh people like to travel and there were two cases in the school, even before they announced that schools needed to close,” says the beauty entrepreneur.

“I am a Black mum who wants her child to do well and be amazing and I was freaking out that he wasn’t learning anything.”

Many parents felt the same pangs of panic when the government announced school closures in March. Yet, like other families dealing with homeschooling, Reid made the best of a situation that none of us had ever experienced.  

“After a couple of weeks, I had to really organise,” she says. ”One of the critical things for us was when I went to my office and got a desk for him. I got loads of stationery and re-organised his bedroom, so it was more like a workspace and then we settled down into a really nice rhythm.”  

If you know anything about Sharmadean Reid, you’ll know that this 36-year-old is on a relentless mission to empower women through the beauty industry – and to provide working mums with opportunities to succeed beyond measure. This passion to ensure working mums can fulfil their career ambitions started back in 2009, when she founded her first business, Wah Nails.

Reid at work: 'A lot of women will eventually give other people jobs.'

Not only did Reid achieve her quest of creating the coolest nail shop in London – with stores in Dalston, east London and in Topshop’s flagship branch at Oxford Circus – Wah Nails also built pop-up nail bars for brands including British Airways, Marc Jacobs and Nike.

And it was through these innovative ventures that she was able to employ numerous single mums. “There are not many jobs you can do when you are a mum that are flexible but beauty is one of them,” she says – adding that many of the jobs that do have flexibility ”tend to not be as gratifying”.

“The thing about working in a salon is that it is really satisfying. You are tapping into your creative brain that you might not get to do when you are running around being mum and there is the social interaction element. I’ve always thought that beauty was a really important part of the future of work and the future of work for women – as it’s paid, flexible, creative and social work.”  

She adds: “The way that it happened with Wah, we just endorsed them. A lot of women who were very enterprising were like: ‘I am going to learn how to do nails because I’ve got a kid and I need to pick him up from school when I want.’

“It kinda turned out that they choose me. We all know what it is like when your babysitter cancels or your child is ill. I think to employ working mothers you have to be empathetic to their experience and that can be hard if you have never been a caregiver before.” 

The Wah Nails colour range.

Now, after a decade of revolutionising the beauty industry, Reid has closed all her stores to focus on her current venture, Beautystack, an app that acts as a marketplace for next-generation beauty professionals to sell their services and take bookings directly from clients, all through the power of their imagery.

Founding the app in 2017 while still running WAH, Reid knew, again, that she wanted to make flexible working and her staff’s childcare needs a priority. The tem had moved into a much larger office where it could run events. But Reid saw potential in the space beyond another ping-pong table or games room.

I thought: wouldn’t it be far more economical to employ a nanny then lose a team member at such a critical juncture of our startup?

“My co-founder had just had a baby, one of my founding team members just had a baby. I had Roman and I thought: wouldn’t it be far more economical to employ a nanny to help with the childcare then lose a team member at such a critical juncture of our startup? It wasn’t expensive.

“I went to Ikea and got a tent, toys and stuff and hired someone who could be with the kids.

“Some of the biggest companies in the world like Nike had a crèche. It means you can drop the kids off at the office and you work knowing that your child is cared for. Part of the stress as a parent is thinking: ‘Is my child being looked after very well?’”

Beautystack's 'See It, Like It, Book it tagline.

While doing her part to help parents in the workforce, the Wolverhampton native strongly believes the government’s approach – or non-existent approach – to supporting new parents is one of the biggest social problems that we face.

“This country has targets and mandates for productivity and economic growth without considering for the first three years of a child’s life, there is no financial support for women – therefore eradicating a huge proportion of the population who could be contributing to the economy if they wanted to,” says Reid.

“They are removing from the workforce the opportunity for productivity, innovation, research, new entrepreneurs, as a lot of women will eventually give other people jobs.

“Without making it economically viable for women to return to work easily, they are taking women out of the workforce for three years and it’s incredibly hard to return to work. It is very, very short-sighted to think tax breaks are the issue – just give full time childcare from age one for anyone who wants it.”

Sharmadean Reid at a British Fashion Council event in 2019. 

For her part, Reid admits that parenting during Covid-19 had made her a much more “relaxed” mum. “I would say I’ve gone from micromanaging and feeling very, very guilty to now being: ‘It is what it is – let’s just have some adventures,’” she tells me. But despite her self-assuredness, this confident businesswoman struggled with finding her identity after giving birth to her son.

“In the year he was born, I didn’t know what clothes I should be wearing. I was only 26. I also lost my sexual identity. I wasn’t sure the right way to be, as your body changes so much, but unfortunately as women – and this a horrible fact of the socialisation and sexualisation of women – much of your identity is defined by your physicality.

“So I was like, if I’ve lost my physical body as I’ve known it, then who am I?”

“In that first year, I was cooking, baking and doing so much mum crafting shit, you won’t believe it. I was turning into Martha Stewart,” she says with a laugh.

“What did I do to combat this? I took a full time consultancy role at Nike when Roman was one and that forced me to get my identity back and when I mean identity, I mean I got my work ethnic back.” 

As our interview continues, it’s clear Reid is juggling work and motherhood right in front of me – driving around London with Roman by her side, picking up packages for Beautystack, while continuing to interact with her son throughout. 

Looking from the outside in, it’s easy to assume she has this work-life balance thing nailed, but she is quick to reject any praise that suggests she’s a mum who manages everything with ease. 

I hate when people say you’re superwoman because you have a kid and got a business. Like no, no, I only have my child half of the week.

“The biggest challenge is energy management. I’m obviously and clearly more tired when I have my son, not because he requires my energy, but because you are double-thinking. You are thinking for yourself and you are thinking for somebody else.

“I hate the idea when people say you’re superwoman because you have a kid, you got a business. Like no, I only have my child half of the week. Don’t look at me and think that what I do is comparable or achievable, because on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, I don’t have anyone to look after apart from myself. Imagine if you had all of that time, what you could achieve. Imagine your clarity of thought?” 

Reid shares custody of Roman with his father Greg. “I love and think about my son all the time but when it comes to Wednesday to Saturday I am not in mother mode whatsoever. I fully rate people who just have their kids full time – because if I’m honest, I’m not even sure how I would manage.”

Key to the co-parenting relationship is routine, she says. “By hook or by crook, Greg always has Roman at Wednesday one o’clock to Saturday one o’clock. We are obviously flexible, but I wouldn’t book a holiday on those days. Think how passive aggressive it would be,” she says. “These are the games that people play and all it is is a bid for power.” 

She also values keeping things more civil and courteous. “If there is a triangle of a relationship between mother, father and child, you absolutely have to sever that connection between mother and father emotionally and don’t let any positive or negative feelings you have towards your former partner affect the consistency of their relationship between their dad or mum.

“The child to parent relationship always stays intact even if the mother and father one doesn’t; the single thing that has made it successful has been consistency – that is what children need.” 

Reid is just as transparent when reflecting on how her own childhood and becoming a mum inspired her to empower other women economically. 

“When I was younger, we couldn’t really afford anything I wanted. I remember always thinking when I was a kid I’m going to earn money to buy the things I want,” she tells me.

“At the time I was separating from Roman’s dad, I couldn’t actually afford to move out for ages. I remember thinking I needed to do a couple of styling jobs to get money for a deposit on my flat. Luckily, I could do that and it was big chunks of money I would be paid. That is not typical.

“In the world we live in today, the freedom of choice, while it is very mental – you mentally have to choose the life you want to live – it is accelerated by having an income and being economically independent to choose the type of life that you want.”

As we edge nearer to the end of our 45-minute call, I’m curious to find out are the things Reid most enjoys doing with Roman. She laughs again.“What I like to do with him (whether he likes to do it is another story) is to go to the Science Museum.” 

She turns to Roman and asks him the same question I’ve just asked her. 

“What do we enjoy doing together the most?” 

Roman answers: “Going to the park.”

“Yes, long walks and I love travelling by ourselves,” she responds. “Staying at new hotels – he loves a hotel. We used to go cinema nearly every Saturday, that was our thing. We watch a movie almost every night, so basically we can be home and just watch a film. Roman adds: “I can only remember a few days where I didn’t watch an entire movie with my mum.”

Soon after this, Reid drops Roman off, leaving just the two of us in conversation. With the interview coming to a close, I want to know how she stays motivated to keep building businesses that put women – and by extension, mothers – at the centre? Her answer is quite simple.

“I really want to prove the point that it’s good business. I think that people bang on and on about the charitable part, the social impact part, but it’s just obvious that it is good to do, that it’s just good business.”

This article was commissioned for HuffPost UK by Black Ballad, the lifestyle platform that tells stories of human experience through the eyes of Black British women and elevates their voices. If you would like to read more, become a Black Ballad member to get unlimited access to content, events and discounts, and to connect to its community of like-minded women.

Mark Alexander 2020-07-13
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New research suggests that the tradeoffs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought, though early AVs might be gas hybrids.