time-stephen-graham-1

Time star Stephen Graham went to extreme lengths to prepare for role in gritty BBC drama

The actor plays Eric McNally in the new series

Francesca Shillcock

Time on BBC is the brilliant new drama everyone is talking about. With an emotional storyline and incredible performances from its impressive cast, it's no wonder that Jimmy McGovern's latest offering is being praised by fans and critics alike.

MORE: Stephen Graham's wife Hannah stars alongside him in BBC's Time - did you spot her?

And it seems that the cast of the show put the work in to ensure full dedication to the role. Stephen Graham, who plays prison officer Eric McNally, revealed in a recent interview that to prepare for his stint in the three-part series, he spent time with a real-life prison officer who had 30 years of experience in the job.

Loading the player...

WATCH: Time starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham is on BBC now

The Boardwalk Empire actor told the Telegraph: "I absorbed this fella like a sponge. These prison guards, they're trying to do a job to the best of their ability. Their job is to protect themselves, protect the prisoners and make it a nice, reasonable, cohesive place where everyone can do their time, treated with respect."

He continued: "[But] Nine times out of 10, they're not qualified to deal with people like this... I think that unfortunately, there's a lot expected of them in those circumstances."

In Time, Stephen's character Eric is known as a firm but fair officer, nicknamed 'Boss' by the inmates. He soon strikes up a bond with Sean Bean's character, Mark Cobden, but Eric is facing his own problems within the prison system.

MORE: Viewers stunned after spotting Line of Duty star in new BBC drama Time

MORE: The Crown star cast in new BBC One drama The Trick - and it sounds brilliant

time-2-stephen-graham

Stephen revealed he shadowed a prison officer in preparation for the part of Eric McNally

His son, Daniel, is residing in another prison but is facing frequent attacks from fellow inmates. As a result, Eric starts smuggling in contraband to bribe the prisoners to leave his son alone – leaving his job and reputation at risk.

Also starring in Time is Stephen's real-life wife, Hannah Walters, who plays his on-screen wife, Sonia McNally. Hannah is an esteemed actor herself and has appeared in titles such as This Is England, Broadchurch and No Offence.

time-eric-mcnally

Critics and fans alike are praising Stephen's performance

The couple are no strangers to working on the same projects (they both appeared, at different times, in Shane Meadows' body of work, This Is England), but their on-screen marriage is the first time they were so close together on-screen.

Speaking about working closely with Hannah in Time, he told the Telegraph: "I had one of those moments… I thought how blessed I am. That kid who wanted to be an actor, and all of a sudden, he is in his position with his wife, who's built this life with him. There was a sense of pride, but also an amazing sense of gratitude."

Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Activate HELLO! alerts and find out about everything before anyone else.