LISA FAULKNER AND CAROLINE CATZ ON MURDER IN SUBURBIA
Original Article Date: April 2004
Lisa Faulkner (Holby City, Burn It) and Caroline Catz (The Vice, The Bill) star in MURDER IN SUBURBIA, a new series of murder mysteries for the ‘speed dating’ generation.
In the best traditions of the ‘buddy’ genre, Detective Sergeant Emma Scribbins (Lisa Faulkner) and Detective Inspector Kate Ashurst (Caroline Catz) banter and bicker their way through every case, bringing their own distinctive, though ultimately complementary, methods of crime-solving to each investigation.
Set in the fictional Middleford, where the streets are wide and the lawns always well- tended, MURDER IN SUBURBIA goes beyond the lace curtains into a tangled world of blackmail, deceit, crimes of passion, jealousy and greed.
Our two spirited heroines tear through a nation’s suburban heartland, catching murderers, arguing about the merits of suede and trying to meet the men of their dreams.
Produced by Joy Spink and executive produced by Sharon Bloom, MURDER IN SUBURBIA also stars Jeremy Sheffield (Holby City) as DCI Sullivan, the officers’ enigmatic boss.
Guest stars over the six episodes include, Lysette Anthony (Night & Day), James Fleet (Vicar of Dibley), Edward Woodward (Common as Muck), Patrick Barlow (The Young Visiters), Danny Webb (Henry V111), Daniel Casey (Midsomer Murders) and Anna Wilson-Jones (Inspector Morse:The Remorseful Day).
Producer Joy Spink says ‘What Nick Collins has created is a murder mystery series for the ‘speed dating’ generation.
‘And what is really distinctive about the drama is the two central characters, their relationship and their breezy banter.’
Executive producer Sharon Bloom says: ‘Our research shows that people’s image of suburbia is not necessarily the reality. People associate suburbia with words such as leafy, middle class and family. However, behind the trimmed hedges, nasty things can happen.
‘What people do understand is that suburbia is a world where murder can be committed by people driven by recognisable emotions such as love, hate, envy and greed and that is what Murder in Suburbia is all about.’
Sharon Bloom’s most recent credits include Sweet Medicine, Margery & Gladys and Anybody’s Nightmare. Joy Spink’s recent production credits include Auf Wiedersen Pet, Final Demand and Waking the Dead.
MURDER IN SUBURBIA is created and written by Nick Collins, and also written by John Flanagan and Andy McCulloch and Michael Aitkens. The directors are Edward Bennett, David Innes Edwards and Douglas MacKinnon. The producer is Joy Spink and the executive producer is Sharon Bloom. It is an ITV1 production.
CAROLINE CATZ is Detective Inspector Kate Ashurst
Caroline Catz admits she could never be as well organised and efficient as her on-screen character DI Kate Ashurst, even in her wildest dreams!
‘There are some elements of me in Kate but in my wildest dreams I could never be like her,’ she laughs. ‘I’m really untidy and never throw anything away.’
‘Kate is all the things I make New Year’s resolutions to become, but never manage to achieve. It would be nice to be so well turned out and precise but I’m much more chaotic than that.’
Caroline believes the relationship between her character Kate and Scribbs, played by Lisa Faulkner, is as important to the drama as the solving of the murders.
‘What works about their relationship is they both have a way of relating to the world that they play up to. For instance Scribbs plays up to her chaotic image and Kate plays up her streamline, direct approach and that’s what makes them such a good partnership. They know their strengths and they sort of fill in the gaps for one another. They complement each other.
‘The writer and series creator Nick Collins really helped us when he said that in all great buddy relationships, the two characters are usually two sides of the same person.
‘And while the pair of them seem always to be in search of the perfect relationship and the ideal man, they are at their happiest sitting together in the car putting the world to rights.’
Caroline continues: ‘Kate isn’t afraid of being curt and direct and she is self-assured enough to be able to cope with people’s reactions. Although on the outside she doesn’t appear to care what people think, we do catch glimpses of her vulnerability.
‘Kate and Scribbs have an unwritten rule that they can be totally frank with each other. They allow each other to get away with a lot and they enjoy the constant sparring.
‘They come from very different social worlds, they have different social circles but they are probably best friends. They certainly spend more time with each other than with anybody else which is true for me and Lisa too! We hardly see anybody else at the moment as our schedule is so heavy!’
Luckily Caroline says she and Lisa hit it off from their first meeting when they discovered they were both looking to move house.
‘It turned out we both had the same moving date three weeks into filming, which was really unusual. So we mutually went through all the stress together. It was lucky really because otherwise we would have bored each other silly.
‘In the end my move was postponed for a week which was to my advantage because Lisa had done all the groundwork for me and given me lots of advice.’
And that advice proved invaluable when Caroline returned home in the middle of the December cold snap to find her heating had broken down.
‘It was a Saturday night, we went through the Yellow Pages but no one could come out. I was considering booking a hotel for the night when Lisa rang. She gave me the number of a friend of her brother-in-law and he was brilliant and said he’d be round straight after Pop Idol!’
‘I don’t know what I’d have done without Lisa; she even recommended someone to help out when we had mice in the house. I really don’t like them, they made me very squeamish. I kept imagining them under my feet the whole time. Thankfully they are gone now.’
Caroline lives in London but recalls growing up in a typical suburban town.
‘Part of the appeal of the script was that the piece was set in suburbia where nothing is as it seems. Suburbia is a place that trades on normality, everything being the same and people conforming. It is a perfect veneer of everything being fine but behind the net curtains are people leading complicated lives. Crimes of passion, lust and greed, but still the hedges get trimmed!
‘Trying to elicit the truth when people have to keep up appearances is a complicated business in suburbia, which is why the girls have to have a particular method of detecting in order to solve the murders.’
In the series, the two policewomen come face-to-face with every type of suburban life from glamorous mansion-dwellers to those living in each others’ pockets in close knit cul-de-sacs.
Caroline stresses: ‘This isn’t your run-of-the-mill police drama. It doesn’t focus on police procedure but on the girls’ relationship and them as detectives following their logic and problem solving.
‘What is refreshing is that these aren’t women in a man’s world. This is more 21st century so it is a given that they do their jobs well.’
Caroline met with a real life DI in the flying squad to find out more about women in senior positions in the police force.
Caroline says: ‘It was fascinating to learn about the psychology that comes into play; the different tactics they use when interviewing various suspects and the different techniques they apply.
‘The research was useful in unexpected ways; I would be wondering how to play a scene and recall something I’d heard from the police. But we did always remember the horror of what they are dealing with every day. What struck me is that it is always the dignity of the victim that is predominant, the murder team have a real respect and interest in that person.’
Caroline also stars alongside Stephen Tompkinson in the forthcoming BBC drama In Denial of Murder, about the story of Stephen Downing, in which she portrays Wendy Sewell who was murdered in the village of Bakewell in 1973.
She explains: ‘What was great about working with Neil McKay’s script was that it gives a voice to Wendy Sewell and reclaims her as a person as opposed to the characterless victim and the misrepresentation of her in the press.
‘It was a real challenge to play the two different roles so close together.’
LISA FAULKNER is Detective Sergeant Emma Scribbins
Lisa Faulkner admits to getting thoroughly over-excited when her character DS Emma Scribbins has a ‘light bulb moment’ in MURDER IN SURBURBIA.
‘There is no way I could do that job for real,’ she says. ‘But when my character has a revelation and suddenly pieces everything together I started slapping my thigh and got so excited. I love a good whodunit, but in real life I never guess who did!’
And Lisa loved having the chance to play against character.
‘I play this kooky, messy DS whose life is in turmoil and who doesn’t even look like a police detective. But Scribbs has an instinct for policing and feels her way to the truth. It’s funny because Caroline gets to play the straight one who is on top of everything when really she is terribly disorganised, while I’m playing scatty Scribbs but I’m really organised. I have to-do lists everywhere, books full of them.’
Lisa is proud of the fact that MURDER IN SUBURBIA is such a modern drama.
‘We aren’t talking women in a man’s world here. This is a glossy, fast-paced drama about two police detectives who are good at their jobs and take no prisoners! It is set in this weird, mad planet suburbia where the characters are larger than life and nothing is as it seems, and Ash and Scribbs are the vein of normality running through it.
‘What I love, as a big fan of murder mystery myself, is that each week you can sit down and tune in and find out who did what. Every week the story will be wrapped up neatly; I get fed up of missing the second half of two-parters.’
Lisa continues: ‘Each episode you go on a journey with the detectives to solve the crime. It is a family show but there is the odd gory body!
‘We were filming one scene in woods; it was pitch black outside and there was a tent set up where we were looking for evidence in a burnt out car. Caroline and I were just joking around when we were called to rehearse the scene. We walked into the tent and were confronted with this hideous effigy of a charred body. We both knew it was fake of course but it made me feel really sick.’
The ‘buddy’ relationship between the main characters really appealed to Lisa.
‘Ash and Scribbs have a Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid sort of relationship in that they know each other so well they can fight and be friends again without any problem.
‘This sisterly buddy relationship is quite different from any of the other police you see portrayed on TV. Usually it is middle-aged men, often with an alcohol problem, but this is two young women fighting crime and celebrating being single.
‘And the research we did with the murder squad confirmed that it is perfectly normal to have police of DS and DI ranks in their early 30s so it is nice to know that the partnership is realistic.’
Working on the drama also reunited Lisa with an old on-screen flame.
‘Jeremy Sheffield, who plays our boss DCI Sullivan, and I had a full-blown affair together when we were doctors at Holby City!’
‘It was so nice to work with him again, he’s such a funny man and we have kept in touch since I left Holby.
‘In the series he plays the DCI who Scribbs and Ash report to. We both vie for his attention but he is a real enigma to us and gives nothing away.’
Caroline and Lisa both moved house during the making of MURDER IN SUBURBIA and Lisa is looking forward to rolling up her sleeves and getting stuck into some DIY.
‘It’s so exciting because I’ve always lived in flats before but now I’ve bought a house I have an upstairs and a garden! I’m going to spend the summer doing it up.
‘I’ve had a really busy work load for the last few months, being on stage in The Vagina Monologues then filming Burn It for BBC3 and coming straight onto Murder in Suburbia. So it will be nice to have a break, go on a relaxing holiday and then get stuck into some DIY.
‘I’ve never really done it before but it looks like fun. I’ve watched every property programme going, so I must have picked up some tips and, failing that, my brother-in-law is brilliant so I can always run to him for help.’
Lisa is very close to her sister Victoria and her two nieces whose births she attended.
She says:’My nieces are five and three and I think they understand that I am an actress and I’m playing a detective now. My sister tells me that they are always playing at dressing up at the moment, and one of them is always the mum and the other the sister, so they must be playing at being me and Victoria which is so sweet.’
And Lisa is soon to be an honorary auntie when her close friend actress Angela Griffin has her first baby.
‘I screamed like mad when I found out and then I had to keep it a secret for three months which was really hard. I can’t wait to go out and start buying baby clothes.’
Lisa, Angela and fellow friend and actress Nicola Stephenson have set up their own production company Baby Voice and are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to work together.
‘The three of us really want to work together but it is a case of finding the right project.’
And Lisa is keen to get back on stage too.
‘I so loved doing The Vagina Monologues last year. It reminded me why I wanted to be an actress in the first place. It was exciting and exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, but so interesting because you get to build up this character night after night.’
JEREMY SHEFFIELD is Detective Chief Inspector Sullivan
Jeremy Sheffield faced a tough challenge playing the enigmatic and reserved DCI Sullivan; keeping quiet.
‘This is an emotionally reserved man of few words which was really hard for me because I tend not to think much before I speak – and I speak a lot!’ laughs Jeremy.
‘It was certainly a challenge. I tried to be less animated and less open than I am naturally so it was hard work.
‘I had come from playing surgeon Alex Adams in Holby City, who has an emotionally explosive temperament, to playing someone completely in control.’
And the mystery surrounding DCI Sullivan at Middleford CID is what draws partners DI Kate Ashurst and DS Emma Scribbins to him.
Jeremy explains: ‘Sullivan is a man we know little about and this is part of his attraction. He is their boss so there is a game being played with both the women and a very subtle flirtation. I think he is aware they are both attracted to him but Sullivan is a very private man and we don’t know if he is married, has a girlfriend, even a boyfriend or indeed if he is even interested in having a relationship at all.
‘But his reserved nature is an adaptive quality and it allows Ash and Scribbs to project onto him their own fantasies.’
He continues: ‘I think he has a lot of respect for them, although the way they work is unconventional and he is a very conventional man. He may not understand their methods but he knows they do their jobs well and deep down I expect they are his favourites.’
Jeremy admits he had reservations at first about playing a police officer.
‘I was a bit nervous about portraying someone in such a position of authority,’ he says. ‘Sullivan is clearly someone who enjoys authority and being in charge of people.
‘Playing a surgeon in Holby was a very different kind of experience but less of a stretch for me personally because I am more like Adam. Also it was nice to work at a slower pace on Murder in Suburbia. Because I am in this show less, I was able to pay more attention to detail and concentrate on my character more which was a luxury.’
Jeremy has two films coming up for release later this year. In Something Borrowed, he stars alongside Debra Messing (Will & Grace) as a shallow, egotistical cricketer who jilts his bride-to-be just before the wedding.
And in Creep, a horror movie far removed from this American rom-com, Jeremy plays a rich, slimy character who meets a very unpleasant end.
‘I meet a gruesome death which involved me being covered with live rats and being dragged bleeding through the underground at night. It was quite disturbing.’
Jeremy is currently in Miami renovating his second home in South Beach and escaping the winter weather.
‘I have a new US agent so I’ll be having some meetings while I’m there. If I get good work I could easily live in LA but I love London and it would always be my real home.’