BRIERFIELD actor Lee Ingleby is set to become a household name when he stars in the BBC's new retro police drama, Inspector George Gently, starting tonight. We spoke to him about the '60s fashion, The Beatles and working with your idol.

IT'S surely a case for the likes of DCI Gene Hunt or Inspector George Gently — how come so many of TV's old school coppers' first “beats” were in East Lancashire?

The latest retro bobby to hit our screens is unruly Detective Sergeant John Bacchus, played by Brierfield's Lee Ingleby.

The former pupil of Edge End High School, Nelson, will hit our screens tomorrow night on the BBC's four-part Inspector George Gently. He plays one half of a classic crime-fighting partnership with Chief Inspector Gently (Martin Shaw).

He follows in the footsteps of fellow Nelson schoolboy John Simm, who starred in Life on Mars.

Comparisons have inevitably been drawn between the two BBC retro cop shows.

“I play Bacchus, who is the Gene Hunt character I suppose, but without being that small-minded,” said Lee, 33, formerly of Mansfield Crescent.

“I think Gently sees the potential within him and tries to mould him to be a better policeman.

"That’s the interesting relationship between them — it’s not just as simple as there’s the main guy and his sidekick.

"They’re very opposing elements, they’ve got different methods and different backgrounds, but I suppose Gently’s the more modern copper in a way.

“With him it’s more a case of ‘we’ll do this properly and by the book’, whereas I think Bacchus is more inclined to think ‘well, if we’re in the right ballpark . . .”’ But Burnley-born Lee's foray into small-screen detection will cover much darker ground than Simm's adventures.

Bacchus helps Gently to track down his wife's killer, tackling issues ranging from prostitution to rape and racism, and abuse in a children's home.

"It's very dark," admitted Lee, a former Accrington and Rossendale College student.

"It reflects the case that was in Jersey. It's an unfolding piece where there's more to it than it first seems."

A child of the '70s, Lee is enjoying getting to grips with an era before his time, the Swinging '60s.

"I love everything about the period. The cars are amazing and I love my character's MG sport!" said Lee, currently single and living in London.

"As an actor, I don't really need to try to recreate the '60s, as it's all there for you.

"Susan Scott (costume designer) has done a fantastic job and seeing the make-up and hair design, especially for the girls. It's great.

"I love my costumes and, given the chance, I'd buy all of my suits and shoes.

"The suits have been tailored for me and are really comfortable to wear.

"I'd be bang up for being able to walk out in a suit — the trouble is people would think I was living that character all the time.

"Some of the furniture on set's been great. I loved the colourful white bubble chairs with red interior that you can sit cocooned in.

"They were very retro and funky and would probably be worth a fortune now.

"I'm quite into retro-'60s furniture and have some at home.

"I've still got a record player and still play vinyl. I think it sounds so much better than digital.

"I also have an old dialling phone — but dialling 999 would have taken ages.

"I love The Stones, The Beatles and The Kinks. My dad was a Buddy Holly fan and The Beatles were highly influenced by him so guess that they would be my favourite group from the period.

"My body shape lends itself to the '60s dress sense. I'd love to have lived back then.

"It seemed like an exciting time for change, music and fashion.

"But I couldn't have lived without my contact lenses.

"I like the romance of not having computers but I do like the ease of having a mobile phone it's almost impossible to imagine life without it."

As an actor, Lee is quite the chameleon. Outside cop shows he has appeared in Jonathan Creek, Soldier, Soldier, Dalziel and Pascoe, Life On Mars (when he played Simm's father in a flashback scene), Wind In The Willows as Mole, Nicholas Nickleby as Smike, Spaced and Nature Boy.

He's also appeared on the big screen in films Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban, Doghouse, Wintering, Hippie Hippie Shake, Master And Commander, Borstal Boy and Cinderella — Ever After with Drew Barrymore.

The acting bug runs through his family with mum Susan often appearing in amateur productions and older sister Donna also forging a career in the field.

Lee has come a long way since he first took on acting roles at Burnley Youth Theatre and was coached by Edge End's late drama teacher Brian Wellock.

But despite his credentials, Lee admitted he was nervous about acting alongside Judge John Deed star Martin Shaw.

”When I first got the job, I thought I wouldn’t know what to do or say to him.

"But it was completely the opposite, we just clicked straight away and it was like we’re both two old mates.

”I think I was pleasantly surprised that he’s just like you and me.”

”If someone’s well-established, you always think ‘I won’t know what to say to them because they’re on a pedestal’. But actually, within 10 minutes, you forget who they are and what they’ve done before and they’re just a bloke who enjoys working.”

It’s lucky the pair get on so well, because filming on the show takes place over two-month stretches in Dublin, which stands in for Northumberland.

”It was weird the first time we filmed there, because I’m doing a Durham accent — and I was surrounded by a crew of Dubliners and a Welsh director.

"But I love it, it’s a great place to work. At weekends I tended to stick around Dublin.

"It's a good Saturday night out and there were so many pubs — I was trying to get through them all."

Inspector George Gently starts on BBC Four tonight.