An 8 x 30-minute series, starring James Nesbitt, Joely Richardson, Anne-Marie Duff, Richard E Grant, Antonia Thomas, Niamh Algar, Sam Heughan, Sacha Dhawan and Ben Miller.
When veteran detective, Danny Frater, turns up at a hospital mortuary for what he thinks is a routine ID check, he gets a devastating shock; the deceased – a young woman – turns out to be his estranged daughter, Christina, and according to the post-mortem report, she’s taken her own life. Although the medical evidence points overwhelmingly to suicide, Danny refuses to accept the findings of the autopsy, and he sets out on a chaotic and often agonising crusade to discover what really happened to his daughter. Over the course of 24-hours, and through a series of intense exchanges with those
closest to Christina – her partner, her best friend, her business partner, her godfather, her mentor, and her mother (and Danny’s ex-wife) – he learns about her increasingly dark and complicated life comes face-to-face with his own failings as a man and a father and the part they may have played in her demise. Struggling to make sense of a mass of contradictory testimony and circumstantial evidence, Danny must decide who, if anyone, is responsible for Christina’s death and what he’s going to do about it.
SUSPECT LOG LINES PER EPISODE
Episode 1 - Jackie
Investigating a missing person case, Detective Danny Frater is devastated to discover the body at the morgue is in fact his estranged daughter, Christina. Jackie Sowden, the pathologist, is convinced it’s a suicide, but Danny is determined to prove otherwise.
Episode 2 - Nicola
Breaking into his daughter’s riverside apartment, Danny encounters a fellow trespasser, Nicola, and soon discovers Christina was leading a secret life he knew nothing about.
Episode 3 - Maia
Danny follows a lead to the murky Crimson Orchid lapdancing club. Under duress Maia, the manager, gives him a link to the criminal underworld into which Christina was lured – it’s a name from Danny’s own past.
Episode 4 – Jaisal
An old acquaintance, Jaisal, may hold some vital information about Christina’s last known whereabouts but new information will come at a heavy price for Danny.
Episode 5 - Ryan
Danny discovers his ex-police partner Ryan knows more than he is letting on about Christina’s death. A tense car journey across London sets them both on a collision course with death and a new suspect’s name is revealed.
Episode 6 – Harry
Illustrious business mogul Harry Carr dines alone at his horse racing track. Danny arrives with a gun to accuse Harry of being responsible for Christina’s death, but the tables are turned on Danny, when Harry forces him to question his own failures as a father.
Episode 7 - Susannah
Danny meets ex-wife Susannah at the chapel of rest to say one last goodbye to his daughter. He is on the brink of finally accepting Christina’s death was suicide, when he spots something which changes everything.
Episode 8 - Danny
Danny returns to one key suspect to confront them with his discovery but the suspect turns the table on him with information to disprove his theory. Richard arrives to take Danny into custody but one final clue provokes a dramatic climax to the case.
Episode 1 – Jackie
When veteran detective, Danny Frater, turns up at a hospital mortuary for what he thinks is a routine ID check, he gets a devastating shock; the deceased – a young woman – turns out to be his estranged daughter, Christina, and according to the post-mortem report, she’s taken her own life. Although the pathologist, Jackie Sowden, insists the evidence points overwhelmingly towards suicide, Danny refuses to accept her findings, and he forces Jackie to take him through her examination step-by-step. As their exchange becomes more heated, angry, and intense, Danny’s ex-boss, Richard, arrives to defuse the situation, but when Danny is left to say a final goodbye to Christina, he inadvertently comes across a tiny clue that propels him into what he thinks may be a hunt for a possible murderer.
Episode 2 – Nicola
Danny arrives at the apartment where Christina’s body was found and manages to find his way inside. As he carries out a search, he is startled to discover a young woman hiding in the bedroom and, although she does her best to escape, Danny manages to prevent her, and he forces her to answer his questions. She turns out to be Christina’s wife, Nicola, and their subsequent conversation reveals as much about Danny’s estrangement from his daughter as it does about Christina’s increasingly dark and complicated life. Danny and Nicola are obliged to work together to avoid detection and they reach an uneasy truce, until Danny makes a discovery that makes him question everything Nicola has told him, only for her to get the better of him in the final moments of their encounter.
Episode 3 – Maia
Bruised by his encounter with Nicola, Danny goes to The Crimson Orchid gentlemen’s club to look for Maia, who Nicola has accused of corrupting Christina. Maia stonewalls his questions, but when he tells her Christina may have been murdered, her façade of indifference cracks. Danny knows Christina was involved in criminal activity, and he assumes Maia has lured her into prostitution, but in the face of her angry denials, he realises Christina was selling drugs. Danny uncovers evidence that allows him to leverage Maia into revealing the name of Christina’s supplier, and he forces her to ring him and leave a message with Danny’s number. As he leaves, Danny’s phone rings; it’s Christina’s supplier and, although Danny doesn’t recognise his voice, it’s clear they have a shared history.
Episode 4 – Jaisal
Against Maia’s advice, Danny goes alone to meet with Christina’s supplier, who is revealed to be Jaisal Batra, a corrupt former police officer turned club owner. Initially, Jaisal easily parries his ex-colleague’s clumsy attempts at interrogation, but Danny’s behaviour is increasingly volatile, and he takes drastic action in exchange for information from Jaisal. After being forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about the extent of Christina’s criminality and her dangerously dissolute lifestyle, Danny learns that his daughter visited Jaisal’s club on the night she died and, behind Jaisal’s back, he manages to access CCTV footage that shows her in the company of a familiar figure in the hours before she died.
Episode 5 – Ryan
Danny goes to confront his old friend and former partner, Ryan. Initially, he doesn’t mention the CCTV footage that proves Ryan was with Christina shortly before she died, but as Ryan becomes pricklier and more evasive in response to his questioning, it becomes too much for Danny and he reveals what he knows, prompting an extremely violent reaction. Danny knows Ryan is corrupt, and he starts to suspect that, despite the personal connection between them, Ryan was deeply entangled with Christina and her drug dealing activities and may even be responsible for her death, forcing Ryan to provide what appears to be a cast iron alibi. However, the alibi helps Danny make a connection to an individual who he is convinced has all the answers to his daughter’s death.
Episode 6 – Harry
The circumstantial evidence that Danny has collected in the course of his encounters, now leads him to what he expects will be a showdown with Christina’s murderer – an urbane former pharmaceutical
industry executive, turned entrepreneur and investor, Harry Carr. But when he goes to challenge him, it quickly becomes apparent that, although Harry has been engaged in serious criminality with Christina, he has also been a mentor and father figure to her, and he is as distraught and mystified by her death as Danny is. Harry has the answers Danny is looking for, but he also forces him to face the truth about his own culpability in his daughter’s downward spiral into depravity and vice. As Harry shatters the last of Danny’s delusions, he is left questioning his very will to live.
Episode 7 – Susannah
A humbled and subdued Danny returns to the hospital mortuary to say a final goodbye to Christina in the company of his ex-wife, Susannah. Susannah’s attempts to reminisce about Christina as a little girl quickly turn into recriminations about why neither of them was aware of the life she was leading, before they are reconciled again by their devastating grief. Danny appears to have finally accepted the findings of the post-mortem report, as well as the part his actions have played in Christina’s decision to take her own life, until Susannah unwittingly introduces a new perspective on a recent incident in Christina’s life. It leads Danny to uncover a small but significant piece of physical evidence that suggests the possibility of foul play and leaves everything open to question once more.
Episode 8 – Danny
Danny turns up on Jackie’s doorstep to question why the evidence of foul play he has uncovered wasn’t mentioned in her post-mortem report. After tricking his way into her home, he discovers a link between Jackie and one of the people he has interviewed, and he speculates openly that Jackie is covering for this ‘person of interest’. But Jackie turns the tables on him with information that appears to disprove his theory, and when Richard turns up at Jackie’s request, he supports her story. They appear to have talked Danny into accepting the post-mortem’s findings, until a final clue allows him to prove a suspect was present at the scene of Christina’s death and to piece together a compelling theory about her murder, prompting him to seek bloody reparations on his daughter’s behalf.
James Nesbitt (Danny)
How would you describe your character, Danny Frater?
He’s sort of beaten by life, but also beaten by the decisions he's made. He’s certainly not a maverick! I've played a few of those in my time, but this show doesn’t have that agenda. I didn't see him as a policeman, but as a person who has made some terrible decisions. His ex-wife Susanna (Anne-Marie Duff) talks about how he has been struggling all his life to see the good in himself, and therefore the good in other people. Danny finally had a way out through happiness with his wife and daughter Christina (Imogen King), but somehow fucked it up. He has never really forgiven himself for that and has projected that lack of forgiveness onto his family.
Does he still have a sense of purpose?
I think he's waiting to finish work. I don't know if he's waiting to die, but there's just such an unhappiness in him. One of the tragedies is that his daughter's death almost gives him a shot at redemption – it lights the fire in him again as he starts to question how and why she died. They were obviously very close at one time, and we get to see that relationship in his hallucinations. I hope we see the journey of a man who has a touch of Conrad about him, someone who has descended to the worst place he could be. Somehow it takes wading through the worst hell to get to some kind of self- respect or redemption.
Why does he think Christina has been murdered?
Well, the cop in him has switched back on and he's piecing things together. Even if he's still a rather unappealing, unattractive, untrustworthy, dangerous, violent character, he still has a brain. For him it's a question of making sure justice is done, but it’s also about the desperation of a grieving father. When children die, parents will often do anything they can to maintain the presence of lost one. A lot of it is him saying sorry to her and assuaging his notions of self-loathing and guilt, but also to say: I will not let this go away. If I wasn't there for you in life, I'll be there for you in death.
Despite his flaws, he’s obviously a good copper.
Yeah, although he’s treading water at this point. There was someone professional and good and loving in there, but the job fucked him up and he was corrupted. For someone who prides themselves on doing the right thing, that would have set him off on a downward spiral.
What made Danny a particular challenge to play?
Apart from learning all the lines, it was about trusting myself and the other actors. I’m not an actor who can plan out their emotions and think: right, I’m going to cry here and shout there. And it was trying not to make Danny too sympathetic. I loved him by the end of it, but I also had that loathing for him that he had himself. The scenes I found most difficult were the ones where the other characters were telling me about their relationship with my daughter, because it made me feel that I didn’t have a relationship with her. This was a job where I could form a relationship with the person I was playing and not be scared by it, but embrace it.
Eight episodes shot in eight weeks, and you’re in every scene. It sounds pretty gruelling...
I’m not a method actor, but the real challenge for me was sustaining Danny, staying in the moment the whole time and being alert to what the other characters were saying to me, because we're all getting so many different pieces of information and each character has their own agenda. You’re never sure what’s true, because so much is hidden. There wasn't a lot of rehearsal. The week before the first episode we’d do a readthrough and rehearse for a day, then shoot for four days. Then I’d have a couple of days off to learn the next episode, come in and spend a day talking about the script, and then shoot.
It was thrilling, demanding and an affirmation of why I still love the job – an opportunity to show myself what I could do. At the end of it, I was fucking exhausted! But to work with so many great actors and getting each piece of the jigsaw to fit felt pretty special.
How did you enjoy working opposite a different actor in each episode?
Imagine having the opportunity to work with actors like Anne-Marie Duff or Niamh Algar (playing Nicola)... Richard (E Grant, playing Harry) was going through a difficult stage in his life as it wasn’t long since he’d lost his wife, but he had one extraordinary speech towards the end of our episode and just nailed it in one take. To work with young Sam (Heughan, playing Ryan) was fantastic and Joely (Richardson, playing Jackie) was a brilliant playing partner. I worked with Sacha (Dhawan, playing Jaisal) and Antonia (Thomas, playing Maia) a long time ago on The Deep, so to see them thriving was wonderful. Anne-Marie had a spare week and came in quite late, and it was a thrill to watch her unlock Susanna’s grief and rage. Niamh has an incredible energy and an extraordinary truth which makes you up your game. Everyone bought such authenticity and preparation and threw themselves at it, which I love. I enjoy a kick up the arse because I'm very competitive, and this was healthy competition.
Was the tight shooting schedule helpful in a way?
It was useful. The calibre of the actors was amazing and they came so prepared. They were also incredibly supportive and protective of me, I think instinctively, because they knew I was taking on a fairly big responsibility. It was a beautifully collaborative experience. And Dries Vos at the helm was just a dream, honest about what he wanted and very trusting in what I would bring.
How would you describe Dries’s creative vision?
He was very interested in the notion of sound, so we’d often use ambient sound, wind and music. He also liked me to watch the monitor after I’d done a scene, which I tend not to do but he was quite insistent. I'd watch a take, then he would play music on headphones to give me an idea of the mood that he wanted to create. That helped me attain a degree of emotional clarity.
What are you working on now?
I'm in the middle of filming season two of Bloodlands for the BBC. Not exactly light relief...
Joely Richardson (Jackie)
The other actors in the series are able to build on your work, but you kick off the series with James Nesbitt. What was that like?
It's nice to start things off, because you don't have to figure out how it fits with anyone else! Although I had an idea of the arc of it when I went in, I approached my episode as a complete story in itself. Intense is the only way I can describe it. But we were lucky with our director Dries Vos, because he knew exactly what he wanted at every moment, technically and from us as actors.
What were you expecting from the two-hander set-up?
I did a two-hander on stage in New York a few years ago and I do like them. The difference here was that there was very little rehearsal. When you're doing theatre, you read the script over and over, working out all the moves. This was like theatre, but even more focused. I quite like all of that though, when the stakes are high and you have to deliver.
Did you have any reservations about getting involved?
My only hesitation was wondering, in dark times, what exactly do I want to be putting out into the world? But Jackie is a great character and it’s great drama, so that was the answer. I don't often get roles where things are so full on and it requires everything of you.
Who is Jackie?
She is a bit of an enigma: tricky, not warm or full of humour, but focused and serious. She’s the perfect foil for Danny, because he's full of emotion but she keeps her emotions incredibly close to her chest. The antagonism between them is such that, at first, I thought they must have some history. But actually they just don't like each other.
Is there a level of professional respect?
No, not even that. She is incredibly focused on her work and the procedures are all important, so in the first few minutes, when his behaviour gets out of hand, that really freaks her out.
Did you put together a backstory of Jackie’s life outside the mortuary?
I didn’t do any of that when I was younger, but I do now because it helps me ground the person. People are my absolute fascination, and I need to know what’s driving them, what the stakes are. That’s my homework, just as you’d need to give the basic backstory of your life if you were in a therapist’s office.
How did you manage to get your head around all the medical jargon?
It was so tough. I had to look it all up so I knew what I was talking about, then learn each one phonetically. One of my best friends is a nurse, and it turned out that this stuff was in the exam she was doing that week. She gave me a great gift, because I could see it from her point of view – each job has its own slightly different language. Women over a certain age often get the parts that have very difficult language, which can mean extra hours of homework so you can know what it actually means and own it.
And Jackie is very experienced and authoritative.
Exactly – she’s not a flake so there couldn’t be any dithering in these very long takes. But the more prep you do, the more it pays off because the freer you can be.
Have you worked with James Nesbitt before?
No, a couple of projects had come up for us in the past, but the timing wasn't right. He's a fantastic actor, but it’s only when you see someone on the floor that you get to see the real them. He's such a funny mix: so intelligent, and he’s obviously mastered the art of screen acting, but then he'll go and sit on this chair and suck his thumb, like a little kid! But he's a giving actor, flexible and able to make every take a bit different, so it was a pleasure.
What’s next for you?
During the first lockdown. I didn't know if any of us would ever work again. But then I got offered a film, then Sandman for Netflix, then this, then another thing for Netflix, then a bit of my recurring character on The Blacklist, then another independent movie. It's an interesting time and I'm playing quite a range of characters, which really excites me because I suppose I am a character actress
Niamh Algar (Nicola)
Was Suspect an easy yes for you?
Very easy. The script was so engaging and kept me guessing. To know it’s all happening more or less in real time is a dream gig, to immerse yourself completely in someone’s world for four days with no breakaways or flashbacks.
How did director Dries Vos steer the shoot?
Dries knows exactly what he wants and knows exactly what you can do. We were able to run through the entire script in real time, in all of the locations, like you would for a site-specific play, so we could get really stuck into the themes and pay attention to the dialogue. We also shot more or less chronologically which was a gift, because we could trim any of the fat off: you know there and then if the story's not working, whereas if you’re shooting out of sequence you usually only realise it needs tweaking when you go into the edit. Jimmy (Nesbitt, playing Danny) and I would throw each other ideas, so it did feel like very much like a collaborative piece of storytelling.
Where did you film your episode?
In this amazing apartment in west London, which felt like the sort of place I hadn't seen done before in London. Dries’s idea was to try and convey London in a way that we haven't really seen before on British TV – he has a very personal vision of London.
Who is Nicola?
Nicola has returned to the place of her wife Christina’s (Imogen King) suicide, to say goodbye. She finds Danny there, and he’s come to his daughter’s apartment for the very first time. Nicola has the upper hand a little at first, in that she knows why this man's relationship with her partner fell apart and is prepared to make him face a few facts. She’s drawing attention to mistakes he has made and bringing up the sore points, making him acknowledge that, from her perspective, Christina took her own life because of things he had said or done.
Was their marriage a happy one?
No, but the point is that none of these characters are perfect, Nicola included. They all have problems. Nicola feels just as responsible for her partner’s death, she feels she could have done something but either chose not to try and help or just ran out of energy. She’s dealing with a huge amount of regret and grief. It's so soon after the events that even Nicola is trying to catch up on what she's actually feeling, because she doesn't know. She’s just acting on impulse.
What did Nicola love about Christina?
I think it was very much a whirlwind romance. Everything was new, everything was exciting and Nicola got caught up in all of that. When it finally began to slow down, what was driving Christina, this larger- than-life person, was something that was incredibly broken. It was young love that only came into maturity as the problems began to arise. Nicola was blindsided. By the time she found out about these dark things that were controlling Christina’s life, it was too late.
Did you give Nicola a backstory?
I did, if only so I felt like she was a character who could live in society: like, if she’s at a dinner table, what are the conversations that she's going to have with her friends? I need to think consciously as the character and find reasons why the character is there and why she's doing the things she’s doing.
How did you handle the pressure of playing a grieving character?
Well, it was nothing compared to what Jimmy was dealing with! All I had to worry about was Nicola, whereas he was in all eight episodes, so naturally his head was filled with a lot more information than mine, just to make sure the whole thing makes sense. Even so, we could really explore this shared grief and those moments where they find their emotions are similar. His character is very reserved and trying not to show emotion, whereas Nicola is really going there.
What’s coming up next?
I’m currently filming Culprits for Disney.
Antonia Thomas (Maia)
Why did you want to do Suspect?
The script came through and it seemed so mysterious, cryptic and intense. Then I got more context about the rest of the storylines, and when I realised it was a two-hander with James Nesbitt, it was just a complete no brainer.
Why did the two-hander aspect appeal?
It's a challenge that I have never had before, especially on screen. And this storyline means there are no bells and whistles, it's just talking, subtext, what people are and aren't saying, what they're trying to cover, how they're trying to get one up on each other. It’s really exciting and scary to map a piece like this, then navigate your character through it.
How did filming work?
It was quick, but extremely immersive. We rehearsed it all day in situ, really plotting it out, essentially like a play. Dries (Vos, director) played it in really long takes, and marrying the theatrical experience with a camera was just a dream.
Where did you film it?
In a functioning club in west London, near Hammersmith, which gave it a real authenticity and grit. It really informed Maia for me, because having to be in there, with that lighting and the seediness, all day long would definitely have an impact... And we found some interesting things in the dressing rooms!
Who is Maia?
We know very little about her at first, although she has been a friend of Christina's (Imogen King) since they got introduced to one another through the party scene. Maia has played the older, protective confidante role for Christina, who has been in a complicated relationship with her partner, Nicola (Niamh Algar). It hasn't been right, in some ways: Maia sees Nicola as very controlling, so she has been a sounding board for Christina. But drugs are involved in their world, and they get involved in a business deal that goes wrong.
Is Maia used to people making assumptions about her?
Yeah, in a very, very toxic male environment. But she’s also a single mother doing what she has to do. She's hardened by life. When Danny comes into the club, she’s used to dealing with men like him, aggressive and trying to assert authority. Then she’s quickly on the back foot because she realises that there's more to him than just a random guy and she doesn’t know why Christine is dead. From then on, it's a balancing act: she doesn't want to implicate herself or say too much, because she just doesn't know where it's going to lead.
Does Maia think Christina might have been murdered?
I think so. She knows Christina is a tough cookie who’s been through a lot and has been involved with some dodgy stuff. Maia doesn't want to get dragged into it because her kids are her priorities, so her survival instincts clash with the humanity of being a mother in front of this man who's just lost his daughter. Slowly but surely, she gets pulled in.
How was James Nesbitt to work with?
We’d worked together with Sacha (Dhawan, playing Jaisal) years ago, on The Deep, which was my second-ever job. I was very green and it felt quite overwhelming, but Jimmy took us under his wing and we all got on really well. When the opportunity came round to work together again, I was thrilled. It's just a shame that the three of us don’t get to be in the room at the same time.
How did you work on your scenes together?
I was nervous because I'd never done something of this nature before and I wondered if he’d remember me. Instantly he was like: Oh my God, how are you? I felt completely comfortable so we just got stuck into the work. He'd already done a few episodes but he still had all the energy to go at it. He was an incredible scene partner, and it all had so many layers. Each episode is a cat and mouse game of one upmanship, where as soon as one character thinks they've got themselves into a strong position, the rug is pulled and another piece of information is revealed.
What’s next for you?
I have something very exciting that I'm going to be filming at the beginning of the autumn, another two-hander but in a very different format – a British comedy with an actor that I hugely admire. I'm also doing quite a bit of writing as well, trying to develop stuff myself.
Sacha Dhawan (Jaisal)
What struck you about the script for Suspect?
The scripts were totally gripping from start to finish, and each character you meet along the way raises such intrigue and complexities. Matt Baker (writer) has done such a fantastic job in making the series so rich, and multi-layered, in a format, which we’ve not seen on British screens before.
Although the rehearsal time was short, I had a lot of time with the script ahead of filming, and Matt was great at letting me collaborate in creating Jaisal. The character wasn't initially written as being British Indian, and I was keen to incorporate the cultural specificity of the character, without distracting from the main story and making it stereotypical or heavy-handed. I feel we achieved a really nice balance, which only enhanced the relationship between Jaisal and Danny.
How does Jaisal’s identity come out on screen?
He’s reclaimed his British Indian identity, but on his own terms. While Jaisal is very different to me, I can absolutely relate to trying to find your place: there are times when I don't feel British enough and times when I don't feel Indian enough. And like Jaisal, I’ve spent so long trying to fit into one space or the other, I’ve negated just how empowering it is to embrace the best of both, and carve out my own space. Not only does he own his space with immense confidence, he’s also unapologetic for doing so. Being able to weave this kind of cultural specificity into the character made Jaisal so much more dynamic.
It must be fulfilling to work through all that in character.
It’s great to be able to have the time to work through the character in advance with the writer. It’s a real privilege nowadays, as schedules move so fast. Its great to have pause for thought. It allows time for things to digest, so you don’t have to think too much on the day of filming. You’ve built the muscle memory to almost let go of it all, be in the moment and trust its all there. That’s when exciting and unpredictable things can happen in a scene, as it did with Jimmy (Nesbitt) and I. There were many unexpected surprises that made our interaction with one another feel even more dangerous. This really is a character driven story, and by having the time to work through each beat in detail is what makes the series so much more than just a ‘whodunnit’.
How would you describe Jaisal?
Jaisal was working with Danny in the police force but was let go because of serious misconduct. Jaisal now owns a premises where he runs different aspects of his ‘business’. He’s become quite a successful entrepreneur, but on his own terms playing by his own rules. He’s actually quite selfish, but as a result he has the recognition, respect, and power that he’s always craved, and he relishes in that, perhaps a little too much. He may wear the mask of an egotistical ‘player’ but he shouldn’t be underestimated, which Danny very quickly learns.
Jaisal isn’t the most likeable character, but you have to be tough to survive in the police force.
There’s always a reason why a person behaves in a certain way. And that’s why I love playing characters like this because it’s never as straightforward as it seems. Jaisal plays by his own rules, because he feels that the world has failed him, society has failed him. He’s not just the ‘bad guy’, he’s clever, he’s intuitive, and he’s learnt how to manipulate others in order to get what he wants. And beneath that steely veneer is actually a young man that is more vulnerable than he lets on.
Jaisal knows exactly how to needle Danny.
There’s a lot of history there – he knows exactly how to push Danny’s buttons. He certainly ‘performs’ to begin with, giving Danny exactly what you would expect from him, if not more. But as the conversation evolves between the two it becomes clear that there’s a side to Jaisal that Danny may have underestimated. He’s clever, he’s dangerous, he’s manipulative, and he knows exactly how to get what he wants.
And he’s the last person you would expect to make Danny face some home truths regarding his daughter Christina (Imogen King). This isn’t done to needle Danny, it’s one of the rare moments in the episode where Jaisal is being completely honest and open. It really catches Danny off-guard, and is incredibly moving.
Where did you film your scenes?
In an amazing space that is actually part of a Thames Water sewage plant! Not the most glamorous of locations, but it looked fantastic on screen. And both Dries, and our exceptional Director of Photography, Brecht, really brought the space to life with the cinematography.
What do you get out of the two-hander set-up?
The episode is a conversation between two actors in one location. It’s shot for screen, but at the same time it also feels like you could be watching a piece of live theatre. It’s a format unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before. The performance becomes the sole focus with no tricks or clever edits, so there’s really nothing to hide behind, hence why the character prep beforehand was so vital.
There’s also minimal coverage, which means a lot of the action plays out in a handful of shots. Once you start cutting into scenes of this length with too many shots, the action tends to lose its natural rhythm and spark. It’s really exhilarating to play out a full scene in one take, but it also intensifies the pressure, which in itself brings an added dimension to scene. It’s a great way of working because you have less time to overthink what you’re doing, and rely totally on instinct.
How was it to work with James Nesbitt?
Jimmy is a great leading man, not just in front of the screen, but off-screen too. I worked with Jimmy a few years back on a TV series called The Deep. I adore working with him, and he’s an absolute joy to watch on screen. He’s effortless in performance, so instinctive, and incredibly detailed in his choices. It had been almost 10 years since we worked together, so like Jaisal, I was keen to prove myself, and not drop the ball.
What’s coming up next?
I'm currently filming a major new six-part crime-thriller based on Mo Hayder’s acclaimed Jack Caffery novels called Wolf for the BBC. Megan Gallagher scripts are so good! And I’m also set to return as The Master in the Doctor Who Centenary Special, which will air later this year.
Sam Heughan (Ryan)
Ryan could hardly be more different to Jamie, your character in Outlander...
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been on Outlander for a while and Jamie’s an established character, a thoroughly decent guy. Ryan is such an intriguing character with a lot of history and secrets. He’s not the nicest guy – you could say he's lost his way.
What is Ryan’s relationship to Danny?
They are former partners in the police force who worked very closely together and became very good friends, to the extent that he was the godfather to Christina (Imogen King). Ryan supported Danny (James Nesbitt) when he got into trouble so they've always had each other's backs, but you get the feeling that Ryan's gone down this dark path after spending too much time out on the streets and getting mixed up with the wrong people. When they meet in the gym, Danny knows Ryan’s not telling the truth.
Does Ryan have his own family?
We do hear about a partner but it seems like they split up after quite a tempestuous relationship because Ryan’s not an easy guy to live with. He seems like a bit of a loner. He's got anger issues, a lot of pent-up aggression and he’s quite unstable – the kind of character I hadn't played before.
What does the two-hander bring out in you?
The script is so strong, and there are three scenes in the whole episode: one in the gym, one in the changing room, one in the car. They’re really long scenes, extended takes and they wanted to shoot them differently. They're very intimate, very intense and while that’s slightly scary, it’s also really appealing, jumping feet first into something. It felt like a piece of theatre where you're in this long take and you really don't really know where it's going to go. We had a really good time.
Was it as intense to make as it is to watch?
It was very intense, especially because ours was the first episode to be shot. We had a day of rehearsal in the gym, which helped because it was an MMA gym when I had thought it was more of a weightlifting gym. We could incorporate a bit of bag work, boxing and Muay Thai in there, which was great because I did some Muay Thai training in Thailand years ago. I enjoyed that breathlessness because Ryan is a high-energy, on the edge guy. You could really feel the sweat, which lent a lot to the scene.
How did you enjoy working with James Nesbitt?
He's great fun, but he also brings such a level of intensity and heartache. You don't know if Danny is a sane man or whether it’s all in his head. You're really questioning every character as a viewer, and Ryan knows he’s been caught out by Danny, so he’s having to think very fast. It was a thrill to work on all that with him.
Does Ryan think Christina has taken her own life?
Well, he's got his own secrets and probably knows more about the situation than he’s letting on. I think he feels responsible in some way, because he was supposed to be looking out for Christina and they were very close. But all the characters have guilt somewhere.
Did you give Ryan a backstory?
I think you have to. He's such a shady character, so surrounded by lies, that sometimes I think he believes some of them himself. But deep down, he's not a bad guy. He cares for Danny and still considers him a friend, but he’s just lost his way completely. Desperate, is the word.
What was the highlight of the shoot for you?
To be alongside those other great actors was an honour, but my favourite part was filming in the car. We were driving up a motorway and had to turn off because of an accident, so we were suddenly stuck on these minor roads doing a long, seven-minute take. We managed to hit every light as we went through, which was really exciting.
What do you think viewers will get out of the series?
I think they’ll definitely get caught up in it. Each episode is only 30 minutes long, but there's so much going on. You could watch the episodes multiple times and get more out of each one every time.
What else are you working on?
Filming for Outlander season seven is underway, then there’s It’s All Coming Back to Me, a romcom with Celine Dion and Priyanka Chopra. I feel really lucky having been able to fit Suspect into my schedule. If there was ever a season two, I’m hopeful Ryan might pop up again...
Richard E Grant (Harry)
Harry is introduced in the previous episode as “some rich prick”. Does that sound about right?
I didn't know that – that’s news to me! How other people see you is not how you see yourself, and I would say that he obviously doesn't see himself like that. He's grieving the loss of Christina (Imogen King), his quasi-adopted daughter. That was my steer into it, so while I’m sure he is a rich prick, there is more to him.
Was Harry a surrogate dad to Christina and she a surrogate daughter to him?
Yes, so that after her suicide, he's as devastated as though it’s his own flesh and blood. That causes friction with Danny (James Nesbitt) when Danny accuses him of murder.
How did Harry make all his money?
He owns strip clubs, racecourses, racehorses, he deals with betting – whatever makes money. He doesn't have the moral compass that many might recognise, but does he see himself as a villain? No.
Is he now regretting putting money before everything else?
Yes, I think there is regret that he doesn't have his own children and isn't married – no amount of money is going to alleviate that. His life has been entirely taken up with chasing the buck and he's paid a belated price for that.
Do Danny and Harry find they have things in common?
Harry is determined that Danny takes responsibility for the neglect of his daughter. Harry stepped in as a self-appointed stepfather, but what is so hurtful to him is that it's Danny that Christina wants, not a surrogate like Harry. Harry is very unforgiving and relentless in saying to Danny: you fucked up and you have to take some responsibility for your daughter's death.
How does a two-hander test you as an actor?
It feels very like doing a play in that there's nowhere to hide and no action sequences to distract. You have to totally rely on the person that you're playing opposite and hope you can step up to that standard. It’s like playing tennis, thwacking the ball across then hoping it’s going to be swiped back at you and you don’t miss it.
What was James like as a playing partner?
He was very private, completely self-contained. Apart from saying good evening and goodbye, because they were night shoots, there was no small talk outside our scenes. He didn't speak at all and seemed to stay completely in the painful state that his character is. I'm sure that helps, in that we were playing characters who had never met before.
Did you enjoy working quickly?
It meant very little sitting around. On Downton Abbey I remember we had a dinner scene with two pages of dialogue which took almost four days, because you have to cover every single angle. Whereas if you've got two talking heads, there is only so much that you can do, so it's much more economic. Dries (Vos, director) also said up front that he liked to do very long takes, so you might do six or seven pages of dialogue in one take, which is also very unusual and more like doing a play. That was also out of necessity, because if you’ve only got four nights to shoot an episode, there’s no messing around. You have to get on with it.
You filmed your scenes at Windsor race track – do you enjoy being around horses?
I do. I ride and enjoy them, although there was only one night where we were actually filming with a horse. You learn a great deal about Harry and the depth of his anguish during that scene.
What’s coming up for you?
Persuasion with Dakota Johnson, which comes out on Netflix in July.
Anne-Marie Duff (Susannah)
Why did you want to get involved in Suspect?
It was such a good idea – and also, just being a greedy actor, everybody wants to do more of what they do. I’ve also known Jimmy Nesbitt (playing Danny) for a super long time, so it was lovely to think we could work together at last. I was very quick to say yes.
How was James to work with after all this time?
He was great, very focused because of the nature of what he had to do and his huge workload, which was not to be underestimated. He just had to stay as focused as he could and conserve his energy. It was heroic.
How would you describe Susanna?
She is Danny’s ex-wife and a psychologist who works with different techniques like hypnotherapy. They have a daughter together, Christina (Imogen King) and their relationship is complex. When they see each other in the series, they have two tanks: one full of grief over the loss of their daughter, the other full of all kinds of unresolved issues around failing relationships. When he walks in and they see each other, you know they haven't seen each other properly for a while, so it's swollen with all kinds of energy.
Why did their marriage fail?
It feels like it was a lot to do with his line of work and the fact that he's quite emotionally unavailable, especially given that she is articulate in that language. Susanna also really feels that Danny failed Christina because of his absence, physical and emotional, although she has learned to live with her anger.
From their chemistry on screen, it looks like it was once a good marriage.
The challenge with stories about divorced or separated people is that you should be able to still see that they were once married. Trauma is profoundly intimate. Nothing glues us together more than going through something, even though it might then render us completely separate afterwards. When we're in the eye of the storm, we are glued to each other, aren't we? The things that draw us to each other cannot necessarily always be joyful things.
How was Susanna’s relationship with Christina?
Good, I think, although it wasn’t a fairy tale – it had its own complications. Susanna is very vocational, too. She is very devoted to her own work, so that might have been tricky when Christina was younger, but it doesn't feel like she feels she has a debt to her. They were definitely the more successful parent- child relationship.
Was it a particularly intense shoot?
It was a concentrated environment because there was just two actors, which I guess did mean it was more focused. But that helped, because it was a bit like doing a play, staying in the zone because you needed to. And because we rehearsed and played it chronologically, you never had to be reminded of where you were or lost sight of yourself. You knew and felt every moment. It was a real luxury.
How did you enjoy working with the director, Dries Vos?
From the top down, everyone felt absolutely invested in the project, all the more so because we had that rehearsal time. It was a really specific and forensic approach, which is my cup of tea, and it was shot sumptuously, very different to a lot of crime drama.
Where did you film your scenes?
In an old building that had been used for medical testing. It had that municipal vibe. You could film anything in that building: a council office, a hospital... It was nobody's home, so you came in and felt like you were passing through, which was very appropriate for both of us in that storyline.
I’m in rehearsals on a brilliant new play at the Almeida that I was supposed to do at the beginning of lockdown called The House of Shades, and I’ve got a 10-part TV show called Bad Sisters from Sharon Horgan coming out on Apple TV+ later this year.
Jo McGrath & Walter Iuzzolino (Executive producers and co-founders of Eagle Eye Drama)
How did Suspect come about?
Jo: Suspect is an absolutely gripping story with an unusual format and we immediately spotted the huge potential for an English adaptation. Walter and I were confident we could attract a top-quality cast, and the format also has the added bonus of being relatively Covid safe compared to much bigger cast ensembles that we were already making at the height of the pandemic.
What are the key differences with the Danish version?
Jo: There are key differences in the storyline itself, but the biggest difference is in the characters. In the Danish version, the lead role felt quite closed and unlikable. We wanted to get more insight into Danny’s (James Nesbitt) past and his motivations, his troubled relationship with his daughter. By giving Christina (Imogen King) a voice and a presence in every episode, the tone of the show changes and we get a much fuller picture of her as a person and what is driving Danny on in his dogged pursuit of the truth. The show also looks very different and has more of a sense of place.
Those locations are hugely evocative. How did you find them?
Walter: We had a brilliant location scouting team who embraced the ambition of the brief with gusto. Our idea was to see London through an unusual and different visual prism – this was the opposite of the “London from above” branding of Apprentice-style shows. We wanted “London from below”. A slightly mysterious city, depleted of human life and traffic, with major landmark buildings only fleetingly appearing from below bridges, side streets, abandoned car parks etc... We wanted to capture the spirit of Edward Hopper paintings and transfer it into contemporary London, as we thought this would lend the city a palpable emotional quality. Landscape would become echo chamber in which the emotions of our protagonists could reverberate for increased dramatic depth.
What are the key themes Suspect explores?
Walter: What we found particularly interesting was the fact that, in its essence, it is a powerful psychological family drama told through the narrative architecture of a crime thriller. The show uses the prism of a detective investigation to tell the story of a man coming to terms with his failings as a father and husband, a man who is desperate to do the right thing and to somehow avenge the death of his daughter. Each episode forces Danny Frater (James Nesbitt) to confront a facet of his daughter’s life, but it is ultimately a way to look into the mirror of his own tormented soul. On this ‘detective’ journey, Danny meets former colleagues and business partners, his grieving wife, and people from some complex chapters of his past life that force him to reassess his entire moral universe.
The cast is incredible. How tough was it to assemble all these big names?
Jo: I was always very confident we’d attract fantastic actors to this series because the schedule, format and the way it’s shot presents a real acting challenge and, in my experience, good actors really respond to roles that will challenge them. We cast the lead role first and, once Jimmy was in place, the rest of the cast came together relatively quickly.
Why was James Nesbitt the right man to anchor the series?
Jo: The role of Danny is an incredibly challenging one for any actor. Firstly, there’s the sheer presence of the role itself: he’s in every scene, and that’s a lot of lines over eight episodes. There is absolutely no hiding, no resting period. And it’s an all-consuming role – in the very first scene he finds out his daughter is dead – and there’s no real let up for the character who has this burning drive to find out the truth in a limited timeframe. It’s this drive that propels him forward to each new encounter. With every new encounter we find out more of Danny’s flaws, but the audience need to continue to care about him if they’re going to invest in his journey to find the truth. That ability to portray a very troubled, uncompromising, stubborn individual, but at the same time expose their vulnerabilities and human frailties so the audience can empathise with their struggle and like them despite it all? That takes a very special sort of actor. I knew Jimmy would make an audience care.
What were you looking for with the other characters?
Walter: Our ambition from the start was to assemble the most stellar ensemble cast ever seen on British telly! The storytelling device meant that, aside from Danny who appears in every episode, every single character had the exact same weight and stature within the series as a whole, so we were lucky we could approach a phenomenal range of stars with truly meaty, exciting, challenging roles. The people Danny meets are all wildly different types, which made the casting process really exciting. We go from sophisticated former businessman with a nihilistic view of humanity (Richard E Grant) to emotionally broken young wife (Niamh Algar) trying to accept the loss of the woman she loved... Each and every one of them is emotionally complex, memorable, and truly three-dimensional.
Each episode was rehearsed and shot in four or five days. What challenges did that pose?
Walter: The particularly regimented structure of the filming schedule was a direct result of the architecture of the story and the one-on-one nature of the double-hander episodes. But while rehearsing and filming one episode each week presented some obvious challenges, it also offered us great creative opportunities. Everything was contained within a clear episodic bubble, and performances could flow uninterrupted with absolute dramatic coherence. Actors almost invariably
have to film large numbers of unrelated scenes which belong in different episodes, having to tune in and out of completely different moments in their character’s trajectory. This was not the case on Suspect. Actors could rehearse, block the episode, and then immerse themselves in a performance they could deliver from beginning to end, which was an obvious advantage in terms of emotional credibility and dramatic coherence.
What is coming up next for Eagle Eye? And might there be a second series for Suspect?
Jo: We have three returning series in production, which is a tremendous achievement for a relatively new drama production company and a great testament to the quality of those series. We very much hope Suspect will be coming back for a second series and, of course, we have a wonderful actor in mind to play the lead.
Matt Baker (Writer)
What is Suspect about?
Suspect covers 24-hours in the life of DS Danny Frater (James Nesbitt), a world-weary police detective, who comes to a hospital mortuary for what he thinks is a routine enquiry on behalf of a colleague. Danny has come to check whether the identity of a young female victim of an apparent suicide matches that of a missing person in a case that his colleague is working on, but he makes the shocking discovery that the young woman in the mortuary, Christina (Imogen King), is his estranged daughter. Over the course of one day, and eight episodes, Danny informally follows a sometimes faint and often contradictory chain of evidence that brings him into contact with eight different suspects, each one a close acquaintance of Christina: all of them have information regarding the background to and circumstances of her death. Danny must master his grief and piece together a credible picture of what happened to Christina out of a complex web of deception, self-interest and lies. Ultimately, he must decide who, if anyone, is responsible for her death.
What does the two-hander demand of a writer?
The format is much more theatrical than anything else I’ve written for TV, and probably anything I’ve watched recently for that matter. It’s a rare treat for a writer to spend such an uninterrupted and concentrated stretch of screen time with characters, as it gives greater scope for nuance within characterisation. The challenge of the format is the relative absence of traditional dramatic action, meaning almost all the drama has to come from dialogue and the psychological battle of wits and wills that takes place between Danny and a suspect.
How does the series differ from the Danish original?
At the heart of the original is a knotty and compelling crime story built around a simple concept, and we have tried to stay true to the barebones of this in our adaptation, with a few added twists along the way. We’ve also stayed true to the format: each episode is essentially a two-hander between Danny and one of the eight suspects. What has changed most significantly is the depth of characterisation and, with it, the psychological credibility of their motivation. All our characters are flawed – in many cases, criminally so – but they have also formed deep bonds with Christina. The audience should be able to empathise with our characters in spite of the amorality that most, if not quite all of them, display. That’s doubly true of Danny himself who, as his investigation progresses, must increasingly confront his own failings and culpability. With that shift in characterisation has come a complete rewriting of the back stories and dialogue.
Sacha Dhawan talks about your openness to collaboration in terms of character creation. How did that manifest on Suspect?
In my first draft of episode four, Sacha’s character, Jaisal, had a different ethnicity, but I re-drafted it quite extensively after Sacha came on board. It was a gift to work with an actor who was prepared to share his lived experience to help me write a character who, I hope, feels culturally authentic within the extraordinary scenario of the series. That would not have been possible to anything like the same degree without his input and I’m grateful to him for his collaborative approach.
What were you looking for in your leading man?
Jimmy and I saw plenty of each other during weekly rehearsals and spent time talking about his character and his motivation, and how those could be best expressed through action and dialogue. Having had this chance to input, Jimmy was incredibly respectful of the script and a real pleasure to work with. Danny is a hugely demanding part to play because of the emotional range required and his unrelenting presence on screen. I think Jimmy has delivered a truly phenomenal performance.
What are the key themes explored in the series?
For me, it’s about the elastic nature of “truth” and the lies we tell to make it possible to live with ourselves.
What have been the toughest and most rewarding aspects of working on the series?
We were eager to avoid stereotypical tropes that typify a lot of crime drama, but the starting point for the original story is a dead young woman, so that was definitely a challenge. However, by giving Christina her own voice in the form of hallucinatory conversations with Danny, she isn’t just a dead body who turns up once in the first scene, but is a memorable presence in every episode. Her brief but powerful exchanges with her father provide a real insight into their fractured relationship, so both characters emerge as much more complex, nuanced and authentic. The hallucinations themselves provide another twist in the tale.
Is there scope for a second series of Suspect?
Definitely. Jo McGrath and Walter Iuzzolino have a wonderful lead in mind for the second series and I have various bits of my anatomy crossed that it gets re-commissioned. Of course, I’d love to write it!
What’s coming up next?
I’ve written a second season of Professor T, which is currently filming, and I am putting the finishing touches to season two’s scripts of Eagle Eye’s Hotel Portofino, which goes into production in a couple of months.
Dries Vos (Director)
Why did you want to get involved in Suspect?
I was immediately attracted by the great scripts and the bold storytelling structure: each episode involved two actors locked in a tense one-on-one confrontation in a single location. Telling the story of a complex crime investigation through a series of double-handers felt incredibly exciting, as it meant relying almost exclusively on the written word and the performance. From a directorial perspective, that felt both scary and liberating.
What sort of challenges and opportunities did the two-hander set-up create for you?
The restrained approach of the narrative architecture of the series meant I had to think very carefully about how far I would want to go in choreographing and styling individual shots. A tight choreography would potentially limit the actors’ freedom of action and expression, which I wanted to avoid at all costs. So it was a constant search for a balance between more stylised shots and the freedom for actors to give 12-minute long takes.
What were your priorities in terms of tone and visuals?
I always try to look for a tone that is halfway between absolute reality and believability, but at the same time elevates normal life into a slightly hyperreal dimension. For example, locations that are plausible everyday places but portrayed slightly differently so that the viewer is looking at them through a kind of cinematic prism. I wanted viewers to feel immersed in a somewhat stranger world than usual, a world with very few people in it. If you look closely, you won't see any other people in focus anywhere except for our main actors. That forces us to pay even closer attention to the central characters and their emotional turmoil.
How did you want to showcase London over the course of the series?
I wanted London to live and breathe through every frame of the show, to exist as almost a character in its own right, but it was very important to me to avoid the traditional picture postcard view of the city. We deliberately chose to observe the city and its landmarks from skewed and unusual angles, often under the bridges – so it would look and feel like an altered and more abstract version of a place strongly etched in viewers’ imaginations.
What did James Nesbitt bring to the production as the one consistent presence on camera?
James is an incredibly powerful actor, probably one of the best I have ever worked with, and this role and project fitted him like a glove. The series demanded his relentless enthusiasm and unstoppable creative energy for the entire duration of the eight-week shoot. Memorising a complete 25-minute scene every week and being able to execute it in long single takes is really demanding, but James was in the zone and delivered an astonishingly brilliant performance every single week. He had a truly special ability to adapt to his co-stars and adapt his own performance, so each one-on-one has a unique tone and feel.
How did you manage working with those different co-stars and their various approaches?
Each episode had an allocated amount of rehearsal time, so I had the opportunity to work with Jimmy and the guest actors to flesh out each episode in minute detail and get valuable insight into the qualities each actor was bringing to the piece. Understanding an actor and their creative triggers is crucial when shaping a performance: what kind of person they are, how they react to the script, what vibe they bring. Once you know the actor and understand their take on the character, you can work with that to get them where you want them to be. That's what I like best about directing: the creative interaction and collaboration to achieve something special together.
The cast have talked about your clarity of vision. Is that essential for such a concise shoot?
Of course, as a director you have to be very well prepared. You can do that technically, but in this case you also have to know the exact emotional temperature of every single story beat. I liked the tension and interplay between the plot-driven whodunnit/investigation element and the tragic emotional undercurrent of losing a daughter which constantly hovers over the action beats. It made for a very complex and knotty cocktail of emotions which I hugely enjoyed mixing and stirring.
What are the key themes explored in the series?
The search for the reason behind a daughter’s death is the central framework for a story about a father mourning for the loss of his child and questioning the mistakes he might have made as a parent.
What have been the toughest and most rewarding aspects of working on Suspect?
As a director you are immersed for several months in a dark world and, after many months of pre- production, shooting and editing, that sense of relentless grief becomes all consuming. Even so, I would jump at the opportunity to create a second season!