INTERVIEW: As crime drama Shetland makes a return to our TV screens, Douglas Henshall talks about his final series as Perez
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The last series ended on a cliff-hanger with Perez being read his rights and Duncan handing himself into the police - how does Perez feel about all this?
It just all felt a little like he’d be stitched up to be fair. It’s sullied his view of what he does. I think he’s getting to that point of his career where he’s beginning to doubt whether he has a future doing what he does. Perez is becoming a bit disenchanted with his life the way it is. Those little doubts have started to creep in and he’s questioning whether he’s doing the right thing or not. There’s lots of things niggling him.
Case aside, Perez has also met Meg [played by Lucianne McEvoy] and it’s in the very early stages of their ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship, his dad’s dead and Duncan is in prison - he’s a lot going on, as ever.
What case will Perez and his team be investigating this time around?
It seems as though it’s a missing person but then it becomes murkier and murkier as it goes along. I really love that there’s no dead body at the start of this new series and the suspense of that is great.
This series also sees guest stars including Shauna MacDonald, Laurie Brett and Patrick Robinson – what is it like having guests on the show?
One of the great good fortunes of Shetland is we’ve had so many great guests to come in over the years and Shauna, Laurie and Patrick have done an amazing job in this new series. They join the list of great actors we’ve been lucky enough to have in the show over the years including Archie Panjabi, Ciaran Hinds and many, many more.
I don’t think there’s a lot of shows like ours. It isn’t big and shouty, it’s subtle and quite nuanced. We’ve explored lots of things that TV shows don’t and I think all of those things are partly what kept our audience loyal to us. It’s wonderful.
Perez is often unlucky in love – is happiness on the horizon with nurse Meg?
You never know, but as with anything to do with Perez and the opposite sex, it’s never straightforward. Meg’s got his head like a washing machine. I think once you get to a certain age, there’s a lot more questions that you have to ask of yourself, of a significant other. I think the conversations you have are a lot different because there’s baggage there. But as long as there’s hope, there’s a way forward.
It’s a big moment for Shetland as you bid farewell to DI Perez, why did you decide to leave now?
I decided to leave a few years ago because I felt that Perez’s story was coming to a natural end - it was time to find a resolution to Perez’s private life. I never wanted to ruin the things that were unique to him and our series so it felt like the right time to wrap up his story in a way that would be satisfactory to everybody.
I am aware we’re not changing the world in any way, shape or form but as far as crime shows go, Shetland does really well in that genre. We tell stories that are very good, the characters are great and I wanted to go out on a high.
You’ve played Perez for nearly a decade now, will you be sad to say goodbye to him?
Yes, I am, actually. But I think it was always going to be sad. It will be nice to play somebody who isn’t so irredeemably good as Perez! I’ll miss him as a person I crawl into every now and again because I liked him, he’s a nice man. I enjoyed playing Perez and exploring the complications of his life. Flawed humans are always the most interesting to play because I feel they are the most truthful.
I’d love to play a baddie again, that would be fun - I used to get asked to be the baddie lots in the past. I don’t know what the future holds. I mean, I don’t fancy playing a policeman for a while!
Was it hard to keep your exit a secret and how did you feel filming your last scenes?
The last thing I would want to do was give it away but it feels a bit real and weird now. Once this series is over on TV, it’s over [for Douglas Henshall] – I don’t think it will feel real until that moment, for me.
My last scenes were filmed in a car park in Kilmacolm which was very odd. We’d tried to wrap three times but, because of covid, it kept being put back. So it felt a little anti-climactic in the end.
I did say a few words of thanks to everyone who was there but it’s impossible to encapsulate 10 years of work. Shetland has meant a lot to me and it’s going to take some time to sink in that I’ve left the show.
Will Perez always hold a special place for you?
Oh yes absolutely he’s one of my favourite characters and it’s been a real privilege to play him. We got very lucky with lots of things - I even got to dress him for a while including choosing the pea coat which is now famous.
I chose not to keep the coat, though – I kind of figure I can never wear a pea coat again!
I did take a couple of key items from the set including the incident board from the police station. I got it for my daughter. After all the gruesome things that have been up on that board over the years, I thought it was a bit of karma to have a little child drawing pictures of flowers and houses on it.
I also took a painting from Jimmy’s house which is by a Shetland artist and I’ll be hanging it somewhere special in our home.
What makes the Shetland Isles so special?
After going there for nearly ten years, I’m still discovering places to go and see. There are so many nooks and crannies that are absolutely beautiful and the wildflowers in the summer are truly stunning. I loved the pace of the place. I really loved the sea, I loved how stark it could be, I loved the weather in all its glory. I loved the drama of the Shetland Isles. I also met some really nice people there who were fabulous, kind, generous and funny. There aren’t many places like Shetland - it’s very much of itself. It’s unique and I’ll miss that.
I think that people were slightly suspicious of us at the beginning in terms of who we were and what we were going to do but, as time has gone on, they have seen we’re a force for good, they’ve really taken to us. They have been incredibly helpful and we couldn’t make the show without their help.
Do you have any plans to return?
Absolutely, yes. What I’m looking forward to doing is going back and hopefully staying in the lighthouse at Sumburgh because it’s fantastic. It looks right into the ocean and if the wind picks up and a storm comes in, it’s the best place in the world to be. I want to take my daughter, show her the beaches and get her into the sea. Just to go and hang out and get to be a tourist would be nice.
And any final words?
My final series has a really great story at its heart and it’s very much the Shetland the audience know and love. I hope people have enjoyed watching Perez over the years as much as I’ve enjoyed playing him. I’m going to miss Jimmy Perez.
Shetland returns to BBC One, BBC iPlayer and BBC Scotland from Wednesday, August 10 at 10pm.
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