Prime Suspect‘s Jane Tennison is returning to MASTERPIECE, not as the iconic, flawed detective who rose to command through fierce cunning and sheer grit, but as a smart and ambitious fledgling police constable expected to make tea and let the men hunt down the killers. Before you see the murder investigation that kick-started Tennison’s storied career, get the lowdown on all things Prime Suspect.
Policing in 1973
Sam Reid (DI Len Bradfield) explains that the department’s culture has its roots in a particular crime saga, the case of the notorious gangster twin brothers, the Krays. “In 1968, after the Krays were arrested, the police force did a big cull of the corrupt police officers that were working with [them]. That justified why all our police officers are so young, because they were trying to implant new, fresh ambition, hopefully not so corrupt.” Pair that youth with the year 1973, when the women’s police force (which previously had dealt with domestic incidents and traffic) became integrated with the men, and you get a culture that looks a lot like Prime Suspect‘s.
Behind the Scenes
In addition to filming in a deserted prison, Prime Suspect: Tennison filmed in an old, disused mortuary built in 1894, still equipped with medical supplies and furniture—an actor was even put into one of the real fridges, and a “corpse” laid on an original slab!
More authenticity came in the form of the herbal cigarettes actors smoked in the production; according to Sam Reid (DI Len Bradfield), the production’s English fake cigarettes weren’t producing plumes of smoke big enough to satisfy the director, so they had the brand used on Mad Men shipped in from the US.
In a fresher, healthier vein, actor Blake Harrison (DS Gibbs) and his castmates got caught up in the then-new Pokémon Go craze. He reveals, “Josh [DC Edwards], Tommy [DC Hudson] and I were like three grown men acting like eight year olds! After about two weeks of us all paying Pokémon Go, the others all got bored of it but I’m still playing it now! I genuinely have to catch them all.”
The Original Jane Tennison
From 1991 to 2006, Prime Suspect won numerous awards and legions of devoted fans alike for its star Dame Helen Mirren’s warts-and-all portrayal of Detective Chief Inspector (and later Detective Superintendent) Jane Tennison, one of London’s first high-ranking female police detectives.
Planning Prime Suspect: Tennison‘s major heist is gangster patriarch Clifford Bentley, played by Alun Armstrong. If he looks familiar, you may recognize him from one of his many MASTERPIECE performances, most recently Dark Angel and Downton Abbey. Other MASTERPIECE alums who appeared on the original Prime Suspect series through the years include Ralph Fiennes (Worricker: Page Eight), Ben Miles (The Forsythe Saga, Zen); Clare Holman (Inspector Lewis), Phoebe Nicholls (Downton Abbey) Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey) Zoe Wanamaker (Hercule Poirot, Mr. Selfridge).
Whether you’re a Prime Suspect completist or meeting Jane Tennison for the first time, don’t miss the Prime Suspect: Tennison premiere on Sunday, June 25 at 10pm ET!