Alun Armstrong loved going back to his Geordie roots for Dark Angel

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North East actor Alun Armstrong has spoken about how much he has loved being able to perform in his own accent for once.

The New Tricks star plays the stepfather of serial killer Mary Ann Cotton in ITV's new drama series Dark Angel, and said a big bonus of the role was being back in his native North East as the story is based on a true tale about the murderer, who was from the area.

Acknowledging that actors find the Geordie accent notoriously tough to crack, he said: "When I started off as an actor there were hardly any Geordie parts. Get Carter was my first film and that started the ball rolling.

Dark Angel
Alun and Joanne Froggatt star in Dark Angel (ITV)

"They reckoned people couldn't understand the accent. Certainly actors couldn't do it. Whereas now it's all changed.

"So I spent all of my early career hardly ever being able to do my natural accent. I was always working in other people's accents."

But Alun, whose character is called George Stott, reckoned his co-stars had none of the usual problems in getting the distinctive northern twang right.

Dark Angel's Alun Armstrong
Alun was impressed by the accent work (ITV)

He said: "Joanne Froggatt, who plays Mary Ann, had the accent down to a T. All the young actors did. I went to the readthrough and I was amazed. I couldn't really tell whether two thirds of them were real Geordies or not.

"And Penny Layden, who plays George's wife Margaret, is a wonderful actress. She not only had a North East accent, she had an accent from that village, South Hetton in County Durham. She had it absolutely spot on. It was remarkable."

Dark Angel's Joanne Froggatt
Joanne stars in the drama (ITV)

Downton Abbey star Joanne added of her own take on the voice: "It's a general North East accent because she moved around. It's not specific to any town. I made it quite a soft accent because they didn't want her to be harsh or too difficult to understand. The actual accent of a working class woman of that time would probably be quite hard for our modern ears. I loved doing the accent."

:: Dark Angel airs on ITV later this year.