Ashes To Ashes star Dean Andrews chats to The Star - VIDEO

ASHES To Ashes and dust to dust...The Audi Quattro has been fired up for the very last time by politically incorrect tough cop, DCI Gene Hunt and his cohorts.

BBC 1's top sci-fi cop series Ashes To Ashes, the spin-off of Life On Mars, is on its final countdown - Fridays, from April 2, at 9pm.

And nobody will miss it more than South Yorkshire actor Dean Andrews – who plays Hunt's right hand man, Ray Carling.

VIDEO: Press the play button to see our full video chat with Dean and highlights from the final series.

MORE VIDEO: Ashes star Dean tells of a terryfing Taliban gun attack - in which three members of the crew were shot, while making a new film on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Also see the trailer for Kandahar Break - CLICK HERE.

Bent, sexist, racist and homophobic, it wasn't a great start for Ray Carling, who first appeared on TV screens back in 2006.

But he was saved by a witty script – set in a less PC world of the 1970s and then 1980s – and Dean's portrayal of a likeable rogue, who just wanted to beat the bad guys. Brutally.

The copper with a dodgy moustache, permed hair, blunt views and a comic rudeness, evolved to win over the programme's seven million viewers and the role has turned Dean into a household name.

Carling has moved on even further in the final series, set in 1983. He's been promoted to Detective Inspector. And he doesn't hit anyone, allegedly.

But Dean, aged 46, had the biggest shock when he put on a velvet tuxedo, frilly shirt and big bow tie for an Opportunity Cops karaoke scene, where Ray sings Danny Boy. It was more a case of Daddy's boy.

"When I looked in the mirror I thought, oh my God – I'm my dad!'' says Rotherham born Dean, a father of two, living in Barnsley.

"My dad was a club singer and he has a publicity photograph showing him with a moustache, black curly hair, wearing the same thing. They say you end up looking like your dad and it was just one of those moments."

For the benefit of those who have been living on Mars for the past four years, the story so far, has told how modern day police officers Sam Tyler, played by John Simm, then Alex Drake, portrayed by Keeley Hawes, both ended up in comas and woke up back in time.

Tyler went first, in Life On Mars. He was hit by a car and arrived in 1973. He got back home but then jumped off the police station roof to his death in the final episode.

Ashes To Ashes followed, with Drake getting shot in the head and waking in 1981. Like Tyler, she is haunted by voices and images from the future, as she struggles to find a way home.

What ties them together in the past is their job – police officers, but assigned to the CID section run by anti-hero Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, his loyal sidekicks DC Chris Skelton, actor Marshall Lancaster, and Dean's character, Ray.

Throw in great songs of the time, from David Bowie to Duran Duran, fashions of the era, from flared trousers to shoulder pads, iconic cars like Hunt's Ford Cortina and Audi Quattro. It's nostalgia heaven.

But there's lots of loose ends and all will be revealed in the final series. Not that Dean is giving much away.

"I can tell you, but I would have to kill you,'' he laughs.

"Yes, everything gets answered in this series and fingers crossed people will enjoy it.

"I think the scripts are the best of the whole she-bang, because you get an in depth view of the characters in this series. You find out who Gene Hunt is, why Ray, Shaz and Chris are there, and what it's all about. You think you've got the gist of it, then you get the rug pulled from under your feet and we stick something else in. It will keep you guessing all through the series.

"People like nostalgia, great story lines and characters. There's been no bigger characters on British television in the years than Gene Hunt. He's surrounded by other wonderful characters, like Ray. It builds up a great profile for the programme.

"The music is always great. That's why they always knock it on a year, so we can take the best music from each successive year.

He said of his character: "I've no idea how DS Carling becomes a DI. He's useless. But he gets there, Ray changes a lot in this series. You get an in depth view of him and what's formed his life – what's influenced him to become the person we've seen.

"We then see a more vulnerable Ray. He doesn't throw one punch all series.

"I will always love Ray Carling, but I'm not sure I'll miss him. It will be nice to move on and show people I can do more than hit people. But if I get stereotyped, great – I'll be working.

"The casting directors cast to type. When I walk in a room I'm pigeon-holed straight away because I'm quite a stocky fella, with a mean face occasionally. I'm not going to be the romantic, sloppy lead. So you do get characterised virtually straight away for what you are. I've been the hard man most of my career. It doesn't mean I can't do anything else.

"I've enjoyed the camaraderie with the other actors, some great story lines, playing with guns, fast cars, great music, great clothes to wear and great lines. It was an absolutely fantastic show to be part of."

Dean was educated at Sitwell Juniors and then Oakwood Comprehensive School. He lived in pubs run by his parents - The Masons on Wellgate and The Green Dragon in Kimberworth. A former car salesman, he was a clubs and cruise line singer before landing his first acting job just nine years ago in Ken Loach's film The Navigators. He went on to star in TV dramas Wire In The Blood, True Dare Kiss, The Street and No Angels.

But down to earth Dean is still coming to terms with the fame thrust upon him as part of a series which is well on the way to becoming a timeless classic.

"It's hard to believe I'm part of a show that people are already talking about in the same vein as Dad's Army, Only Fools and Horses and Fawlty Towers. I'm just a lucky lad from Rotherham. It doesn't compute in my brain.

"I went to Doncaster races at the weekend and hundreds of people recognised me, coming up for photographs and autographs. It's only then you realise that people know who you are. In your head, you're just the same bloke you've always been. But I like it when people call me Ray, because I've convinced people that I am him. And then they tell me I'm a lot different, a lot slimmer and a lot younger – so it can be a bonus.

" I've been out with the police a few times – they've taken me out in their fast cars, to see a little behind the scenes. It's a great job, I wish I was a copper. The ones who can remember the 1970s and 80s have an empathy for the show – those today think it would be great if they could do a little bit of that.

"I really don't know what's next for me. An actor's life never really changes. You go from one job to another and you just wait for the phone to ring. I wouldn't mind doing a musical or a play. I've never done that. Or some more telly. I'm not quite ready to go back to work this minute, but I will be at some point.

"The phone will ring next week and I'll be working a week on Monday. That's how it works in television, unless you're Tom Cruise and you're booked for the next four years. But I'm not Tom Cruise.

"I'm a jobbing actor. Philip Glenister won't have his door battered down. He'll get work. We all will. But they are not making great drama at the minute. They are making the odd one or two.

"And there's a lot of great actors out there. Everybody's fighting for the same roles. Whether you get one or not, it's down to a bit of luck."

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