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First look: Aberdeen is the star of new BBC crime drama Granite Harbour

BBC Granite Harbour Aberdeen
Access to a number of main streets will restricted during the filming of Granite Harbour's second season later this month. Image: BBC Pictures

Romario Simpson might be playing the lead role in the new BBC crime drama Granite Harbour, but he reckons he’s not the star – Aberdeen is.

Because the actor fell in love with the Granite City while filming at locations ranging from Broad Street to the Beach and he reckons it will show off Aberdeen at its best when the three-part series premieres on Thursday December 1.

“There are a lot of establishing shots that really champion the city of Aberdeen,” said rising star Romario, who became a talent-to-watch after starring in Small Axe and Noughts And Crosses.

“It really does bring to light the beauty of it. When we were filming I didn’t know all that stuff was being captured, but seeing it on the screen you do think ‘oh, this is a nice place’.”

Hannah Donaldson and Romario Simpson star in Granite Harbour, filmed on location in Aberdeen. Image: BBC Pictures

His comments came as BBC Scotland today released the first images from Granite Harbour, which was filmed in May.

Romario tells of ‘challenges’ while filming Granite Harbour in Aberdeen

Romario plays Lance Corporal Davis Lindo, a Jamaican RCMP officer who has completed his last tour of duty and has been sent to train as a detective constable in Aberdeen.

It’s a different world to anything he has known before and he has to learn quickly – and doesn’t always play by the rules, especially after he is partnered with DCI Lara ‘Bart’ Bartlett, played by Hanna Donaldson, a streetwise Aberdeen cop.

They two soon find themselves embroiled in a twisting and turning investigation into the murder of a high-profile oil industry executive.

While Romario might have fallen in love with the north-east on his first time in Scotland, he admits there were some challenges during filming.

“Aberdeen was definitely challenging in terms of the weather changing every 20 minutes,” he said.

“There was definitely a lot of adapting we had to do while filming because of this.”

But it was still a memorable experience for the actor.

Romario Simpson as DC Davis Lindo in a scene from Granite Harbour. Image: BBC Pictures

“I’m a London city boy, so I’m used to the hustle and the bustle and the fast-paced life,” he said. “So it was really refreshing to be somewhere that was a slower pace of life, where I could breathe, it was fresher air, just next to the ocean.

“That had a positive effect on my mental well-being just have a wider landscape. And people talk to you in Scotland.”

Full ‘Scottish breakfast’ in Aberdeen was new taste experience for actor

However, Romario had another challenge in a scene depicting Lindo being faced with his first experience of a full Scottish breakfast – although some might question kippers being in the mix with tattie scones and haggis.

“I tried some if, but there were definitely some new tastes to my tastebuds – but it is definitely something I will have to go back to if we do more filming up in Aberdeen.”

Bhav Joshi plays DI Jay Mallick in Granite Harbour. Image: BBC Pictures

His co-stars, Hannah Donaldson and Bhav Joshi who plays DI Jay Mallick, also had high praise for filming in Aberdeen at locations including the Castlegate and Windmill Brae.

“It was great just to absorb all the places and businesses we were talking about,” said Hannah. “Things like driving along the esplanade and looking out to the rigs thinking, ‘yes, this is where we should be, this is where we should tell this story’.”

Bhav said: “It’s very specific that this is a story that’s taking place in Aberdeen. You don’t really see a lot of that in typical police drama, it’s normally Glasgow-centric. So it’s nice this is taking place in Aberdeen and hopefully people in Aberdeen will love it.”

The cast were delighted that local people were pleased to see them filming in the heart of the city – including filming a protest scene at the Castlegate.

There’s been a murder… a scene from Granite Harbour, BBC Scotland’s new crime drama that airs from December 1. Image: BBC Pictures

Aberdeen people wanted to be extras in Castlegate protest scene

Hannah said: “You could see the people of Aberdeen milling around at the back thinking our protest was a protest anyone could join in. Earlier that day somebody asked if they could be extras for the day – and I think that’s great, to bring the Aberdeen general public in.

“I had a driver in Aberdeen called John, he was born and bred in Torry, and he was super excited about us filming in Aberdeen and I just thought that was really lovely.”

BBC Granite Harbour Aberdeen
A protest scene filmed in the Castlegate saw local people wanting to join as extras for Granite Harbour. Image: BBC Pictures

While Granite Harbour does showcase the not-so-mean streets of Aberdeen – there are a lot of “oh look there’s…”  moments when watching it – there is one thing missing. Doric.

It was a conscious decision not to lean heavily into Aberdeen’s rich mother tongue said Holby City star Dawn Steele, who plays the detectives’ boss DCI Cora MacMillan.

“When it comes to the Doric and the real Aberdeen accent, it would have been brilliant,” she said.

Filming for  Granite Harbour on Castlegate in May. Image: Lottie Hood/DC Thomson

“We had vocal lessons before we even started and tried to get as many things in as we can, but we were quite constrained by being fully understood by an international market, so everything was slightly toned down with the Aberdeen accent.”

Will there be another series of Aberdeen-set Granite Harbour?

Toning down accent was also something Romario had to do while playing Jamaican-born Lindo.

“There are variations of the patois accent, but I had to tailor it for an international audience and a British audience. I had to articulate a bit more, because if I had done it as if I was in Jamaica, it would have been too fast and you wouldn’t have understood what I was saying.”

Dawn Steele plays DCI Cora Macmillian in Granite Harbour. Image: BBC Pictures

Granite Harbour runs for three episodes, which begs the question if there are any stories waiting in the wing about Lindo and the team.

Dawn said: “You just have to wait and see how it goes and the audience response to it. But I think after watching it you want more. I think there are a lot more stories to tell.”

Granite Harbour will debut on Thursday, December 1 on BBC Scotland and can be watched on BBC 1 on the following Fridays and on iPlayer.

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