Nicola Walker returns as the level-headed DCI Cassie Stuart for the third series of Unforgotten which premieres on ITV on Sunday 15 July at 9.00pm. Here Nicola tells us about where we find her character in this series and working again with her co-star, Sanjeev Bhaskar.
“I was very excited to come back. The writer, Chris Lang, sent us all six episodes way before we started filming which is really unusual, but I read them all in one sitting.
“The storyline this year is so different, Chris has managed to give it a completely different feel again and I really couldn’t wait to get back and see Sanjeev too. Cassie seems to be in a good place, but unfortunately there is a new case and a new body. Her son is in New York, which she is finding a liittle bit difficult and her father is involved in a relationship which seems to be quite serious. Those things are sort of background noise in her life during the first few episodes, but they get louder and louder as it goes on.
She goes on to reveal that Cassie’s job has started to take its toll emotionally. “There are some emotional ramifications from the last case that she is carrying with her, so it gets complicated for her as the series develops. This is one of the things that Chris Lang is looking closely at this year. We have spent enough time with Cassie to know that not only were there the two cases that we have seen in the show, but she has had a very long career in the force and it is starting to have an affect.
“When I was reading the script, I thought she was in a little bit of trouble, but as a viewer I think you will spot it before she does. There is a voice in her head which is telling her she may have to rethink the way she is dealing with her professional and personal life, but she ignores it and keeps going, like we all do.”
The case investigated this series is the most recent to date, with the victim having gone missing on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Nicola explains how this affects the team’s approach to the case.
“There is the complication that everyone they speak to when trying to identify the body is hoping it is their child and that after all of these years they will be able to bury a body. For many, many people it is in living memory and that makes the case incredibly complex. In the past, that distance of time has probably allowed the team to step back a little but this year, Cassie warns them that they will have to tread extremely gently because it is all very recent.”
Best of British
As with previous series, the third instalment plays host to more acclaimed British actors. Nicola describes how this is one of her favourite parts of the job.
“It was fantastic having the new cast members join us. I actually did my first ever job with James Fleet in Four Weddings And A Funeral, which I am in for a blink! I met James there and have done plays with him since. I think he is absolutely remarkable in this show.
“I had also worked with Alex Jennings on Spooks but hadn’t worked with Neil Morrissey or Kevin McNally before, so that was exciting. That is always one of the best bits about this job, doing those first few scenes when we knock on the door with the new suspects behind it, knowing you are going to go on this interesting and long journey with them.”
This series shines a light on how the press and social media play a role in our lives and in the investigation. Nicola explains how the series explores this and why it’s such an important subject to show on television.
“I think that is what I love the most about this series. Chris is taking the temperature of what is going on around us at the moment and the way we are fed news. It comes from so many different angles now and for the first time, Cassie has to deal with a media advisor.
“The original case was 18 years ago and it was mishandled on many levels, including the investigation itself, so the police are being scrutinised and Cassie is the public face. Then when you feed that into an age where social media is very quick to get involved, it’s even more complicated and difficult.
“I haven’t seen this subject handled as well as Chris is handling it in this series because the way we receive news and where we get our information from is changing, and I love that he seems to be listening to the conversations we are all having.”
The series opens with Cassie suffering from insomnia. Discussing this, Nicola says she feels lucky not to have this problem. “I am fortunate to be a very good sleeper. I tend to tell my husband all of the things I am worrying about and then fall sound asleep so I have left all of my problems with him! “I have suffered from real insomnia a couple of times and I just don’t know how people function with it. It affects your ability to keep your emotions in check and reality in perspective.”
Cassie and Sunny
Cassie’s working relationship with DI Sunny Khan is at the centre of the drama. Nicola explains why she thinks this friendship is so special.
“Their relationship is so unique for a TV drama. I look for it in other shows because it is the sort of thing I want to see – a man and woman who really love and respect each other and are there when the other needs them, emo*onally and personally. I think it’s really unusual and it is coming back to their rela*onship that I always really look forward to.
“They are the same but different because of the previous case. Cassie is finding it harder to let it go and is starting to push away from Sunny. She treats him in a way you can only treat people you truly love or who you are related to. He sees something is not quite right with her even before she realises it herself.”
She goes on to discuss how enjoyable it is to play a male and female duo who are not forced into a roman8c storyline.
“The scene where Chris got them to almost have that moment was absolutely brilliant last year. I laughed out loud when I first read that on the page! It felt like Chris was saying, ‘OK, so normally this is what would happen at this stage in a TV drama, but we are not going to do that!’
“I really love him for doing that and that it’s part of their back story. Cassie thought it was a very drunken, insane lapse of sanity by Sunny and was probably more worried that he would feel embarrassed the following morning. That is the joy of them, they are intimate and so physically relaxed with each other, but it’s not sexual.
It’s great to see it because I know it is possible – I have wonderful male friends in my life who I rely on, but you just don’t see it very often on screen.”
This series focuses on the close relationships of four school friends. Nicola reveals how most of her long-term friendships stem from her university days.
“I have one friend from when I was very young. She has been my friend forever, but apart from her there aren’t really people I still see from school. However, university brought me my two best friends who are my family. We are the family who picked each other. It doesn’t cover it when I call them my friends because they are so much more than that and have certainly put up with much more than friends should!”
Unforgotten has proven hugely popular with viewers and critics alike. Nicola feels this success lies in the writing and the fact the stories resonate with the public.
“Chris Lang understands what is going on around us and feeds that into the scripts every year. I find it really refreshing that his scripts deal with the things you have been worrying about. One of the questions asked in this series is how we proceed in an environment where social media gets involved in criminal cases.
There are many positives about that, but in our story, we also show how that can be problematic. He also looks at how a high profile case which was mishandled sticks in the consciousness of the whole country. We can all name those big cases, whether they were solved or not. They change the way you feel about the world you live in and that is something Chris has been looking at all the way through.
“He has publicly said the whole of the first series was prompted by what was happening with Jimmy Saville, and growing up there were too many cases I could name which jolted me and made me wonder how the world works. This is one of those cases. All of those images you see of the reporters back in the village after 18 years, meeting those parents who never found out what happened to their child. They’re really emotive moments and Chris is so smart to notice these.”
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