Karen Pirie | Interview with Chris Jenks (DC Jason Murray)

How did you get involved with the series?

I originally auditioned for another character and that didn’t go my way, so I kind of forgot about it. But then a couple of months later I got invited to audition for DC Murray. It was a great surprise to be called back.

I really liked how fresh the Karen Pirie scripts are, they’re funny and they felt a bit different to other detective shows I’d seen – it’s a much younger show, catering to a younger audience. So I did the audition for Jason, and I got it!

How would you describe The Mint?

Jason is really well-intentioned and good natured, but just doesn’t quite get things right a lot of the time. He’s desperately trying to hit the mark, but he just misses it. He’s maybe not the brightest detective on the team, but he kind of makes up for it in his hard work and through his relationship with Karen – they develop into a really good team and she helps him find his stride. That relationship builds through the series – at first, they don’t really see eye to eye and she’s quite frustrated that she’s been given such a potentially useless member of the team! But he really shows his qualities as they move on and eventually he comes into his own, and really stands up for himself in the later episodes.

He’s pretty similar to the Jason of the books, but he’s been given lots of funny moments in the series, which I’m really grateful to be able to explore. It’s a great part and I think the whole series is really funny. I guess that’s Emer’s writing coming through, there’s loads of little strange bits that I’m really glad are in there. There’s a scene where Jason has brought a load of food into the office and is ploughing through boiled eggs while Karen is trying to brief him on something. The vibe is definitely a bit quirky, almost like indie film humour, I think it’s great.

What is his attitude like when it comes to his work?

How much do we know about his life away from his job?

We get hints of it – we definitely know that he loves working out at the gym, and he has a taste for the more basic things in life, like going out and going on dates. I think he’s a bit of a mummy’s boy, but I think there’s more to come as far as Jason is concerned, there’s more to find out about him. I’ve tried to fill out as many details about him as possible, so there’s a scene where he comes in late because he’s been working out, and I imagined what class he’s been at and what music he’d been listening to. We managed to put in some fun fitness montages too – he’s raking through some evidence at one point, finding it a little bit tedious, so we thought that would be a good opportunity to show him doing pull ups among the evidence!

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Did you enjoy playing a detective?

It was my first time playing a detective, and it was really cool. It really hit home when we moved into the police station set, because it was just so believable, with all the evidence and the details of the case laid out, it was a really cool moment to see all of that.

One of the biggest challenges was using the police badges – I didn’t imagine it would be so difficult to flip them open at the right time, so that they were the right way up. Lauren and I did a lot of practice on that, so that we were ready when the moment came – everyone makes it look so smooth on TV, but we really needed the rehearsal!

I’m a big fan of crime drama anyway, I loved Broadchurch, Line of Duty and Thirteen with Jodie Comer, that was so good. Karen Pirie is great because it has a unique point of view and a younger perspective that you don’t always see. There are some really nice scenes between Karen and her best mate River, which give a sense of her social life and her background. That’s something you don’t necessarily see in other police dramas that are more work focussed, but it means you get a real feel for Karen as a person and fall in love with her through the series.

Had you worked with Lauren Lyle before?

I hadn’t met Lauren, but she’s amazing, just a brilliant energy to be around. She’s really creative and was always laughing at stupid stuff that I was doing, she helped to create a really good-natured, fun environment on set. We were always coming up with little goofy ideas to make each other laugh, she’s great.

It was a young cast, and along with Zach (Wyatt) who plays Phil and Emer (Kenny), the writer, the four of us bonded really well. We had a really nice dynamic going and it helped on some of the longer days to be able to joke around and have a good time.

Did you enjoy filming in Scotland?

Yes, I’d never been to St Andrews before, I loved it, it’s a really beautiful place with a nice beach and really nice macaroni cheese toasties! I loved being up there. The Scottish scenery really gives the drama a nice feeling and the whole series is a great advert for Scotland.

I grew up on the Isle of Arran over on the west coast, and my mum and dad still live there so I go home quite a lot to see them. I’ve got friends in Glasgow as well, so I’ve spent a lot of time round there, and it was brilliant to film in Glasgow for Karen Pirie. I hadn’t really been back since I was younger, so it was great to spend a bit more time there as an adult and the people are ridiculously friendly, they’re really great to be around.

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Did this feel like the right role to take on as a follow-up to Sex Education?

I think Karen Pirie is a really nice change of pace from Sex Education, because I’m playing an older character, not a school kid. And we’re in a completely different setting – Sex Ed exists in this kind of fantasy realm, whereas this drama is set in a Scottish police station, so it was a really nice difference and variation is everything for actors. As I go through my career, I just want to keep working with good writers and directors on good material.

I love how creative and funny Karen Pirie is, so I’d love to keep exploring that – there are definitely new lands for these characters to go to and there’s a lot more to come from Jason. I’m also working a lot on my writing, so I’ve got a few things there that I want to look into. I enjoy screenwriting and Emer has been a really big help to me so far, giving me lots of tips.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?

Yes, I did a lot of school shows and summer theatre camps, which I loved and then there was a brief period when I was 17 when I wondered if I wanted to go to uni and study. But I knew really that drama school was the way to go and I didn’t look back from there. My parents are very supportive and I had an amazing English teacher who was incredible, she told me I could do it and really helped me through my drama school auditions.

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.