The Suspect | Interview with Aidan Turner (Dr Joe O’Loughlin)

Q: How did you become involved with The Suspect?

“After I read the scripts, it was a pretty quick decision. I was gripped. It was the ambiguity of the piece that drew me in straight away. The story has an eerie feel to it from the beginning and as an audience we’re not sure what part Joe has to play in it. This was thrilling for me when I first read the scripts. I thought, is he the orchestrater of something dark and sinister here or has he just stepped into a world of paranoia and mystery and needs to figure out his role in it before it’s too late?

“Joe works as a clinical psychologist in London. He is married to Julianne (Camilla Beeput) and they have a young daughter Charlie (Uma Warner). He begins to chase his tail a little bit. What seems an easy thing to dismiss and cover up becomes a bigger thing. It spirals into this world of paranoia and the unknown.

“Joe becomes involved in a police investigation into the murder of a young woman, led by Detective Inspector Vince Ruiz, played by Shaun Parkes. Ruiz has dealt with murders like this before, knows there will be more and says he just doesn’t have the words for it anymore. It’s a pretty grim thing to hear. Especially when you know there is so much truth in it. It’s horrific.

“Joe is definitely a flawed character. Which is interesting to play. He regularly makes impulsive and risky decisions knowing that there could be consequences for this later. Sometimes this behaviour pays off for Joe and other times it just seems to make things more complicated for him. This makes Joe unpredictable and sometimes unreliable which is refreshing to play in a protagonist. If that’s what he is.”

Q: Joe has just been diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Did you do your own research into that?

“When we meet Joe, he has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. So, you wonder if what’s going on with him is part of the condition. Has he been really thrown by the diagnosis and that’s why he’s making these decisions? Or is it a veil to cover something else?

“I met a musician called Drew Hallam who was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s around five years ago when he was 35. We met a few times to talk about how he deals with the condition and copes with it. We also spoke about how it was for him in the early stages.

“Something struck me in one of the early conversations we had when he said how difficult it was when you’re young with this condition. He said there are support groups, but Parkinson’s doesn’t generally affect younger people. Drew went to one of these support groups early on and he was the youngest person there.

“We talked about the side effects of the medication, how he deals with the physical side of things. When it’s better, when it’s worse, under stress or duress. Every day is a different challenge, he said. With some better than others. To speak with somebody so open and truthful about his experience was very beneficial. I’m grateful to Drew for that.

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“We went to a pub to meet the first time. After sitting down for an hour or so talking about things, Drew showed me this piece of technology which he moderates with a dial. It’s a pulse generator which has been placed under his skin and is connected to fine wires that are inserted into specific areas of his brain. When he moves the dial it slows the movement down and dissipates the tremors. And when he knocks it off the tremors come back.

“Then we started to talk about how I would play the tremors in a scene. It’s like anything, you do as much research as you can, reading, watching videos, speaking with people and so on.

“We wanted to keep the tremor subtle because Joe has been recently diagnosed, but enough for it to read on camera. Getting it right was important. Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways. We don’t often see a leading character who has Parkinson’s. So, it was interesting to tackle that.”

Q: Joe saves a young man called Malcolm from jumping from a tall building. How was that to shoot?

“It was quite involved to film. We had stunt guys on wires on the real building and we built a replica of a couple of the floors on a studio lot. You’re only up about 15 or 20 feet. But that was high enough for me. I’m not great with heights and it felt really high and breezy. There wasn’t too much acting needed. I was working with an actor called Gabin Kongolo, who played Malcolm. He did a great job.

“Although it was totally safe with no danger involved, I remember thinking, ‘I wouldn’t want to fall from here. I don’t see any crash mats. This isn’t exactly fun.’ Which was a good feeling in terms of filming the scene. Visually it looks pretty impressive. Quite the introduction to Joe as a character. Somebody who would do something like this.

“Joe then becomes a bit of a media hero. But we soon begin to struggle with this idea that he is a hero. What that means along with the vulnerability he now feels with his condition. Flawed and layered is what I got from Joe almost immediately. He is a complicated person and it’s interesting to play around with the jeopardy.”

Q: Your character has a full beard and moustache.

“He does. I happened to have a beard at the time the offer to play Joe came in so it begged the question – what do we do with the beard. Shave it off? Keep it? We kept it. It felt right for Joe.”

Q: What is Joe’s relationship with Dr Gerald – Jack – Owens, played by Adam James?

“Jack is an old friend of Joe’s and also happens to be the consultant neurologist who diagnoses his Parkinson’s. The word I would use is ‘competitive’. With my own closest friends that’s something that is just not there. You don’t compete. But with Jack there is competition.

“Jack always saw Joe as somebody who was more successful than him, got the girl, got the job, wrote books that sold and was making it on to television and into newspapers.

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“Joe has always been aware of that competition. But Jack is somebody who Joe trusts and loves and has been friends with for a long time.”

Q: What was it like working with Adam James (Jack), Camilla Beeput (Julianne) plus Shaun Parkes (DI Vincent Ruiz) and Anjli Mohindra (DS Riya Devi)?

“We all just got on. They’re all such strong actors. Anjli and Shaun worked really well together. In the scenes we’re in, the three of us bounce off each other. It felt truthful and real. Adam is great. He’s got so much charisma and is perfect as Jack. And Camilla Beeput too.”

Q: And directors James Strong and Camilla Strøm Henriksen?

“James directed the first three episodes. He’s great. You just trust his instinct. It’s great to have that. You can have honest conversations with him and he gets it. And he makes this type of drama very well. And also, the Norwegian director Camilla Strøm Henriksen who came on for the last two episodes. She was terrific too and brought other things. Camilla and James were quite different in the way they work. She did a wonderful job and really added something. We were very lucky with our directors.”

Q: Where did you film?

“We filmed all over London including around the Coal Drops Yard area in King’s Cross, which has completely changed in recent years. It’s a cool place. It’s rare these days to get a show completely set in the city. I don’t think I’ve ever shot anything that is completely based in London. That felt good. And London is an important character in The Suspect. Our cinematographer Matt Gray has made the city look incredible.”

Q: With the rise of streaming platforms, including BritBox, is it a good time to be working in TV drama?

“It is a good time to be working in TV. One of the great things some of these platform’s offer is choice. Too much choice probably but more TV shows and more films means more work for actors if that’s what you’re asking. In theory anyway.”

Q: How do you reflect back on working on The Suspect?

“I really enjoyed working on The Suspect. The role was challenging, the material was strong and everyone looked like they were having fun on set everyday. Very fond memories.”

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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.