Douglas Henshall returns to our TV screens as DI Jimmy Perez next week – and says the Shetland detective “is just in my bones”.
And the Scottish actor promises fans are in for a thrilling ride as the team investigate a doorstep murder, setting in train a shockingly sinister turn of events that strike at the heart of the Shetland Isles.
Douglas also said it was wonderful to be back filming on Shetland and a welcome return to the character that has attracted fans around the world.
“I think I’ve been doing it so long, Perez is just in my bones now. Normally it takes me around a week to start to feel comfortable playing him again but after that it’s pretty straightforward,” said Douglas, who is reunited with Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson and Alison O’Donnell as DS Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh.
He said the new series, the sixth, has a darker tone as Perez faces up to personal heartbreak.
Grief for Perez as Shetland returns
“We open with the funeral of his mother so there’s a big thread of grief which runs through this series for Perez,” said Douglas.
“As for the case? I don’t want to give too much away! But I will say this, there’s the murder of a prominent figure and his daughter hears her father die over the telephone.”
Over the course of the six series – a seventh has already been filmed – Douglas has seen the character of Perez grow and develop, both in his strengths and weaknesses.
“I think he’s very good at his job but his weakness is that he doesn’t care about himself enough,” he said.
“He really needs to get back out in the world at some point and I think he’s very near burn out. He’s a good dad and a good cop but, as far as his personal life is concerned, he really needs to take a look at himself.”
And Douglas has no hesitation in admitting there are many similarities between himself and the detective, based on the books by Ann Cleeves.
“Yeah, lots because it’s me who’s doing it. It’s nice to explore different parts of your own personality through Perez so they’re all me, really,” he said.
Global audience for popular series
“I never really understand actors who talk about their characters in the third person. I’m the only emotional frame of reference that I’ve got. So all of the characters that I play are just extensions of me.”
Shetland has now become a hugely-popular and much loved show, not only at home, but abroad as well.
While Douglas is delighted at the global reach of the show, he is slightly reluctant to say why it is a draw for audiences.
“Part of me doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know. But another part of me knows we’ve got one of the best crews on the planet on this job and the chemistry between the cast is good,” he said.
He also has high praise for the writers, who have been with the show since the pilot, offering consistency as the characters and storylines develop over time.
Douglas said while the show’s ambitions have always been high, the set is a happy place to work.
“We all pull for one another. It’s tough doing a show like Shetland – we’re away from our families for weeks on end so we all support one another. I think when you have all of those things, then you have the chance of making something memorable. And then there’s a little bit of luck too.”
When is Shetland back on the box?
He is also delighted to be able to get back to work on the islands – if tinged with a touch of trepidation at first.
“You know I came to Shetland and I hadn’t worked for a year and a half. I hadn’t been in a room with more than four people and suddenly to come on a TV set with all the cast and crew around me was a bit daunting for a little while,” said Douglas.
“It’s always lovely to come back to Shetland but it’s certainly not been under normal circumstances this year.”
The end result though is unmissable telly… and Douglas does offer a reason for why Shetland is so gripping.
“The writers and the characters. By now, people like our show because there isn’t anything like it on TV.”