DIAL M4 MURDER
It’s back for a third series – and this time the stars of crime drama Unforgotten get the call to investigate when the body of girl is found beside a motorway. GEMMA DUNN finds out more
CRIME drama fans rejoice – for gripping ITV drama Unforgotten is back with a whole host of new suspects to sift through. The prime-time hit – penned by screenwriter Chris Lang and hailed as the “best detective drama of the decade” – will see dream team DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan (played by Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar, respectively) return for a third run, as they investigate another emotionally-charged cold case.
“We discover a body that has been buried beside a motorway,” Sanjeev, 54, reveals of the six-part run.
“The motorway construction workers discover it whilst doing some repair work on the road and we then find out that it was a young girl who went missing at the turn of the millennium – New Year’s Eve 1999.”
It differs to previous seasons, he adds: “Because in this one, the investigation centres around four friends and their families who rented a holiday home near where a young girl went missing.
“These four men have been friends for years, all of them are supportive of each other and they are all still fairly close,” says The Kumars At No. 42 star.
“The investigation becomes centred around those characters and their families.”
Noted. So what else should we know ahead of the show’s return?
MEET THE SUSPECTS
MUCH like its predecessors, the latest series of Unforgotten plays host to a line-up of acclaimed British actors – and what a selection it is.
Alex Jennings, Kevin McNally, Neil Morrissey and James Fleet join forces to star as four former school friends who, having stood by one another through thick and thin, find their relationships tested to the limit.
For Nicola, 48, welcoming newbies into the fold is one of her favourite parts of the role.
“I actually did my first ever job with James Fleet in Four Weddings And A Funeral, which I am in for a blink!” she recalls.
“I met James there and have done plays with him since. I think he is absolutely remarkable in this show. I had also worked with Alex Jennings on Spooks, but I hadn’t worked with Neil Morrissey or Kevin McNally before, so that was exciting,” she says.
“That is always one of the best bits about this job, doing those first few scenes when we knock on the door with the new suspects behind it, knowing you are going to go on this interesting journey with them.”
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
WHILE the whodunit drama is obliged to check certain boxes – there’s a body, tick, and suspects, tick – that’s where the similarity ends.
First off, the case investigated this series is the most recent to date, with the victim having gone missing only 18 years earlier (previous series harked back 30 to 40 years).
This affects the team’s approach to the case, explains Nicola.
“There is the complication that everyone they speak to when trying to identify the body is hoping it is their child and that after all of these years they will be able to bury a body,” begins The Split actress.
“For many, many people it is in living memory, and that makes the case incredibly complex,” she elaborates.
“In the past, that distance of time has probably allowed the team to step back a little. But this year, Cassie warns them that they will have to tread extremely gently because it is all very recent.”
TRIAL BY MEDIA
ANOTHER relevant addition to the TV favourite is the exploration of press and social media in the story.
“Everyone jumps on social media
I think Chris is asking us to have a conversation about... social media’s impact on suppositions about who may be guilty before a case has been taken to court Nicola praises writer Chris Lang’s approach to a thorny issue
to proffer an opinion of some sort nowadays and this series looks at the impact that has on the investigation itself,” notes Sanjeev.
“It used to be that people got their information through newspapers and if you wanted to make a comment you either made it to your friends in a pub or you wrote to a newspaper,” he continues.
“The reach of those things is quite limited, whereas now you can put it on social media and it goes around the world.”
“Because it’s so high-profile, this case. It’s one of those ones that would have just been mass media coverage.
“But 18 years ago, social media was non-existent,” Nicola says.
“Now that’s another angle that I think Chris is really asking us to have a conversation about: social media’s impact on suppositions about who may be guilty before a case has actually been followed through and taken to court.”
IT’S A GUESSING GAME
WITH four suspects to mull over – just how easy is it to join the dots, then?
“lt would be a mistake to think of there being four suspects,” Sanjeev says, with a smile. “There are four key people of interest, but there are more people around it.
“When I got the first script, I really thought, ‘Oh it was that person’ and then the pages turn and I think, ‘No it’s her. Or him. Or everyone’,” adds the father-of-one, admitting even his actress wife, Meera Syal, does not get a tip-off.
“I have done that on every set of scripts on every series [but] the reason people love detective shows is you play the part of the detective!” “It’s really clever,” Nicola concurs. “I spent a lot of time feeling certain I knew who had done it and I was completely wrong.”
FINALLY the third chapter will check in on the two detectives, who last series dramatically decided to walk away from a case when they discovered that the suspects were victims of child sex abuse who had plotted to kill their abuser.
For Cassie in particular, the job – and that case – has taken its toll emotionally.
“She’s not superwoman!” Nicola contests. “Chris never set out to make a series about superhero cops; they’re real people and there’s some collateral damage for Cassie, as it goes on.” Will we see her struggling to cope? “There is a voice in her head which is telling her she may have to rethink the way she is dealing with her professional and personal life,” she says.
“But she ignores it and keeps going, like we all do.”
Unforgotten returns to ITV tomorrow at 9pm
DCI Cassie Stuart (Nicola Walker) and DI Sunny Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) search for the killer of a girl missing since the turn of the millenium L-R: Neil Morrissey and Alex Jennings are part of another impressive cast for the third season of Unforgotten