Graham Kibble-White finds John Hannah ready for his next challenge>..

He knows it's a cliche, but John Hannah's going to say it anyway.

"The thing that appealed to me about Cold Blood is it's a good script," he says, smiling. "It's a really great script.

"There's been a lot of debate over the last few years about television spoon-feeding audiences, but this drama couldn't be further removed from that."

Despite the 43-year-old actor's enthusiasm for the quality of writing, for the majority of viewers the most interesting facet about this drama will be the involvement of Matthew Kelly.

Casting off the trappings of a light entertainment legend, he plays a Hannibal Lecter-type serial killer who's spent 15 years in prison for his crimes.

John's got nothing but praise for his co-star, and is keen to remind anyone who'll listen that prior to becoming a TV presenter, Matthew was indeed "a serious actor".

"He just does the same job as Jemma Redgrave and I," he says, referring to his other on-screen colleague.

The programme itself is typical of this winter's run of dark and gruesome one-off dramas on ITV1, and Jake, the character John plays, is no angel either. He's an ex-convict who's out on licence after killing his wife in a crime of passion.

"It is quite a strong piece," says the actor, "but there is a sort of desire in people to see those kind of psychological suspense thrillers.

"We live very vicariously through watching those movies and things. I think that's what we enjoy about that kind of fiction, we get to experience those fears we hope to God we'll never have to actually deal with in real life.

"We all have that slightly darker scab-picking element to our personalities, and I think the programme will go down very well with the audience."

Aside from providing thrills and chills, John also feels Cold Blood offers up a little food for thought.

"Really good fiction teaches us something about ourselves as well," he says. "This drama asks the question, what part of humanity is it that stops us committing evil acts?

"What's the thing that makes us proud to be human beings and proud of the civilisation we've spent thousands of years constructing? Because, in reality, we're only a hair's breadth away from being back in a jungle, as something like the looting which followed the floods in New Orleans proved."

Warming to his theme, he continues, not altogether seriously: " Sometimes, wouldn't you like to shoot everyone on the underground platform when no-one's letting you leave the train? If you had an AK-47, you'd get off OK, wouldn't you?

"But the real question is, why doesn't that happen more often?

"The whole piece is about the idea of crime and punishment and redemption. I think it's fascinating, particularly as this is in, ostensibly, a mainstream commercial television film."

The character of Jake is certainly a departure from the more traditional hero roles John has played in his time.

"I think all actors want variation," he explains, "and you can only really make choices with what you're offered.

"When this came along, I looked at the quality of the script, the people involved and the different set of characters in it and it really was a no-brainer as to do it or not.

"It was a great opportunity for me. So many people in this business want to put you in an easy category that makes you simple to find and simple to cast, and sometimes it's difficult to get beyond that."

He's also pleased to be taking on a part that isn't at the centre of the drama. "It's quite nice to play someone who's on the wing rather than midfield."

And then, with a chuckle, he adds: "It means you can sort of come in, score a goal and then bugger off again and leave all the hard work for someone else to do.

"It's a completely different experience from when you're carrying the whole show and you have to act as a conduit for the audience. In the past I've played those kind of characters. It's very difficult and very tiring, and you can get to the point of saying, 'Well, I don't really know how to do this any more, and besides, I'd really quite like to do something else'.

"It was great to just have those few scenes with Jemma and simply focus on trying to have a dynamic to what we were doing and achieve the purpose of that moment in a truthful way, rather than bending yourself slightly to pretend you're the eyes of the audience."

In a similar vein, he admits he's no longer interested in chasing big Hollywood roles, particularly since he and wife Joanna became the proud parents of twins Gabriel and Astrid in February last year.

"The idea of being away from home filming for four or five months somewhere is a lot less appealing at the moment, unless the money is really, really good!

"In many ways, acting is a young person's game - going off and touring, staying in digs and going out for a curry at midnight. But as you grow old, you sort of move on a bit, don't you?

"I'm at a point in my life where I'm not really bothered about chasing that kind of work. It's nice to be at home and around the family."

That said, he does confess there is the odd benefit in occasionally working on location.

"I was away for Cold Blood," he says, "and the first two weeks were bliss. You sleep late, you get up, you don't mind not filming and you go and hang around your trailer where someone's making you breakfast. It's really indulgent.

"But before long you realise you're really missing home. So, all in all, I think it's nice to be a bit more rooted and to be with the family.

* Cold Blood is on ITV1 on Wednesday October 19