Ten questions with the creators of SUSPECTS
Kara Manley (Series Producer) and Paul Marquess (Producer & Co-creator)
Thank you for taking the time to answer our ten questions about the new series of Suspects.
Q1. Series 5 is getting lots of love on the social networks and may be the fan favourite so far. It opened with the shocking murder of Martha Bellamy, after Fay Ripley left to film Cold Feet. How did it come about that her departure was written into the storyline and in such a dramatic way?
KM: Martha leaving off-screen would have been a massive cheat and very unsatisfying for the audience. It would also have provided us with no forward momentum – to kill Martha off was a great hook into the new series – a real game-changer. It also immediately allows the audience access to the new team dynamic – they have all been through an emotionally impactful experience together and that accelerates their closeness. It goes without saying that it’s also a brilliant way to rattle Jack and Charlie’s cages.
Q2. The loss of Martha saw new additions to the CID team, with DCI Daniel Drummond (James Murray), DS Alisha Brookes (Lenora Crichlow) and TDC Gary Roscoe (Perry Fitzpatrick) joining Jack (Damien Molony) and Charlie (Clare-Hope Ashitey). How exciting was it to watch the new team dynamic unfold, both the characters and the actors, and what was it like first day on set filming for the new series ?
KM: Day one of any shoot is always an adrenaline rush, and we kicked off with the crime scene at Martha’s house – so everyone was thrown into action and busy from the get-go. It meant that James who plays Drummond had to come in and take charge in his very first scene, which of course adds to the realism of his brilliant performance!
Q3. This season is also the first to have one storyline extend across the whole series (and is the longest series yet). What new potential did that bring to the table and what impact did that have on plot development?
KM: It gave us the opportunity to run characters across a series, to create more complex investigations, and to probe a bit more deeply into our characters’ responses to their work. We could add to the private rooftop/ in-car chats by sending the team to the pub, without feeling that they were abandoning a case halfway through.
Q4. Suspects series 5 has also seen a development of the show’s format – previously we didn’t ‘go home with the detectives ‘ but this time we have! What was the reason for giving audiences greater insights into Jack’s personal life and back story, and what was it like filming those scenes with Damien?
KM: We wanted this series to be more ambitious and richer in texture, so that means a greater depth of characterisation. However, the golden rule is that these insights have to illuminate the investigation – else it’s an indulgence which dilutes the USP of Suspects.
Q5. With the introduction of the corrupt new DCI, ‘Dodgy Dan’ we’ve also seen the birth of the first Suspects villain within the regular cast. His secrets and his manipulation of Jack create a strong sense of jeopardy for both characters, with the audience sensing a pending ‘Drummond vs. Weston’ face-off as we head towards the end of the series. Was that the intention?
KM: We have always said that Jack’s impulsiveness and lone-wolf behaviour is going to get him into trouble one day – Charlie tries to warn him in ep 1 but he’s too emotional to listen to her. DCI Drummond has his own reasons for tearing up the rule book, so a clash of the titans is inevitable from the moment that Drummond turns up outside Martha’s house…
Q6. Despite the changes, Suspects has maintained its USP of dialogue being fully improvised based on a detailed plot description, giving the actors more creative input than regular crime dramas. Can you say a bit about the balance of improv by the actors and script detail from writer?
KM: The actors are given a detailed plot description and they take it from there. They have wonderful support from our police advisor, who is always on set to help with any specific police jargon. The writers have to trust the actors to bring their characters and stories to life and they’re thrilled with how it’s turned out.
Q7. Suspects is also known for its ultra fast filming – is the editing process equally as quick? And with the show being entirely improvised, is more of the story shaping in the editors’ hands and in post-production ?
KM: The only difference between Suspects and a traditional drama is the shooting process – everything else is done as you would on any other show, so the edit is not a quick job. Again, with any other show, the storytelling process continues into the edit, and this is especially true of Suspects – the edit is a collaboration between the editor, director, me and Paul to cut and shape the material to tell the best story we can.
Q8. Last year we ran a competition asking fans for their ten word reviews of Suspects. As the show’s creators, what ten words would you use to describe it?
KM: I’ll have 5 and Paul can have the other 5! Mine are: Innovative, gritty, ambitious, fresh, low-fi, edgy.
PGM: rough, ready, really well acted
Q9. With the double bill finale coming up on Wednesday, we can’t wait to see how the series ends. Are more big surprises in store ?
KM: I thought we agreed no spoilers?!
Q10. Suspects now has an international fan base, with earlier series having aired in Australia, New Zealand and in the US. What does the future hold for the show, both for fans in the UK and across the world?
KM: Over to Paul for this one.
PGM: too early to announce, but some very exciting news very soon.