A lot has happened to Robson Green these past few years. At the end of the Eighties, he was working as a draughtsman at Newcastle upon Tyne's Swan Hunter shipyard, his head full of dreams of becoming an actor. This year he returned to the now-defunct shipyard to film the lead role in the latest Catherine Cookson drama, The Gambling Man which starts this week.
"This role is very special to me," says the 29 year old actor. "I've never read a Cookson novel before and it just seemed to jump from the pages. If you play her stories straight from the heart, they are great drama."
In the gritty three-part serial, set at the end of the 19th century, Robson plays Rory Connor. A rent collector by day and a skillful card player by night, he wants to get rich quick. But his burning ambition soon creates enemies and alienates his friends, leaving Rory to weigh up whether the bigger gains are worth the higher risks.
Working in Newcastle was a long-held ambition for Robson, who's Geordie born and bred. The actor, who's had great success in two hit series - as porter Jimmy in Casualty and Corporal Tucker in Soldier Soldier - has always preferred to live in his much loved home town; "I can't see there being any need for me to leave the area," says Robson. "I've been incredibly lucky with my roles. It's a good precedent to set for young people in the North to show that you don't have to move to London."
In fact, he has big ideas for Newcastle. Over the past few years, he has been ploughing time and money into the Live Theatre Company, the acting group that taught him his craft. Now he's hoping to give up-and-coming actors from the North East the same opportunities he had; "That's where it began for me, the reason I'm doing what I do," says Robson. "I think it's very important in life to give something back." He also hopes to make major films on Tyneside, too.
"I'm talking about making big budget, commercial films, using the very best talent there is, not just local people," he says. "I'd like to bring in anyone who has the right experience and expertise."
In the meantime, his own production company, Coastal Productions, has work in the pipeline. He showed a pilot programme for a sitcom based in the North East called Come Snow, Come Blow, at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and he's already working on a new TV series.
"I'm a very lucky and very happy man," says Robson. "I work very hard, but if you know your script inside out and work with a good team, the acting is great fun!"
Maureen Cozens/ What's on TV (UK)