It’s one of the hottest days of the year and I’m sat in an eerie building feeling quite cold. The other journalists fling open a big door at the back of the room in the hope that some of the warmth outside might reach us but somehow we’re still cold. We’re here because this is the place where the cast and crew of Unforgotten have gathered to film the police station scenes for the past three years. It’s a grand place but also feels a little confused and unloved. Upstairs is where all the action takes place as stars Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar point at whiteboards and gather together the evidence in their case for this third series of the much loved ITV drama.
During a break from those scenes, Nicola joins us in our cold room and teases what we can expect from the third series and where we find Cassie now.
What can you say about the third series?
Not a lot. Chris (writer Chris Lang) has done something different this year. Of course, we find a body but what he’s done with the suspects is very different and what he’s done with Cassie is different. It was fantastic having the new cast members join us. I actually did my first ever job with James Fleet in Four Weddings And A Funeral, which I am in for a blink! 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 hadn’t worked with Neil Morrissey or Kevin McNally before, so that was exciting 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 and long journey with them.
What’s different for Cassie this time?
The decision she made at the end of the last series is still weighing heavy on her. At home, things are shifting with her father and her sons and it’s having an impact on work. There’s some really interesting stuff where Cassie has to deal with the media for the first time. She becomes the public face of a case that eighteen years on there are questions about whether or not something very very wrong which adds an extra layer of difficulty to her job this year. We touch on social media and the effect that has on cases in the news and how that can prove problematic.
What can you say about the case?
Well, we find the body of a young girl who went missing eighteen years ago. It feels like one of those ‘I remember where I was when this happened’ type stories. One of those big national stories. it really affected people at the time and her mother and sister are very much part of the story too. It’s one of those stories that people will have written books about and there would have been TV programmes about it. It’s one of those big iconic murders that everyone has interest in.
How would you describe your on screen and off screen relationship with Sanjeev?
(Laughs) One bleeds into the other. We just got on from the beginning. The stories in Unforgotten take us to very dark places and you’re carrying all that in your head so it’s very lovely to be able to look at him either during a scene or afterwards and know that you’re in this together and that you understand each other. It gets complicated for Cassie and Sunny this year but they are still incredibly supportive of one another and sensitive to what’s going on in each other’s lives. They really love and rely on each other as colleagues and I think that’s really interesting and I think that’s the same for me and Sanjeev to. I just love watching him act!
How did you feel about them nearly kissing in series 2?
I laughed out loud when I first read that on the page! It felt like Chris was saying, ‘OK, so normally this is what would happen at this stage in a TV drama, but we are not going to do that!’“I really love him for doing that and that it’s part of their backstory. Cassie thought it was a very drunken, insane lapse of sanity by Sunny and was probably more worried that he would feel embarrassed the following morning. That is the joy of them, they are intimate and so physically relaxed with each other, but it’s not sexual.
You’ve done a few of Chris Lang’s scripts, Torn, A Mother’s Son. What do you look for in a script?
You just want a good story and I suppose for me I’m looking for something I would watch. I would watch this. I’m not one of those actors who can’t bear to watch themselves. I’m not sure what they says about me?! It means I get to see what everyone else is doing which is great.
Do you know from the beginning where the story is going?
Yes. Chris sent us all six in one go. I don’t know anybody else that does that. So I read them all by Christmas. He knows what he wants to write, he writes it and then goes there you go and that’s really liberating. I was filming at the time and thought I might just read a couple and ended up reading the whole thing. I couldn’t put them down.
What do you love on TV?
This Country! I loved that. That’s been the one recently that I gorged. It’s been a really good antidote Unforgotten. I film this in the day and can then run back to my hotel room. It’s really good.
Do you watch other crime dramas?
I don’t tend to when I’m doing this. There was a great thing Michael Gambon said, “pilots don’t go to the airport and watch other pilots take off” and I think that’s true here. You just need to focus on what you’re doing.
Cassie is quite an unusual TV cop in as much as she’s not going to get shouty and demand ‘results’. Is that part of her appeal for you?
Yes. I think she swore twice last year. It comes really from watching all those real-life police documentaries that are just fantastic. Cassie and Sunny love their jobs and they are good at them and when I was researching and watching all of these documentaries I found a lot of people like them. You can’t go tipping desks over in the real world, you’d get the sack! Shows like 24 Hours in Police Custody are wonderful.
What do you get recognised for most?
Last Tango in Halifax and Spooks. Actually still Spooks more than anything else. What’s really lovely with Spooks is the age range that will come up to me. I very lovely elderly gentlemen with sidle up to you on the tube and say, “are you undercover?” Then you’ll get young people in their twenties stopping you on the street saying, I love Spooks it’s the very show I really loved. So it’s got this massive fanbase. I only ever met one spy, who was an advisor on the show and what was so thrilling about her was she just confirmed everything I might have thought was far-fetched was true to life. I was more of a desk spy I didn’t do much running but the lead spies in Spooks were utterly gorgeous and this woman was utterly stunning.
Have we seen the last of Last Tango in Halifax? I’m really not happy about it.
I’m not happy about it either but Sally (writer Sally Wainwright) is so busy. I do know she wants to do more and I know we all certainly do. It’s the sort of show that we could just pick back up and we all happily do anything for Sally so you never know!
Unforgotten returns Sunday 15th July at 9.00pm on ITV.