From living in a car to TV drama writer

Thanks to his 12 years working as a police officer in Liverpool, Tony Schumacher was inspired to write a new BBC drama called The Responder and tells of his early struggles to become a writer. Tony McDonough reports

Tony Schumacher
Liverpool writer Tony Schumacher’s new show. The Responder, will be on BBC1 from January 24


According to Tony Schumacher he was “thick” when he was a kid with not the slightest bit of interest in his education – but he also harboured ambitions to become a writer.

Its quite the contradiction, but not to Tony who when he was growing up in Merseyside was determined he was not going to go into a “normal” job. He eventually did fulfil his dream but not before he faced a number of life challenges.

Tony is the writer of a new five-part police drama called The Responder, with the first episode being aired on BBC1 on Monday, January 24. It stars Martin Freeman, known for a number of roles including Tim in BBC Comedy The Office and Bilbo Baggins in the movie trilogy The Hobbit. 

In an interview for the latest monthly Baltic Triangle Podcast, Tony talks about his early years and his frustrated ambitions, and how he has struck up a great friendship with Martin Freeman and how impressed he is with the actor’s Scouse accent.

“When I was a kid, I always wanted to write. Always wanted to do something different. My dad, said ‘you don’t go to work in a factory’,” said Tony. “But I was thick. People think I am being bashful when I say that,  but I had no education whatsoever.

“We grew up surrounded by books and all I was interested in was books and films. I went to school and the only thing I was interested in was English. But I failed my English O Level, I got a ‘U’ grade. I cried all the way home.”

Instead of becoming a writer, young Tony went to work as a roofer. He eventually joined Merseyside Police and worked as a ‘responder’. They are the officer who is literally the first responder to a 999 call. He said the demands of the job eventually took its toll on him.

He was often interacting with people at their worst moments and that had a big impact on him. Tony explained: “You are dealing with sensitive issues and people in their worst places. One copper said to me when I started, ‘you are not going to be knocking on peoples’ doors telling them they have won the lottery’.”

Tony eventually left the force and suffered PTSD. At one point he hit rock bottom and was living in his car with only his dog for company. He also worked as a taxi driver which provided a rich source of material for one of the novels he would eventually write called Rear View Mirror.

Now an established writer, The Responder takes his career onto a new level. When he was writing the story he knew the script would end up with a production company called Dancing Ledge Productions, which already had a long association with Martin Freeman.

Martin Freeman
Martin Freeman as ‘Chris’ in The Responder on BBC1. Picture by Rekha Garton


“I actually wrote it with Martin in mind,” said Tony. “When I was writing the character of Chris (played by Freeman in the show) I could see Martin in my mind. Martin is phenomenal and I have got to know him over the past 18 months.”

He said Freeman had worked particularly hard on perfecting the scouse accent, adding: “Martin told me during the pandemic he has been able to go into shops with a mask on and just use his scouse accent. I think it is even better than mine now.”

This month’s Baltic Triangle Podcast also features an interview with sisters, Faye and Claire Newton who run a location scouting company and have been involved in most of the major film productions in Liverpool.

They have worked on shows and films such as Peaky Blinders, The Kingsman and Jack Ryan. In fact they’re so good at what they do, Barbara Broccoli from the Bond Franchise recently said that she used Liverpool Locations expertise to source and procure the authentic places to reflect the setting of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

Click here to listen to the full Baltic Triangle Podcast

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