SHAUN PARKES, MOSES JONES

In­ves­ti­gat­ing a mur­der in Lon­don’s Ugan­dan com­mu­nity, a cop finds him­self a stranger in a strange land. Guy Davis learned more about the ABC minis­eries Moses Jones from star Shaun Parkes.

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When the body of a man is pulled from the River Thames in Lon­don, his re­mains sug­gest­ing African witch­craft rit­u­als played some part in his demise, De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Moses Jones is the man the brass puts on the case.

With his Ugan­dan back­ground, Jones would seem to be the per­fect man to in­fil­trate the city’s sus­pi­cious, close-knit com­mu­nity of Ugan­dan ex­pa­tri­ates and refugees. But there’s one hitch: Jones was born and raised in Eng­land and has vir­tu­ally no knowl­edge of his African her­itage.

As if tan­gling with an iden­tity cri­sis wasn’t enough, Jones’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion leads him deep into a crim­i­nal con­spir­acy that in­volves power-bro­kers from both Lon­don and Africa – danger­ous men who’ll do any­thing to evade jus­tice.

The three-part ABC drama Moses Jones takes its au­di­ence into a threat­en­ing world that many view­ers may find as for­eign as its hero does. But Shaun Parkes, play­ing the ti­tle role, is a tremendous guide, bring­ing to life a char­ac­ter who is tough and de­ter­mined but three-di­men­sional and all too hu­man. The ac­tor, whose cred­its in­clude The

Mummy Re­turns and Casanova ( op­po­site David Ten­nant), re­cently spoke about the minis­eries and his role in it.

Who is Moses Jones, Shaun?

Moses Jones is a loner, he’s fear­ful, but a very good cop. His mum’s from Uganda but he was born in Lon­don. He lit­er­ally has no idea of his cul­tural her­itage, be­cause he’s grown up in a house­hold where his mum’s es­sen­tially de­cided to keep that away from him, be­cause of what­ever prob­lems she had in the past. There are some peo­ple that have an un­der­stand­ing of them­selves and their cul­tural her­itage, and then there are those who don’t re­ally have an idea of their fam­ily tree, and there are those who have left their home­land be­cause of some atroc­i­ties or some hard­ships at home.

What sparks his in­volve­ment in the case that makes up the minis­eries’ story?

At the beginning of the drama, one of the most im­por­tant things to Moses is a case he’s been work­ing on for two years; he’s re­ally up for fin­ish­ing it and bring­ing th­ese peo­ple to jus­tice. But all of a sud­den he’s taken off this case to go and talk to Africans in their com­mu­nity and he doesn’t re­ally un­der­stand. I think at the beginning he just doesn’t want to be there. He’s an­gry be­cause he’s the black guy and he gets the “ black case”.

Parkes: “ It was fas­ci­nat­ing get­ting to grips with a world which most of us have no idea is there. We live next door and we have no idea what’s go­ing on.”

It’s his first step into a whole new world, re­ally.

This is his in­tro­duc­tion to Uganda as well as to the com­mu­nity in his coun­try, which he then feels a bit fear­ful of, know­ing in his own mind that he should know a lot more about this com­mu­nity. And this causes him to come across as ar­ro­gant, non­cha­lant and un­car­ing. I think his re­ac­tion is as a re­sult of be­ing taken off the case that he’s been on. Plus the fact that now he’s go­ing to have to face his demons about who he is as far as the Ugan­dan com­mu­nity is con­cerned. He feels that’s all part of a past that’s noth­ing to do with him. Yet as he delves deeper, he feels more part of the peo­ple he’s in­ves­ti­gat­ing than he does the po­lice.

This is your first lead role, right?

It’s not the first role of sig­nifi cance that I’ve played, al­though it is my first lead­ing role. I had to au­di­tion; there’s no mess­ing about!

I un­der­stand the script by Joe Pen­hall was a big fac­tor in you want­ing to take part in Moses Jones.

In terms of writ­ing, there are three guys that I love: Rus­sell T. Davies [ Dr Who], Paul Ab­bott [ Shame­less] and Joe. I haven’t worked with Paul, but I’ve worked with Rus­sell a cou­ple of times and Joe a bunch of times. I would have been bang­ing the door down if I wasn’t a part of this, be­cause it’s Joe!

What else drew you in?

The most im­por­tant is­sue for me was play­ing a cool black dude. [ Laughs] But it was fas­ci­nat­ing get­ting to grips with a world which most of us have no idea is there. We live next door and we have no idea what’s go­ing on.

Moses Jones, ABC2, Tues­day at 8.40pm

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