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Interviews with Douglas Henshall and Julie Graham

Douglas Henshall plays DI Perez. Julie Graham plays Rhona Kelly.

Douglas Henshell reveals how he really feels about Shetland

Three years on since he was cast as the lead role in Shetland, Douglas Henshall reflects on how he felt when he first arrived in Shetland and looks forward to what is in store for series three.

...there were a lot of people on the island who had certain reservations...

How have you found the reaction to the success of the show?

It’s interesting actually because when we did the pilot there were a lot of people on the island who had certain reservations, such as geographical reservations, things about accents and it was almost like they expected it was going to be a documentary.

Eventually I had to move out of Lerwick and go to Scalloway as I got a bit fed up of every time I went out people saying “ah, well I’d like to see this!”

I was thinking “how is it going to be to go back to shoot series two?” but the reaction to series one was fantastic because people had got that we weren’t trying to make fun of the people who live there or the islands in any way shape or form. We were actually trying to do something positive for the islands.

So when we went back to shoot this series everybody was great, they couldn’t have been nicer or friendlier or more helpful. The reaction has been fantastic because they loved the first series. It was a relief because I was thinking if they didn’t like the series I’m in trouble this time!

What awaits Perez in series three?

Something terribly untoward happens to a young man who goes missing on the ferry and there’s no explanation as to where he’s gone.

A young woman who meets him on the ferry saw him have some kind of altercation with an older man but then he went away, she fell asleep and when she woke up he wasn’t there.

She waited for him whilst everyone was getting off the boat and didn’t see him so to the best of her knowledge, he didn’t get off the boat but as far as Perez is concerned, this is a guy she met for the first time for five minutes on the boat, had a bit of a thing with him and so maybe he sneaked off the boat?!

But then there’s a lot of drugs being washed ashore on a beach and a little kid takes one thinking they might be sweets. Perez goes down to the beach, where there are loads of these drugs washing up, when he finds a bag that has been thrown overboard from the ferry and is beaten up by someone who’s also looking for it.

It becomes very multi-faceted and the more they look into it the worse and worse and worse this gets. Eventually it spreads all the way to Glasgow and so the investigation gets much broader and bigger this time.

I think this is probably the darkest of the stories that we’ve done.

How did you find this time filming one continuous storyline?

It’s odd because suddenly you have to change your mind set slightly because it’s a much longer game. It’s like you’re trying to piece things together more slowly but also it’s more frustrating because the leads that you think you’re getting, aren’t actually getting anywhere.

The pace of it is different – you’re getting somewhere but slower and other things are happening as well which take you away. There are many strands to the story that you have to try to keep on top off. But as far as the idea of doing a story over six hours, I preferred it. I think we really find out what we’re about this time.

Do we get to find out more about Perez and his back story this time?

A little bit, but it’s more to do with his present actually. There’s a lot more about his general state of mind and the things that have been building up in him for two and a bit series. That kind of an air of things being ok when it’s not ok really and I think that comes out.

His daughter starts to feel not oppressed by him but responsible for him and that causes difficulties for them and also Duncan, Cassie’s real father. There are other problems.

How do you think Perez has changed since we first met him?

He’s a bit more strung out. I think things are catching up on him, he’s losing places to hide. You can’t keep working all the time and hope that all the things you’re keeping down aren’t going to slip out sideways.

Eventually he admits that he’s lonely and would like to maybe be with somebody, because once Cassie leaves to go to university he’s pretty much on his own.

He’s got no excuses anymore. You’ve got to get home to face yourself rather than getting home for your daughter. You can’t forget about yourself because you get home and every night it’s just you. I think he’s got to deal with things a bit better this time.

Perez and Duncan have an unusual dual parenting partnership – does it work smoothly or are there conflicts along the way?

There’s always a bit of conflict between the two of them but they also eventually make up and everything’s alright. It’s a tricky relationship.

How was filming on location in Glasgow?

That was a blast as it’s my home city. As much as we’ve always shot in a studio there for interiors ever since we started doing the pilot, to actually go out and shoot in the streets in Glasgow was fun.

I still got a slightly childish pleasure out of “look, we’re filming in my home streets! I know this place, I’ve been up and down here many a time.” It was fun.

You have some great new cast members in this series – how did you find working with them?

We always have new cast coming in for every story but it’s one of the greatest pleasures that I get, especially when we have great actors coming in like Ciaran Hinds, Archie Panjabi, Anna Chancellor and Saskia Reeves.

It’s a real credit to Elaine Collins and the quality of the scripts that we’ve got people like that coming into the series.

For me, the best thing is the young actors that come in to the series as to see the depth and breadth of talent coming into the business is fantastic.

Sara Vickers and Jack Greenless, who’s in Terence Davies’ new film, ‘Sunset Song’, are just fantastic. Andrew Rothney is another terrific young actor.

That’s my favourite kind of thing – it’s fantastic seeing young good talent come through.

How involved has Ann Cleeves continued to be in the series?

Ann has been as generous as it’s possible to be because we didn’t do the books in order, we added a character who isn’t in any of them and I look nothing at all like her idea of Jimmy Perez!

I’m blonde, fair and Scottish and he was supposed to be olive skinned with Spanish hereditary from somewhere back in the day but she couldn’t be more supportive.

This isn’t one of her stories but she was there for the readthrough and she’s always been very supportive.

What do you think viewers will take away from this series?

Hopefully they’ll want more and they’ll see that the show has moved on and got better and maybe we’ll introduce new people to it. There are so many options these days but hopefully people will find something distinct enough about it to sit down and watch it.

I also hope they’ll enjoy the islands because there’s nowhere that looks like that and I think we really made the most of it this time. Both the directors that we had this time made the most of the locations and I think the island’s come out looking terrifically.

Julie Graham's thoughts on her character and what lies ahead

In her second series of Shetland, Julie Graham reveals how she feels about playing her character, procurator fiscal Rhona Kelly.

I think everyone loves the landscape and it’s just a bit different from the normal hustle-bustle city detective, fast moving show.

How did you find filming the longer storyline?

It was really great to do a story that went over six episodes rather than three separate stories. I think it makes the series stronger and it’s nice to work on a storyline that’s quite meaty.

By being over six episodes, you can really get your teeth into it. I think it’s a strong storyline as it’s about corruption at the heart of the powers that be and that’s what I really liked about it.

Did you find you got to know Rhona better by having that one longer storyline?

It was nice as it’s the first time we’ve explored her personal life, and it was great to work with Anna Chancellor who I’m a huge fan of anyway. She’s fabulous.

It was nice to have a personal storyline this time, other than obviously the relationship with Perez. It was nice to get your teeth into something a bit more meaty.

What’s in store for Rhona this series?

It delves into her personal life. She’s having a relationship with a colleague and it becomes complicated. You see another side to her that’s a bit more playful and outside of work where she’s not so stern and that’s a nice thing to play.

How is Rhona’s relationship with Perez?

Her relationship with Perez hasn’t really changed although it is challenged because of the relationship that she’s having with Anna Chancellor’s character.

They’ve got a very good working relationship but it puts pressure on it a little bit more.

How was it welcoming the new cast members to Shetland?

It’s lovely when we get new blood! Anna is an amazing addition to the cast and a brilliant actor. We’ve got incredible actors which is really wonderful and enhances it. It shows it’s the quality of the programme that attracts such great actors.

How have you found the reaction to the show?

The reaction that I got personally from people was fantastic and I was happy to do it again.