Douglas Henshall, the actor who plays Jimmy Perez in the TV drama Shetland, was delighted with the public’s response to the programme, the third in the series written especially for the small screen.
The public had stuck with it, even though it had been given “a not particularly good slot” with gaps of two weeks between some episodes, ditched in favour of sport.
Speaking to The Shetland Times from Los Angeles, the 50-year-old said: “We have maintained and grown the audience, they’re a very loyal bunch of viewers, very patient, not what audiences are renowned for.”
In spite of this success, he said he had “absolutely no idea” if another series was planned. “I hope so”, he said. “There’s not much coming out of Scotland at present.”
And even if a new series would be using the same carefully-chosen scenic locations, this would not matter. He said: “I don’t see anything wrong with repeating yourself, to familiarise people is fine.”
Shetland continued to surprise him, he said. “I’ve been going to Shetland for four or five years and only discovered Meal Beach last time. Shetland is surprising, there are lots of hidden spots, I really like that, there’s a lot more to be gained.”
And, he said, not that many people had been killed – there had only been two series and a pilot, and there could be a “lot more to go, it’s at the behest of the writers, what they can come up with.” And given the nooks and crannies of the isles, it was a good place for a murder.
Addressing the criticism made of the accents used, he said: “The Shetland accent is a really difficult accent to get right, the last thing we want is a bunch of people sounding awful.”
And of the disconnect, scorned by locals, between locations (how did The Lounge have such a plush interior, and how did Michael Thompson get from Clavel to Eshaness in 10 seconds), he said: “We try to make the continuity as believable as we can for people who live in the rest of the UK, we’re not lazy.”
He added: “I wish there were more actors in Shetland but the population is small and the population of actors equally small.”
He would welcome more locals in the series, however, but the emphasis has to be on the story.
As for the brooding, intense Perez, he feels he has now got under his skin. He said: “Everyone will have their own idea of him, people personalise characters. I understand the one I’m playing.
“I feel I know him and I like him. I know exactly who he is, but I’m not entirely like him, I don’t have children and I haven’t been widowed. I’m sure that changes you. But as for sensibilities, I feel close.”
The important storyline of the after-effects of Tosh’s rape attracted much favourable comment from reviewers, and from the creator of the character, Ann Cleeves.
Henshall said: “It’s about time this subject matter was [treated sensitively], it’s been dealt with horrendously in the past in various productions, a subject like rape has to be filmed from the woman’s point of view.
“You don’t have to show rape gratuitously, this is much more powerful.”
He praised the writers Gaby Chiappe and Clare Batty for their handling of the subject, and actress Alison O’Donnell’s interpretation of the role.
As for Shetland, he said: “I adore the place and the more I go the less I want to leave. If we don’t shoot any more [in Shetland] I’ll still be going back there, I don’t know what it is, something about the landscape, the peace people find there.”
However, he did not know if he could stand a Shetland winter.
But he loved the wildlife and had seen whales in Fair Isle – “one of the most fantastic places I’ve ever been”.
The remote island is in complete contrast to LA, where he is taking part in the “meat market” of shooting pilots – and Henshall, who has had a varied career ranging from West End theatre to appearing in Taggart, has respect for American TV drama, which is in “rude health”.
“It’s a brutal process”, he said, with actors coming from everywhere in a spring migration for a chance of a part.
“The only consolation is that it’s sunny, and that softens the blow of rejection.”
He added: “I really like it here, there’s a lot of nice nature, it’s not just a big sprawling metropolis.”
Shetland or LA – it seems that Henshall could be happy anywhere.