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.
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