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Prime Suspect 1-5

Prime Suspect 3

Prime Suspect again tackles an often difficult issue in its third outing, written by Lynda La Plante. The new series looks at homophobia within the police force and tackles perceptions of gender and sex.

D.C.I. Tennison has been transferred to a new station and has the new job of "cleaning up the streets" of Soho. Following an apartment fire and the death of the boy Connie, Tennison leads the team deep into the vice underworld of teenage prostitution, pornography and abuse. Thick with corruption and runaway children, this is no ordinary homicide case.

Background | Story synopsis | Cast & credits
What the press said... | Awards


Although Jane Tennison has undoubtedly been good to Helen Mirren, the actress admits to not liking her much at all.

"Jane Tennison is like a friend of mine that I know fairly well and get on quite well with," says Helen, picking her words carefully. "But there are certain things about her I don't like at all. I don't like her brutality, I don't like her extreme selfishness. I don't like her job and could never be involved in a profession like it. I suppose I'm saying that I'm simply not a policewoman by nature, inclination or ambition. Some things she does meet with my approval though. She walks on men and uses them -- which is just what men often do to women. I think women are just as capable... I just reckon they do much more of it than they've so far confessed to."

Helen visited the vice squad at Charing Cross station to research her role for Prime Suspect 3. She admits to finding some of the material in the new story quite shocking. "The really scary thing is, is that it isn't made up. Much of the content can be found in TV documentaries. We haven't needed to exaggerate for the sake of drama."

Prime Suspect 3, like 1 and 2, was filmed almost entirely on location in Manchester. But when a certain 'London' something was needed it was imported form the capital. Surprisingly, that certain something was 'girls,' sophisticated transvestites, who traveled from London to Manchester to add an atmosphere to scenes that could never have been achieved by dressing up extras.

Costume designer Mike O'Neill explained: " We went to London's best known clubs, Madame JoJo's and the Kinky Gerlinky evening at Leicester Square's Equinox club to get ideas of what a transsexual or a transvestite would wear. We talked to many of the girls and based our costumes on what they told us. It isn't all glitter and glamour; during the day it came down to something as simple as a pair of jeans and a T-shirt! The people we spoke to were a great help and we asked about a dozen of them to appear in Prime Suspect. It would have been very hard to dress up actors and expect them to act in the right way. The performances might have been too awkward or camp."

Like the proverbial bad penny, Sgt. Otley (played by Tom Bell) has turned up again. In Prime Suspect 1 he was the police rival who made Tennison's life hell, rattled by the fact that a woman was heading the murder team. Sly and malicious, he set out to cause her downfall but Tennison proved she was tougher -- and more intelligent -- than he could have imagined. Assigned to work with Tennison again on the Vice Squad, he reluctantly admits that his behavior was out of line before he concedes that she'd done a good job. An uneasy truce is drawn between them.

Otley cuts a rather sad figure. "A loner who chooses his own socks," is how Bell describes him. "He's probably not got a female influence in his life."

The character of Jimmy Jackson (David Thewlis) is one of La Plante's blackest -- a low life who picks up young children at railway stations, offers them a place to stay then locks them up and rents them out to pedophiles. Tennison is told that Jackson was looking for Connie on the night he was murdered. But when they question him he has an alibi -- and witnesses to prove it.

"Making the film was been incredibly hard work for several months," says Thewlis. "I began to be obsessed with the character and got very angry and aggressive like him which is not normally me at all. I wasn't really sure what I could do to research someone like Jackson... my wife suggested I pull wings off insects or hang around a strange bar near where I live called 'Brief Encounter.' But how was I supposed to 'hang?' With a sign around my neck saying, 'I'm only here for research?'"

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Prime Suspect 3 story synopsis - Plot Revealed Below!

DCI Jane Tennison has transferred from Southhampton Row to the Soho Vice Squad. Her first priority in the new job is 'Operation Contract' -- a large scale clean up of 'rent boys' and prostitutes in the area. The scheme she inherits has already run into trouble because of a leak that appears to have come from in the force. But who is responsible and why?

When Tennison arrives to take control of her new team -- which includes one familiar adversary, Sgt. Bill Otley -- she finds them preoccupied. The previous night the body of a 17-year-old boy, Colin Jenkins, known as Connie, had been found in the burnt out flat of a transsexual cabaret artiste called Vernon Reynolds (Vera).

Connie is well known at a local center for homeless kids run by Edward Parker Jones, possibly a pedophile. Otley brings in Martin Fletcher, one of the boys from the center, who alleges he was beaten up by a low life, James Jackson, who was also looking for Connie the night he died. Jackson is known to pick up young, vulnerable kids at main line railway stations. The team has its suspect.

Forensic experts reveal that Connie was unconscious but alive at the time of the fire. More facts emerge: someone called an ambulance to Vera's flat that night. The fire was certainly started deliberately. Vice squad or not, Tennison once again finds herself on a homicide case.

Loose ends lie strewn everywhere. Vera, the main informant, comes cleans and admits lying before committing suicide. In the midst of this, a former lover in town on a lecture circuit prompts Tennison to re-evaluate her life's decisions. The lack of witnesses proves troublesome to Jane and all choices are tainted with regret, and yet, the element of truth in the messiness is, ultimately, quite satisfying.

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Cast and credits


DCI Jane Tennison

Helen Mirren
Vera Reynolds

Peter Capaldi
Jake Hunter

Michael J. Shannon
Colin Jenkins

Greg Saunders
Jimmy Jackson

David Thewlis
Martin Fletcher

Danny Dyer
Sgt Bill Otley

Tom Bell
Mike Chow

Richard Rees
Commander Chiswick

Terence Hardiman
Insp. Larry Hall

Mark Strong
WPC Norma Hastings

Karen Tomlin
Supt. Halliday

Struan Rodger
WPC Kathy Bibby

Liza Sadovy
Chief Supt. Kernan

John Benfield
Supt. Thorndike

Stephen Boxer
John Kennington

Terence Harvey
Commander Trayner

Stafford Gordon
Judge Syers

Lewis Jones
Edward Parker-Jones

Ciaran Hinds

Gilbert Wynne


DirectorDavid Drury

WriterLynda La Plante

Executive ProducerSally Head

ProducerPaul Marcus

Associate ProducerLynda La Plante

Director of PhotographyDavid Odd

Film EditorEdward Mansell

Production DesignerChris Truelove

Art DirectorsTom Brown
Julian Parry

Costume DesignerMike O'Neill

CastingDoreen Jones

Music Stephen Warbeck

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What the press said...

Grippingly suspenseful virtually from the get-go... one of the most absorbing, well-acted, and mercilessly nerve-wracking dramas of the season. 'Sensational' would not be too strong a word.
     -- Tom Shales, Washington Post

Tom Bell's hard-assed cop is a miniature of under-playing, especially in his gradual rapprochement with his female boss. As the pimp (and prime suspect), David Thewlis is a magnetic study in sleaze. Peter Capaldi makes a sad, touching transsexual. But it's still Mirren's show.
     -- Variety

The second-most-memorable face in the series belongs to David Thewlis, who plays a snarling, whining, crafty pervert. As with his stellar performance in Naked, Thewlis gives us the wised-up, gone-wrong tones of junk Britain.
     -- Vanity Fair

When Mirren stalks the halls, she's not self-conscious... or dogmatic... she's just a beat-up detective having a bad day...
     -- Detroit Free Press

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Emmy Awards 1994
Television Critics Association Awards 1994
BAFTA Awards 1994
Edgar Allan Poe Awards 1995

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