As a curiosity it’s worth taking a look at Shetland and you’ll discover it’s a truly beautiful place. But, above all else, Shetland is a really good crime story.
Douglas Henshall plays Jimmy Perez
What kind of person is Perez?
In terms of his character, he’s not one of those haunted types with lots of problems, he’s actually a straightforward man who would just like a quiet life. Perez is a slightly idealistic guy who thinks Shetland is a safe haven - a nice, safe place to raise his daughter.
Why does he return to Shetland?
Essentially he moves back for his daughter. Cassie’s real father lives in Shetland and Perez wants her to be close to her dad because her mother has died. I think he’s got a slightly idealised view of Shetland - a place where people don’t lock their front doors.
What is Perez’s relationship with his police partner, Tosh, like?
I suppose Perez is something of a mentor towards Tosh. She’s bright and focused and together they have quite a quirky relationship where she’s very sharp and funny and Perez is the straight man, if you like. I think they rub along nicely together.
What attracted you to the role?
It's always such a cliché but it was simple – the script. If the script’s good it makes it interesting. I really like David Kane’s writing and I’ve worked with him before [This Year’s Love] so there was a draw there for me. And Ann Cleeves’ sense of Shetland is fantastic – the way she describes the location is incredible.
What makes the island location so unique to film a crime drama such as Shetland?
Shetland is such a unique place it’s impossible to double somewhere like that. The communities are quite spread out so when a murder happens in a location like Shetland it affects everyone. With that there’s an instant sense of tension because everyone will inevitably know who the murderer is. That immediately ratchets up the tension because you think “who can I trust?” Those little things make Shetland a unique location to set a crime drama.
What was it like filming in Shetland?
It’s such a beautiful place, so stark and unique – the sky is huge, the air is fresh, the sea is clear... it’s a lovely place. I’d never been before but I’d love to go back. Everyone worried about the weather but we really didn’t have it that bad – it was lovely actually.
Everybody was incredibly helpful and they honestly couldn’t do enough for us. Shetland was the biggest film production to ever be shot on the islands so I think everyone was really excited about us being there.
We didn’t leave any mess behind so hopefully they’d be happy for us to go back.
Was it good returning to Scotland to film Shetland?
Oh absolutely, yes. I don’t get the opportunity very often so it’s always nice to get back. Glasgow [where some of the Shetland shoot was filmed] is my home city and I’m always happy to go back whenever I can.
Any memorable filming experiences?
Well I got to go back to my hometown of Barrhead which was lovely. The old Health Centre where we shot the hospital scenes was where my mother worked as a district nurse so I knew the place. There were lots of ghosts walking around.
And the old council building which doubles as our police station was where my granddad worked so it was all very interesting. But also slightly surreal.
Are you a fan of crime dramas?
There’s such a proliferation of them but if they’re well done then I’ll watch. I can’t watch for the sake of it.
But I loved The Wire – it was fantastic – and I really liked The Killing and The Bridge and, years ago, Cracker. The thing about The Wire is you could have an hour-long episode and the only thing you’d discover is they’d find a phone number but it had power.
Talking of The Killing, Sarah Lund has her jumpers... what is Perez’s chosen attire?
Whatever’s functional for Perez, really. I was thinking about jumpers for my character but everyone around about me told me to avoid any kind of jumper. Sarah Lund has cornered the jumper market.
Why should viewers tune into Shetland?
I always thought of Shetland as being a place that was so remote it was always in a wee box during the weather. Sometimes I wonder if people really know where it is or what it’s like, what the people are like and what goes on there. As a curiosity it’s worth taking a look at Shetland and you’ll discover it’s a truly beautiful place. But, above all else, Shetland is a really good crime story.
What’s next for you work-wise?
I’m currently in 55 Days at Hampstead Theatre until the end of November which is a Howard Brenton play where I’m playing Oliver Cromwell.
And then who knows? Hopefully I’ll be going back to Shetland again for more of this drama...
Source (including photo): BBC Media