Suspects 2 Q&A: Damien Molony, Fay Ripley and Clare-Hope Ashitey talk crime solving, improv and playing the trump card
The new episodes were filmed during an intense summer shoot, but Damien (DS Jack Weston), Fay Ripley (DI Martha Bellamy) and Clare-Hope Ashitey (DC Charlie Steele) took the time to answer press questions on their experience of making Suspects, the second time around.
Check out the transcript below.
When you were returning to shoot these episodes, were there things you learnt that made it different to get into the process again?
Damien Molony: I think it’s more of a confidence thing. I think we started last year not really knowing what we were getting in to. Certainly for the first couple of days it was like, how do you improvise something? I remember driving to set on the first day last year and going, ‘I have no idea, when they say action, what I am going to say’. And this time, I think everyone, camera departments, sound, producers, the story team, actors, everyone, catering; everyone knew what was expected and how to get into it so we could start very, very quickly. After the first couple of scenes, well I lie; I mean after the first day certainly, we were back on track. There was just a very confident feel to this series.
Fay Ripley: The thing about this show is that more than any other show, we are doing a job. So it’s filming people doing a job, acting doing a job, so inevitably we were slightly better at our jobs, because it wasn’t the first day of our job, which is what the first series was, so we all had a better idea of how to solve a crime.
So does that mean bits of police routine that you maybe needed to be tutored on the first time around, you can go into and think actually this is what I should do here?
Fay Ripley: Well you just know what is expected of that person in that situation. Whereas before it was like ‘really?! You do that next? That doesn’t seem right.’ So all that just goes out the window and then you just get on with it to a certain extent.
Did you do any research and prep like read crime novels or anything like that?
Clare-Hope Ashitey: There is definitely some formal-ish prep that we do in terms of the production where we have time to reacclimatise and we have time with our police advisor and we have time to, as much as possible, talk through bits of certain episodes and bits we don’t understand and bits in the logic that we don’t understand. I don’t really know crime novels. I watched the first series of Suspects again, researched my own work. I mean we had a police advisor on set all the time which I think was the most valuable thing in terms of getting things right just to have someone there and actually I think for all of us when we filmed this last series, there were certain things where you go ‘yeah I kinda think I would do that’ and turn to Steven [Police Advisor for the series] much more than in the first episode he’d go ‘yes you got that right well done’ whereas in the first series he was just like ‘no you can’t do that, that’s illegal’.
There is an over saturation of crime dramas and you clearly stand out, but are there any particular ones you used to watch before you got involved in Suspects?
Fay Ripley: It’s not my genre, I really like that. If anything I like the old school stuff, Columbo! Basically where you have some cranky old bloke trying to sort of bluff his way through, is really appealing. This at the other end of the scale is appealing because it’s just so incredibly realistic basically, so it brings that. And we’re all so tuned to documentaries as well that so much of our viewing life is watching real people that actually, other crime dramas have become this sort of pastiche of themselves. Everyone is so handsome and so smartly dressed, [but] have a look at police, they are a bunch of funny looking fellas! They’re a bit skanky and a bit this and that, and you know a lot of the crime dramas are great for what they are, but I don’t think they are anything like what happens on the ground. I think this show hits that middle ground, yes it’s a drama but…
Because it’s not about you, is it. Is that weird as an actor? Most programmes you are your character but you’re actually just a conduit to the actual story.
Damien Molony: It’s very interesting because I think then you can actually immerse yourself in playing a police officer in doing the day to day job which is far more interesting. Policemen have croissants, you don’t see that in normal, [shows] they go to the toilet, and in this show you can do that whereas in other shows it’s…
Fay Ripley: That’s now a headline!
Damien Molony: Please don’t put that as a headline, “Damien went to the toilet, several times.”
Fay Ripley: Major new plot line
You’ve got quite a few famous faces in this new series. How have they got to grips with your unique way of storytelling? Have they found it difficult?
Fay Ripley: It’s really fun being a guest on this show, to be perfectly honest. I think the hard graft is being there doing it every day because it’s so high octane, it’s a very different way of working and it’s very intense. To come in as a guest – you have to just jump in, but if you do just jump in, you’re not hanging about for weeks in a trailer, there aren’t any trailers, but you’re not there for very long, so you get to do your thing, stay in character, be immersed in it but for a very short time. They seem to really enjoy it and they come out ‘wow, what happened there! That was mad but really sort of exciting’.
Clare-Hope Ashitey: I think our guests really hit the ground running – there isn’t really much choice; you have to, but once they’ve got a handle on the fact that it is a pace going like this, people really step up their game which is what you need. There is no kind of, ‘we’re going to rehearse for an hour then we’re going to do this and I don’t quite know and I need to introduce myself to everyone’ – people literally walk on and get the lie of the land, and luckily we have some people who are very good at their jobs. They kind of just went ‘Ok I see what this is’ and really, really step up which helps us.
They must have been really excited because obviously the first series did so well and caught everyone’s imagination.
Damien Molony: They had all watched it and knew what to expect, but there is also great luck. They come in on set the first day and then it’s the first take and they’re like ‘oh my god its fast!’ But then they’re on it and they’re like ‘lets go again.’
Does it change your performance, because you’re the police in the show and you have people who you are going to have to react to. Presumably it is more they have to, because you’re playing authority figures, your guests have to respond to what you’re doing. Or does it work the other way round when there is someone new on set and you’re like ‘Oh OK that’s how they’re doing it’ and I have to respond to them? or are you leading the scenes?
Fay Ripley: I think it’s that the process is leading it for everybody, but I don’t think, personally, that we are in control of it in that sense. I think it is a very structured thing, when one sort of talks, improvised or unscripted, [people think this is] like Mike Lee or something, where they spent a year, the luxury of thoughts popping in and getting one brilliant thought a week and thinking how wonderful, someone write this down its going in sort of thing. [Suspects is] highly structured because it has to be, because it’s so fast and because that’s the way it works.
Is it a case with guests that you have to adjust for them?
Fay Ripley: Well you always have to respond to them a bit because it’s only you and them
Presumably the onus is on them to respond to you and also because of the way the story is, you’re the police, you’re driving it.
Fay Ripley: It is, but if they don’t answer, this is the thing that brings with it its own. If they’re a bit sh*t at the interview, but what’s sh*t, because real life is a bit sh*t. Like for police when they’re interviewing criminals, they’re not all going to just spill the beans, in fact probably none of them will. So that all brings something to the party because if they are, their performance, that kind of actor, maybe they’re too scared to speak let’s say, well that’s good! Because then that’s real. Because then that’s a human being being too scared to speak. You would never write that in a script or if it all comes out then that’s another way of doing it, so I don’t think there is a right and a wrong.
Clare-Hope Ashitey: No not at all, I think we just have points that we need to get across in the scene, we have beats we need to hit for the story to drive forwards. And you have two or three people trying to get to this end. You bring your A game and I’ll bring mine and let’s just respond to it and see what happens. Certainly for me that’s what I try to do in all of the scenes, because that’s where the magic comes in, because you’re just going, to a certain extent, I know what you’re going to say because I know what this scene has to be, but I don’t know how you’re going to do it. I don’t know if you’re going to make it hard for me. I don’t know if you’re going to make it easy for me. And actually I don’t want to know, I just want to turn the camera on and let’s hope that it gets there and I think that the guests that we had were very tuned to that. I think certainly a couple of people did say, do we rehearse? What do you want to do? Do you want to go through all of the points? I said, ‘Look let’s just get the beats and if there is anything you think that you feel is a trump card or an ace card for you, don’t tell me now, there’s no point, because by the time we do it when the camera is on it’s going to look really stale. And I think a lot of them took that and went ‘Oh I’m going to try and have a trump card and see what we make’. They don’t always work obviously, but sometimes it really does.
So it can almost be slightly adversarial?
Clare-Hope Ashitey: Oh absolutely.
Damien Molony: And there is nothing better than having a trump card in your pocket and just dropping it in the middle of a scene and you see the genuine reaction of someone going ‘oh sh*t!’. And its brilliant, to play it and I hope to watch. One of the great things about getting a second go at a scene is that you can have your police interview – ‘did you do it, no I didn’t, did you do it, no I didn’t’ – and then when you go the second time, you just say ‘well why don’t you start the interview’ you know, you walk in and they go ‘I didn’t do it!’. Suddenly the scene, it’s the same beat, but it’s a completely different energy so now the directors have two different edits to look at. And it’s still fresh because it’s a different energy. That’s one of the most exciting things about working on the show.
Is it quite stressful working in that environment?
Fay Ripley: Correct. You know what, you couldn’t film any more. We did a month filming and I could not have done one more day.
Clare you mentioned you re-watched the first series. When you were watching, because of the way it was put together, did you find that you were watching stuff coming out of your mouth that you didn’t remember?
Clare-Hope Ashitey: Oh yeah, absolutely. Quite a lot of that – we filmed so, so quickly and you find that there are moments that you remember definitely and there are moments you hope stay in, but then there are things that you maybe, because you’re not watching yourself, you don’t realise worked. You’re going ‘oh we’ve done that scene and that’s in the bank’ along with the millions of others. And you watch it back and it’s been highlighted in a certain way that you didn’t perhaps count on it being and you suddenly go, ‘Ah! I did that! Quite like that!’
Clare-Hope Ashitey: Don’t tell me you never did that!
Damien Molony: No I did, I was just thinking I watched them back, but we were talking to the guys here this morning about the schedule for series two, talking about the first episode going out and the storylines and we shot those a week ago. I can’t remember, because it goes so quickly. You learn so much information. There are so many names to learn from the get-go, and so many crimes and you just kind of forget which is why it makes it so interesting to watch it back again. ‘Oh yeah! He did it!’
Speaking about the extent of the crimes which you covered, does it open your eyes more to the fact that this stuff goes on when you film it?
Clare-Hope Ashitey: Oh yeah. I mean that is definitely the horrible side to it. None of us are naive and you know that there are lots of sh*t people doing lots of sh*t things in this world but when you have sit through it and go through the process and go through the process of how police investigate it. With the media we only get a pinch of that, but we’re getting much more by working on it in this way. People do a lot of sh*t things to each other, quite a lot of the time and it’s unfortunately quite bleak, but then, you know, there are lots of other good people in the world and that kind of balances it off.
Fay Ripley: It’s a hard job being a policeman.
Don’t miss Suspects Series 2 episode 1, the first of a 2-part special, 10pm tonight on Channel 5.
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