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INTERVIEW: Steven Robertson on what the new series of Shetland holds for Sandy Wilson


By David Porter

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As Shetland returns to our screens on Wednesday, actor Steven Robertson discusses the seventh series of Shetlandand what developments mean for Sandy Wilson.

DC Sandy Wilson (STEVEN ROBERTSON).
DC Sandy Wilson (STEVEN ROBERTSON).

The last series of Shetland finished on a bit of a cliff-hanger…can you recap where we find things?

From a personal point of view, Sandy had made a critical error of judgement in the previous series [he’d leaked information about a murder case] but it seemed as though Perez and Tosh were going to let this slide given everything they’d been through as a team – they’ve all got bigger problems to deal with.

So when Perez is arrested it feels like Sandy’s error of judgement has diminished in comparison. The series ended with Perez stood there in front of us having his rights read out to him. It’s a major change for the team and serious for all of them.

How has Perez’s suspension impacted Sandy and the rest of the team?

The thing I like about this series is there’s an awful lot of good solid police work which needs to go on. So while Perez has been away, I’d like to think that Sandy has been more occupied with that kind of work. Perhaps Perez being suspended has meant Sandy has had the opportunity to run more things at a higher level and to hold the fort alongside Tosh and Billy. And with Perez back, the case they are faced with is bigger than any of them so they can all work together again.

Professionally, Sandy has faced some challenges in his career – what awaits him in S7?

There’s a different level of confidence in Sandy. After his previous indiscretions, he’s more self-aware and with less to prove to others. We all reach a point in our lives and careers when you’re doing it for yourself and not for others.

If the more senior detectives in the office didn’t respect Sandy, he wouldn’t be there. Seeing Perez having his rights read to him highlighted to Sandy and everyone else that we’re all fallible and sometimes that’s okay.

And what crime do the team face in this new series?

It’s really interesting actually, it’s a missing person case which turns out to be the catalyst for the new series storyline. There are lots of links to the missing person and what could have happened to him.

As ever with Ann’s [Cleeves] books and all the previous TV series, there’s a past there which could explain the present. In this particular case, the family aren’t native Shetlanders but there seems to be a secret past they’re keeping hidden. The missing boy is into myth and folklore and this very gifted young man has gone missing so the team delve into all that.

The thing is, if Sandy and the rest of the team have any hope of getting to the truth of this story, they have to listen to the missing man’s friends and hear their voices.

Are there any surprises this series or must-see moments?

Oh absolutely there are some pretty remarkable reveals as well as twists and turns in this series. What I would say is, again, the past always comes up in Shetland and this series is no exception to that rule and this time it is a not-so-distant past that had affected the whole islands.

Douglas Henshall recently announced this will be his last series of Shetland – how do you feel about this?

I think you always have to respect any actor’s decision when they’re ready to move on. As actors, we do what we do, you hope it’s well received by the audience and if you’ve done enough, you move on. The show is something we’ve all worked very hard on and Dougie must be proud of his characterisation of Perez.

Over the years, Perez has changed. The dynamic between him and Duncan has changed – they’re more like brothers now rather than two very different fathers bringing up Cassie together. It’s like that story has come to a natural conclusion. So I can see why Douglas has decided the time has come to move on. I think when an actor is aware of that moment and they can say “well I’ve done enough with that”, then it’s time to leave.

If you could star in any other murder mystery, which one would you choose and why?

It would have to be Columbo. Put me alongside Peter Faulk any day of the week. I loved the premise of that show - the audience saw the murder, they were in on it and so got to watch Columbo figure it out. They always had the most exceptional guest stars including Johnny Cash who played a brilliant guest lead. So, I would need a time machine to go back and be in Columbo, preferably alongside Johnny Cash.

Until Shetland came along, I’d been lucky to have been in guest parts in lots of British cop shows including Ashes to Ashes and Luther but this was the first time I was on the right side of the law. It was a relief not to be killing so many people, being shot or getting beaten up all the time!

You’re a native Shetlander – is there one place you encourage the guest cast to visit when they come up to film?

I’m not someone who left Shetland because I wanted to go, I was homesick when I wasn’t here and was away working.

The Shetland Isles are bigger than people think and it’s very different across all the isles – there’s a different feel throughout. I mainly encourage people to get out there and explore.

Lerwick is great and it’s constantly coming on. There’s lots going on in the arts scene but it’s great to get out and about and explore all the different places Shetland has to offer. Scalloway is an historic town and was our historic capital – it’s stunning. Another real highlight is the Sumburgh Lighthouse which has amazing bird life to observe. And if you’re up for a couple of ferries then do visit Fetlar - it is known as the garden of Shetland and is really beautiful.

It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like on the Shetland Isles - you’ll see extremes of coastlines and beautiful beaches where you’d never expect. So get out there and explore it is always my advice.

Shetland just keeps going from strength to strength – what do you think the enduring appeal of the show is?

Well we have this stunning central character which is the Shetland Islands themselves. It’s the location which spurred Ann Cleeves to create these incredible characters and that trigger came because she was physically based in the Shetland Isles at the time. This is the really solid base for the show which has been reflected through and from the author’s vision.

And, finally, what five words sum up the seventh series of Shetland?

The future meeting the past.


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