In a world where fictional detectives are typically plagued with all manner of problems, DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunny Khan are refreshingly… normal. What’s at the heart of their relationship, what about that kiss in Season 2 and why are audiences so drawn to this dynamic pair? Stars Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar delve into their characters’ on-air dynamics, their off-screen connection and more.
“Their relationship is so unique for a TV drama,” Walker said. “I look for it in other shows because it is the sort of thing I want to see – a man and woman who really love and respect each other and are there when the other needs them, emotionally and personally. I think it’s really unusual and it is coming back to their relationship that I always really look forward to.”
Bhaskar agreed that the show has a fresh and unusually ordinary depiction of police and detectives, and it’s one that, he thinks, makes Unforgotten stand out among the rest. “Someone watching for the first time in America recently commented on how nice and empathetic the two detectives were in this show and it made me realize that it is quite unusual for this type of show,” he said.
Another part of what makes Cassie and Sunny such a unique team is the fact that they’re the male and female leads of the show, working together and sharing a close bond and friendship, and yet, and they aren’t forced into a romantic storyline.
“That is the joy of them, they are intimate and so physically relaxed with each other, but it’s not sexual,” she said. “It’s great to see it because I know it is possible – I have wonderful male friends in my life who I rely on, but you just don’t see it very often on screen.”
There is the exception, of course, of that one drunken, embarrassing kiss in Season 2. “She’s always going to absolutely adore him, but as long as he never he never does that again,” Walker told the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast after the Season 2 finale.
By nature, a show about cold case murders and solving those crimes is not generally lighthearted everyday. Admittedly for both Walker and Bhaskar, some filming days can be heavier emotionally to handle, but it’s yet another reason why they’re thankful for each other – to help one another laugh.
“Certainly if you have scenes that are hugely emotional, that does weigh on you, but one of the greatest gifts of the many gifts that this series has given me is my friendship with Nicola,” Bhaskar said. “One of the things we inevitably do when we have difficult scenes is have a laugh as soon as the director shouts ‘cut’. In the end, that becomes a saving grace. Being able to laugh at yourself not only denotes to me a degree of humanity, but I honestly believe that a sense of humor can save your life and keep you sane.”
“There is a deep, deep sadness running through these stories,” Walker told Radio Times. “And when you’re doing stuff that’s really dark, you can stay in that place. So, I’d be really serious all the time if it wasn’t for Sanjeev. It’s his fault if I’m not always serious.”
“My fault? I’d say it’s my credit,” Bhaskar said. There are scenes in Unforgotten that are so intense, horrible and tragic that you have to find a way to relate to each other as human beings again.”
And, of course, they’re there for each other through it all, no matter how serious (or not) the issue. When Walker was discussing her anxiety about interviews in an interview with The Guardian back in 2015 (in particular, being asked what kind of biscuit she’d identify as), she shared the important advice Bhaskar gave her.
“Yeah, I could have just lied. That’s what other actors tell me to do. I get quite fearful about interviews, so I sought advice from other actors. I asked Sanjeev Bhaskar. He’s great. He said: ‘Just lie, you idiot.’ ”
Check out a video of Walker and Bhaskar from their days filming Season 3:
And take a look at Cassie and Sunny through the years:
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