Unforgotten duo Ni­cola Walker and San­jeev Bhaskar tackle the fall­out from a 25-year-old mur­der in their sec­ond se­ries

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - By An­dre Paine

Ni­cola Walker and San­jeev Bhaskar go back to the 1990s for an­other cold case se­ries.

The new se­ries of ITV’S hit cold-case drama,

Unforgotten, begins with a grim dis­cov­ery: a body in a suit­case that’s been sit­ting at the bot­tom of a river. When DCI Cassie Stu­art (Ni­cola Walker) and DS Su­nil ‘Sunny’ Khan (San­jeev Bhaskar) at­tend the scene, at a picnic spot by the River Lea in North East London, it be­comes clear that the corpse, which has been partly pre­served by the silt, could have been there for decades.

“It was re­ally dis­turb­ing,” Ni­cola Walker ( River, Spooks) tells Crime Scene. “Ev­ery­body around [ dur­ing film­ing] seemed to think it was com­pletely or­di­nary to be look­ing at this fat-cov­ered skele­ton. I’m not queasy about things like that, but that body was very un­set­tling.”

The in­ves­tiga­tive duo only have a cou­ple of clues to iden­tify the mys­tery body: a pager and a wrist­watch car­ry­ing the mark­ings of a re­pairer.

“The pager is found within this fatty de­posit that’s grown around the skele­ton,” says Walker. “You re­alise how much tech­nol­ogy has moved on. We have a fab­u­lous young tech­ni­cian, who’s ac­tu­ally a friend of my char­ac­ter’s son, so we go to this young kid on the Tot­ten­ham Court Road and he helps us out.”

While the de­tec­tives try and find a name, writer and cre­ator Chris Lang also in­tro­duces sev­eral other char­ac­ters – a lawyer, a de­tec­tive, a nurse and a school­teacher, spread across London, Brighton and the Cotswolds – who are con­nected to the his­tor­i­cal crime. The guest stars in­clude Mark Bon­nar ( Shet­land), Rosie Cava­liero ( Prey) and Lor­raine Ash­bourne ( The In­ter­cep­tor).

“There was a point at which, every time I sat down with each of those peo­ple, I thought: Bafta nom­i­na­tion,” Bhaskar says, of the cast. “With those in­di­vid­ual sto­ries, they are quite un­ex­pected in the way that they un­fold. The peo­ple of in­ter­est this time around are kind of pil­lars of so­ci­ety.”

Ques­tion­ing a fel­low officer who was mar­ried to the dead man is a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge for Stu­art and Khan.

“Deal­ing with an­other po­lice officer makes the dy­namic of those scenes re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” Bhaskar re­flects, of their meet­ing with DI Tessa Nixon (Ash­bourne), “be­cause it was some­body who knew what we were think­ing be­fore we had said it.”

“It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” Walker agrees. “She knows that I’m al­ready think­ing of her as a sus­pect, be­cause she would be. She’s think­ing in par­al­lel with Cassie, which is dif­fi­cult but doesn’t ac­tu­ally seem to phase Cassie in the slight­est.”

In fact, the duo are both thor­oughly pro­fes­sional de­tec­tives, un­like many of the more trou­bled TV cops.

“What I re­ally liked about the char­ac­ters the first time around was how un­re­mark­able they were,” says Bhaskar. “So many cop shows need to have a hook for the main char­ac­ters – gam­bling or a drink prob­lem. [ Our show] fo­cuses a lot more on the case and the peo­ple of in­ter­est.”

Yet the job does af­fect Stu­art and Khan’s do­mes­tic lives, par­tic­u­larly that of Cassie, who is di­vorced and now lives with her father (played by Peter Egan).

“Cassie’s very wor­ried about her father,” Walker says, “he’s be­hav­ing out of char­ac­ter and the po­lice­woman in her starts to come out in the re­la­tion­ship with him – she can’t help her­self.”

Al­though she played a lead role in Paul Ab­bott’s Touch­ing Evil 20 years ago, Walker has en­joyed a ma­jor break­through dur­ing the past year, with Se­ries 1 of ITV’S Unforgotten and BBC One’s River air­ing at the same time.

“River was a self-con­tained story,” she re­flects, “it may well come back but it wouldn’t in­volve my char­ac­ter.”

Bhaskar is per­haps best known for com­edy – Walker says he “makes me laugh a lot” – but has also had sev­eral crime roles ( Mid­somer Mur­ders, Silent Wit­ness, Lewis) and de­scribes him­self as a “fan of de­tec­tive shows since I was a kid”. He even sees a hint of Nordic Noir in Unforgotten.

“There was so much fo­cus on not just the peo­ple who are po­ten­tially of in­ter­est but also their fam­i­lies,” he ex­plains, “it felt very much like a Scandi [ drama] but done in a very British way.”

Of course, with a six-part se­ries arc, Unforgotten is also a clas­sic British who­dunit. Bhaskar says he was get­ting pestered by his wife, Meera Syal – also a star of Broad­church – for the so­lu­tion dur­ing Se­ries 1. But he kept the se­cret to him­self and is con­fi­dent no one will guess the iden­tity of Se­ries 2’s killer.

“As you’re read­ing the scripts, you’re think­ing ‘it’s go­ing to be him’ [ but] much like the first script, I couldn’t work it out,” says Bhaskar. “You’re kept won­der­ing un­til the end.”

“The peo­ple of in­ter­est this time around are kind of pil­lars of so­ci­ety”

Bhaskar says that their char­ac­ters are “un­re­mark­able” but the show’s strength lies in its re­al­is­tic ap­proach.

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