It’s always been Luke Evans’ dream to work in Wales.
It’s taken quite a long time for the Pontypool-born actor and singer – known for memorable roles such as The Alienist, Beauty And The Beast, and Dracula Untold – to make that happen.
But finally, with new ITV drama The Pembrokeshire Murders airing this month, the 41-year-old has ticked the goal off his list.
Written by Nick Stevens, the fascinating three-part series – which is packed with “unbelievable twists” – is from World Productions (the makers of Line Of Duty and Bodyguard) and depicts the pursuit of a cold-blooded serial killer.
It’s adapted from a true crime book called Catching The Bullseye Killer – an in-depth account of an extraordinary cold case investigation called Operation Ottawa – which was co-written by ex-DCI Steve Wilkins and ITV journalist, Jonathan Hill.
Evans takes on the role of Steve Wilkins, who, as a newly-promoted detective superintendent in 2006, decided to reopen the investigation into two unsolved double murders from the 1980s which had cast a shadow over the work of the Dyfed Powys police force.
As the story develops, we see how Steve and his handpicked team employed pioneering forensic methods to find microscopic DNA and fibres that potentially linked the murders to a string of burglaries committed in the 80s and 90s.
But the question is, could they find enough forensic evidence to charge the perpetrator of those robberies with the murders, before he was released to potentially kill again?
“I’m a sucker for a true story and this isn’t just a true story, it’s a shocking true story about the worst serial killer Wales has ever seen,” Evans notes, when discussing the appeal of the role.
“And also, it just drew my attention to the work the police force does behind the scenes, and the human impact of what people go through when something like this happens in their community.”
He continues enthusiastically: “It was shot in an incredible part of Wales which I’ve always wanted to visit and I got to live there and shoot this incredible show with an incredible bunch of Welsh actors. I got to use my own Welsh accent for the first time in many, many years and yeah, it was a great experience all round.”
As part of the intense filming process, Evans got to meet the real Steve.
He recalls how their conversations helped him “understand how his team worked all those hours and hours and through the nights and months away from their families and their friends”.
“He’s such a good human being and he brought them together and he treated them with respect and that’s why he’s a great team leader and kept their spirits alive when they were all losing faith and losing hope that they were ever going to find this killer.
“And he’s a great man. I’ve played some great people and I’ve played some terrible people in my time but it’s always quite nice to play a good one – and Steve Wilkins is definitely one of those.”
How else did having Steve on set help with his performance?
“Hmmm… It was a huge, huge help,” muses the charismatic star.
“Often you portray people that are not with us anymore, or they’re fictional or you have a writers’ opinion on what the character is like. But we had Steve and we had Johnathan [Hill, played by David Fynn] and they were very, very generous with their time.”
Evans adds of Steve: “He was extremely generous with not only the technical side but the emotional impact that it had on him, on his family.
“Because what really drew me to the storyline was the fact that this isn’t just about finding the killer… It’s this man who had to sacrifice time with his family.”
He explains how Steve was divorced and had moved into a new property as a single man.
He is also a father but has so much to do when it comes to the investigation that his work is taking up all his time.
“Meeting Steve and understanding how it was with his own son really helped me portray that side of Steve’s story because there’s a really powerful storyline between him and his son who moves in with him and how difficult that is – having a teenage son and not being there and work taking over and forgetting to be at a football match and all those other things that you forget.
“All these detectives and these police officers, when they’re on the front line, or when they’re working wherever it is and putting themselves in danger, they’re sacrificing their time with their own families and their families are relying on them as well.
“It really raised the importance of what they do and how they do it and how grateful we are that they do it.”
As well as the emotive and gripping storyline, an undeniable draw of watching The Pembrokeshire Murders is how sublime the Welsh coastline looks throughout.
And Evans confirms it was “wonderful” to be back on home soil.
“It was the beginning of the year [in 2019]; we saw the most dramatic skylines over the sea, the coastal path… We’re lucky enough to have one of the longest coastal paths in the world, uninterrupted. It’s just a magnificent place to be at any time of the year.
“The juxtaposition of this terrible thing happening in such a beautiful place just adds to the mystery of the whole place.”
He was also able to have his mum and dad come down to set during the shoot, which luckily ended just a few days before “we were all locked in our houses” because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I couldn’t get rid of them [his parents] because they [the production team] gave me such a nice house on the edge of the cliff,” he quips.
“As dark as the storyline was, it was a joy to come to work.”
The Pembrokeshire Murders airs on ITV on Monday, January 11, Tuesday, January 12 and Wednesday, January 13