The Prime Suspect: Tennison season is over, but Jane Tennison’s journey to Detective Chief Inspector is just beginning. Actor Stefanie Martini reflects on the explosive season finale, the young Jane’s first big case, and the steps that still remain in the WPC’s fledgling career in the Metropolitan Police.
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I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to a special bonus episode of MASTERPIECE Studio.
After three episodes of Prime Suspect: Tennison, the future Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison has cracked the case of Julie-Ann’s murder. Through a gritted smile and a bottle of whiskey, the hardened Jane Tennison of the original Prime Suspect is finally coming into focus.
Sarge: It’s just what? You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in uniform like me?
Tennison: You’ll put in a word for me?
Sarge: You’re on top brass’ radar that’s the idea and I have nothing but good things to say about you. That’s the idea so just bide your time. Be patient.
Tennison: I’m not very good at that.
This younger Jane is still far from the accomplished DCI as played by Dame Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, but she’s no longer the inexperienced, bus-jumping novice we met at the beginning of this season.
Stefanie Martini: She’s learning how to cope with those sorts of things, I think. That’s definitely one of the things she learns across the whole thing is how to just kind of separate herself in that way and yeah, definitely, it’s definitely a decision, yeah.
We spoke withPrime Suspect: Tennison star Stefanie Martini in January of this year about how it felt to chart her character’s professional—and personal—journey on the screen, the stunning finale of this season, and her playful sketch of a future that can never be for Jane and her deceased superior officer and love interest, Len Bradfield.
Jace: And we’re back again with Stephanie Martini, welcome back.
Jace: Jane and Leonard give into temptation after Jane has moved into the section house.
Jace: She, she knows she shouldn’t sleep with a superior officer but does anyway. Does she consider the ramifications of this moment and does she regret it after the fact?
Stefanie: I don’t think she does regret it. I think she really, really likes him. I think he’s kind of got under her skin. I can’t imagine that she fancies any kind of boys her own age, you know? She’s quite driven, quite forward-thinking, quite mature, so I feel like, of course she would be attracted to somebody who’s 10 years older than her and kind of the head of the police station [laughs].
Stefanie: Of course she shouldn’t do it, but yeah. I don’t think she does regrets it, of course after the explosion and after she finds out that he has children and a wife, like, maybe he, she would regret it then, but I think that’s, that’s a really important part of her journey, I think, is, is kind of having fallen for someone and then having lost them and then also having that kind of sense of betrayal from them afterwards and I think that’s one of the things that kind of hardens her.
Jace: Jane Tennison doesn’t become Jane Tennison because some guy blows her off but because he actually gets blown up. And then she finds out he’s not who she thought he was.
Jace: But what does his death sort of awaken within Jane?
Stefanie: Well I think it’s the first, I think it’s the first time she’s really loved someone that she’s cared about in that way. I think also makes her feel like a fool. I think it makes her feel like an idiot when she finds out about his family, she just feels like a fool. Um. And she feels like everyone at the station would have known about it, probably everybody is laughing at her, you know, which isn’t the case, and then you actually do kind of find out in the last few, like, she, you know, the relationship with Blake, who plays Gibbs, um, that kind of relationship is, is there, and her relationship with, um, Kath Morgan is still there, so she does have support from the office, but I think, she just probably feels very vulnerable and very exposed and feels like an idiot.
Hudson: You alright?
Tennison: Not really.
Hudson: When I first saw him down there, before he was knocked out, before he choked up on some dust.
Harris: Hudson, stop talking. Just be quiet.
Hudson: I’m just saying.
Ashton: Both of you, shut up.
Jace: Well we see her begin to unravel –
Jace: – a bit. She buys a bottle of whiskey, she drinks it alone.
Jace: In the section house. She had this affair with him, I mean this is definitely Jane moving closer to the Jane Tennison of Prime Suspect and we’re seeing that evolution sort of take a huge leap here.
Jace: But I love … there’s a scene of Jane crying in the locker room, and she’s sort of staring at herself in the mirror very quietly, and it’s this very small moment of vulnerability and then she just –
Stefanie: Covers it.
Jace: – wipes her eyes, fixes her hair, calms herself and like, walks back into the bullpen.
Jace: Um, and that is Jane Tennison.
Stefanie: That’s it. Yeah.
Jace: That’s the moment.
Stefanie: Yeah. Yeah. That definitely is the thing of kind of feeling it and knowing that you’re feeling it and, and, and then not letting it beat you and just covering it up and hardening yourself up and going back in and kind of focusing on what she needs to focus on. And even kind of later on when she’s, you know, back in the section house and she’s there on her own drinking the whiskey and like her family come over, and they just expect that she’s going to move home –
Stefanie: – after this huge traumatic experience but actually, no, she’s staying there, she’s staying there on her own and she’s out there on her own now. That was what was really great about doing this series is that there’s, there is, there’s a shift, there’s a change in her, and that she has an arc, and that’s so much fun to play.
Jace: I mean, she is still very young but she has been through a series of traumatic experiences.
Jace: And she is much more hardened.
Jace: I mean, do you think that moment in the mirror she sort of makes a decision that she’s going to switch off her emotions in a way and …
Stefanie: She’s learning how to cope with those sorts of things, I think. That’s definitely one of the things she learns across the whole thing is how to just kind of separate herself in that way and yeah, definitely, it’s definitely a decision, yeah.
Jace: I mean, she learns that Leonard has a wife and kids through, uh, Sarge sort of saying that the next of kin, um, have been informed. It’s a very sort of subtle, sad moment.
Sarge: Thank you sir. Super’s finished the next-of-kin visit. Think I’m gonna go off and see ‘em myself..
Cop 2: Would you pass these on? It’s the guv’s watch and wallet. And his warrant card.
Tennison: Sarge, if you need a WPC.
Tennison: Like you said, I need to keep busy.
Sarge: It’s his wife and kids.
Jace: And her reaction’s quite cryptic, almost as though she sort of compartmentalizes this information and she isn’t going to really process it in the motion. In the, in the moment. Does it change her opinion of him?
Jace: Or even of herself.
Stefanie: Yeah, I mean, yeah, it makes her feel like an idiot. It makes her feel like she’s been lied to and she’s been made a fool out of. I think it changes her opinion of him because … it’s like when you discover you don’t really know someone. You think you know someone, you think you are developing a relationship with someone and then you find out this huge, huge bit of information. She doesn’t know that he’s separated, as well. She finds out later on that he’s separated. So there’s this whole kind of like bit of the story where, where as far as she knows he was happily married, and still slept with her. Like how, like, crushing, absolutely crushing, um. He’s gone from being someone she really respected and admired and, you know, was starting to fall for, to someone who was cheating on his wife with her, which would just, made her feel cheap, and, yeah, it was not, it was not a nice kind of place to be in when we were filming those scenes. It’s just horrible. As well as everything external that she had to deal with, she also had all this internal stuff about herself coming up, and yeah.
Jace: That’s the Jane Tennison we know.
Jace: The two crime storylines end up coming together –
Stefanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jace: – with the scene on the roof with David Bentley.
Jace: Uh, what was it like filming this very emotional, very pivotal scene?
Stefanie: Oh god, it was the most mental. [laughs] We filmed it all in 1 day, it took like 10 hours to do that scene. Everything was just kind of really crazy and mental so then the end bit, which is, you know, heartbreaking, and is David Bentley kind of on the floor, bleeding out basically. That we had no time. We had no time to shoot that. We had to do that so … We had about an hour to do that really intense emotional, difficult bit and they were trying to work out whether they could put the blood on the clothes or they couldn’t put the blood … It was just like the most hectic kind of … “Someone is dying in your arms. Go.” [laughs]
Stefanie: It was just like, “Oh my God, how do I do this?” But um, I mean Jay was great, and he’s such a great actor, and um, Alan as well, but it’s kind of, sometimes when you’re in those situations and it’s so hectic filming something because you don’t have loads of time to overthink it you kind of get a really instinctive gut reaction to something that’s very honest and, um, I mean, I hope, I do hope that’s what happened.
Bentley: Don’t leave me. I’m cold. What’s your name?
Bentley: Jane. I loved her.
Tennison: I know.
Stefanie: It was a really tough scene. Really tough scene. I had lots of points to kind of negotiate around and, and, and stuff happening and how, yeah, and how do you kind of keep your composure during that and how does she … Yeah. It’s just, it’s kind of what she’s like throughout the whole series, just so much stuff is happening around her that she has to respond to and she doesn’t have the experience or the knowledge to really kind of know how to deal with that properly and, and, and it’s just thing after thing after thing after thing after thing, and, um, yeah.
So it was, it was great for me because I just watch other actors do this amazing work and I just get to kind of respond to it. Um. But yeah, it was hectic.
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Jace: Now, the, the, I love the scene between Jane and Kath at the hospital where Jane urges Kath not to quit.
Jace: Um, what do these two women ultimately represent to one another at this point?
Stefanie: Oo. I think, for Jane, it’s like Kath is her mentor, Kath is where she wants to be. If Kath gives up, you know, what does, how is she going to go on, do you know what I mean? She kind of needs her there, she needs her there as like a solid presence, she needs her kind of buddy, she needs her, like, mate there with her, and also I think Kath is so close to kind of getting a promotion and being on the … plain clothes, being a plain clothes officer with the men as well, like, she’s so close to it, and to Jane it seems mental to see someone who’s so, so good and someone that she admires just kind of give it all up like that because it’s too dangerous. Because it means, I mean, she doesn’t want Kath to do it for Kath but she also doesn’t want Kath to do it for her because she needs her there. She, she says it I think. She needs her there.
Um, for Kath, I think Jane is young and inexperienced and, and, and has been through an awful lot and is a really good friend I guess, and, and doesn’t want to let her down. But yeah, they’re … I loved filming those scenes. It was, Jess, the actress, is brilliant and it always felt very easy and like a very easy relationship and like they would actually have.
Jace: The final scene finds Jane back at Comms looking over at Kath who’s now in plain clothes as a member of the CID. Uh, she smiles at Kath, but there’s a real sadness there.
Jace: Um. You know, are, is she jealous of the path that her friend has gotten to take with this promotion or are her feelings more complicated than that?
Stefanie: I think it’s like, she, she just wants to be there. Like, I think with the whole investigation and how kind of crazy it all went, she was really in that world. And it was also a shock for me when I read that in the script, because I was like, “Of course! She’s not. She’s not a detective. She’s a WPC. She’s not a detective yet.” Of course she’s going to have to go back, after all of that being so involved in everything that happened, going back to answering phones and making tea and now without the person that kind of made that bearable. Um, yeah, I guess she just feels left out and kind of lonely and, and, and, but in a way that’s good. It drives her on, you know? It drives her on for more.
Jace: At the same time, she has sort of been complicit in lying for members of the team. She lies for Spencer Gibbs, –
Jace: – she lies for Sarge –
Jace: But they do say, you know, “This is sort of what makes you part of the team.”
Jace: Like it is part of being that sort of thin blue line. I mean, she’s there, she’s a part of a team, is that moment at Comms sort of her back as an outsider again, or does she have that knowledge that she got close to it, she was a part of it?
Stefanie: It is interesting because it’s still very far away for her, but I think lying for everyone, even though it went against what she morally believed in at that point, it’s just kind in turn from her being like a naïve goody-toe-shoes to kind of a real police officer and knowing how things work, knowing how things really work in that time. Um. Yeah. So I think she’s, I think, it kind of links back to the sadness thing, it’s like she was very much part of it, I think she felt very much part of it, she still kind of is but she’s still nowhere near the place that she wants to be.
Jace: And I heard you drew a picture of of a very happy ending for this show that found Jane Tennison and Len Bradfield lovey-dovey on the beach in the end.
Stefanie: Oh, my God. Yes. I did. Yeah. Because Sam drew a picture of Jane, and I was like, right, I’m going to have to draw a picture of Bradfield then, so we did that. We had lots of free time [laughs] while we were on set. But yeah, I did, and it was like, “Imagine if that worked out.” Because if it had worked out, they’d have been perfect for each other, I think, those two characters. They both were like the right kind of difficult, the right kind of work-driven –
Stefanie: – and that sort of thing. Yeah. So it’s like how I imagine, imagine if only they had gone on a beach holiday, and they could be happy ever after, but…it doesn’t work out that way.
Jace: Next week on the podcast, we return to the charmed world of Grantchester in a conversation with Al Weaver, whose innocent curate Leonard Finch faces a crossroads.
Al Weaver: You know, it was illegal to be gay in 1955 for anyone, let alone a clergyman, um, so he’s just trying to do the right thing. He wants to serve people. He wants to help people and, and he’ll take the, the cost to his own sort of, um, happiness and, um, and, as you say, he’s sort of has it put upon him that he should have a family.
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MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen and Rachel Aronoff. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas and Susanne Simpson. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
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