The Irish World catches up with Damien Molony, star of new Channel 5 crime drama Suspects…
YOU can take your pick on British TV if you’re a fan of detective dramas, but Suspects, a new London-based crime drama starring Damien Molony, Fay Ripley and Clare-Hope Ashitey as three detectives with very distinctive approaches to the job of policing, hopes to do it a little differently.
Each of its ten hard-hitting episodes tells its own self-contained crime story – starting with a news report about the crime, and following the detectives as they investigate, finally identify and charge the perpetrator.
It doesn’t pull many punches – cases range from the disappearance of a soldier with PTSD to the hunt for a serial rapist, a violent attack on a pensioner and and the abduction of a two-year old child.
Best known to audiences as a vampire called Hal (from BBC Three’s Being Human), ? actor Damien Molony, who has also starred in season two of BBC One’s Ripper Street, plays D.S. Jack Weston in the show.
Hailing from a long line of police officers in Ireland, Weston has moved to London to join the force. Damien explains: “He has very strong opinions about what’s right and wrong, and he’s very willing to cross certain boundaries, bend certain rules, if he believes that the end justifies the means.”
Martha (Ripley) is his boss, while he is Charlie’s (Ashitey) mentor and coach. He has a lot of respect for Martha, but Weston feels his boos is too by the book at times, and rebels. A man of action as well as intelligence, Jack loves cracking suspects in interview as much as making arrests. He gets plenty of stick from Charlie and Martha, but it’s worth it for the buzz of a good result.
Says Damien: “He gets reprimanded for stepping out of line. But you can’t really teach an old dog new tricks. Jack’s too instinctive. He knows he’s not done the ‘right’ thing, but getting in trouble with his superiors is not going to worry him too much if he’s the one who solves the case.”
The actor and his fellow cast members, who improvised many of their lines around a solid storyline, spent a lot of time with police officers and detectives, both retired and still serving, to research their roles, many of whom spoke of the ‘red mist’.
“Police work these days, I gather, has lots of procedural elements to it. Lots of questions and paperwork and less time spent out on the beat. ‘Are you aware of what you’ve done?’ ‘This is why we’re taking you in, do you understand this?’ ‘Can you confirm your full name for me please, sir?’
“But there are times, maybe, during an arrest or a routine questioning where you get a slap in the face or something, and the ‘red mist’ comes down, and that’s it. All you want then is what the police call ‘the collar’. Getting the collar is always a great day.”
The cast also spent several nights with working detectives in boroughs across London, something Damien found exciting as you see them work, but also get to see them in a slightly more relaxed environment.
He explains: “We inundated them with questions, anything from ‘What do you keep in your desk?’ to ‘Why did you want to become a police officer in the first place?’ From an acting point of view, and from a character point of view, what interests me are ‘private moments’, when you think you’re alone at your desk but the camera is secretly filming.”
What may set Suspects apart from the multitude of crime dramas is that the audience is led to understand that they are watching a documentary being made about detectives, like a fly-on-the-wall view of a team of detectives.
“It’s as if this camera crew have been given access to a police department for however many months, and they follow ten cases from the 999 call up until the case is solved”, says Damien. “As well as your everyday work relationships playing out on camera, there’s also a relationship between the character and the camera itself, because as the character you’re thinking, ‘Why is there a camera following me, when I’m chasing a thief down an alleyway?’”
The former vampire confesses that Suspects has completely changed how he thinks about policing. He has a new-found respect for the profession. A bad day at work for him involves mispronouncing a word in a scene, he says, while a bad day for a DS often involves horrific things, rescuing women from a cellar, telling a family their son’s been killed: “They have a very difficult job, no doubt about it.”
Paul Marquess, Executive Producer, has a bit of a pedigree in cop shows, having been executive producer of The Bill for four years. It was a show he went on to work on in Germany, where they use ordinary people to tell fictional stories, that got him thinking about using a similar format on a new crime drama, one that would create a drama with the ‘insider’ feel of a documentary, tackling difficult subjects in a gritty and real way.
He says: “What struck me is that, in terms of the way we make drama in the UK, we haven’t really evolved very much recently, whereas the audience are consuming loads of narrative that isn’t classed as drama,, whether it be in constructed reality or in docu-soaps or 24 Hours In A&E.
“The audience are used to all these different techniques that ‘drama’ hasn’t tried to access. Plus, I just came to the point where I thought I really fancied making another cop show. Suspects was where all of these things came together.”
Suspects is coming soon to Channel 5. Check for updates at Twitter #suspects and www.channel5.com/suspects.