Ciaran Hinds Interview: The Attractions of Above Suspicion

Gruesome murders and smart-arse suspects are what we’ve come to expect from ITV’s Above Suspicion adaptations. In the latest season (starting on January 4 on ITV1 at 9pm), however, things are about to change. This series is taking a new, drug-fuelled direction; to investigate we tracked down one of its leading detectives, actor Ciaran Hinds... This is the third Above Suspicion adaptation to make it to TV, but what first attracted you to the role?
Ciaran Hinds: I haven’t done much television in recent years, but I was offered this role a couple of years back, and I was sent the book to read. I really liked it; it had a lot of energy, movement and I knew that I would get to work with the divine Kelly Reilly, and we’d worked together once before in the theatre.

Did anything particularly appeal to you about the character you play? He’s quite curt.
James Langton was a Detective Chief Inspector for the first two, and he’s now a Detective Chief Superintendent. He’s quite ambitious; he’s got a lot of energy. He doesn’t think about walking anywhere when he can stride. When he’s talking with people a pause doesn’t mean that he’s thinking about something, it means you haven’t got an answer. So he is very sharp both with the people that he interviews and with his own team. He’s always looking for the answers yesterday. I don’t think I could bear to be in his company, I have to say.

In these episodes he’s a Superintendent, so he should be supervising up to eight or ten cases, but being the animal that he is he just moves straight in. The first two stories were rather graphic, about decimation of women. This one, thank God, is not. It’s about drugs, and that’s something they don’t know anything about.

How does this affect this story?
For quite a bit of it they’re lost. They don’t know what’s going on, and then they start playing catch up. There’s an international connection, which particularly throws them. It’s like a thrill ride: you don’t quite know where you’re going.

You mentioned reading the books when you were approached. Do you still go back to the originals before you film?
I haven’t done for this one just, only due to time constraints. I literally came off a plane and started work on this. The others had something like four days to prepare. What I will do is read it after I see the cut version--which we haven’t seen yet--and then go back to the book to see how one thing can transform into another, just as a comparison.

Presumably you’re used to the character anyway by this point.
I hope so, but then again you never know. Sometimes it depends on what side of the bed you get out of, you know? There are choices you have at any scene: Can you be light on something? Should you be just playing it through? Do you want to play it more subtly? Those choices still exist, but they have to be made fast.

One thing I’ve discovered--owing to the show being directed again by Gillies MacKinnon, who’s a great director--is that he doesn’t want Langton to take any prisoners.

Lynda La Plante writes the books but she also has involvement in the show. How important is this?
Oh well, she’s completely responsible for the construction of the whole; the structure of the screenplay and the writing.

In the shooting of it, she takes no part. She leaves it. She selected the actors who are committed to it. She selected the director. It’s her production company that makes it so I suppose then Lynda would see the rushes at the end of the day and if there’s something she’s not happy about, she might talk it through with the producer.

I’m sure our knuckles have been wrapped in our absence, without us knowing. She doesn’t actually involve herself in the day to day, she removes herself and leaves that for people to get with it. But of course she will have input in the editing and what’s not quite right, or she might have a word that would arrive at us, but through an indirect way. That’s great because that’s the way it should be. Otherwise, if you’re there all the time you could choke it.

I think she’s written six books, but this one’s out of sequence. Deadly Intent is the fourth one she wrote, but for some reason Lynda thought the third might be placed at a better point later on.

Previous Above Suspicions have deviated from the book too. Has this ever incurred the wrath of fans?
That I don’t know. I would imagine in a way it would have to [cut things out]. In a book there’s a lot more time; more tangents; more complexities. A book can take it through some lyrical passages, but television drama doesn’t have time for that. It’s driven; it’s an energy thing, it’s about the chase and therefore by its very nature it has to take a different form.

In this particular three-parter, Anna Travis is promoted. Does that change the dynamics of the team much?
Well, funnily enough it should do, but because everybody is promoted, we’re at the same level. I thought: "Hang on, so I’m now Chief Superintendent. And Mike is Chief Inspector, and Kelly’s got a new rank too…"

Everybody’s got a little bit more power and Kelly has found her character’s not so green any more. She’s not making her mistakes. She is doing more things on her own and not sharing them, which before was naive and is now something else. Langton recognises this and challenges her very directly about her position in the team. He’s frustrated with her, but at the same time he really likes her and this brilliant instinct she’s got.

And you’re investigating the death of a colleague in this series; does it bring up any troubling memories for the characters?
Yes, it begins with the shooting of a policeman. It’s awkward, that’s true, but we don’t explore it that much and I think that’s probably a good thing because once you go down that route it becomes something else.

Can you tell us a little bit about the guest stars this season?
Now, Stine and Benedikte were two Danish actresses who came over because we weren’t sure where to place this, because it was about drugs. They came over from Copenhagen-- they’re very big theatre actresses over there.

Then Richard Brake, who lives out in America but has connections here, has come over to play the mystery man, so mysterious we don’t know it’s him! Which is quite fun and I coincidentally just brushed past him about five years ago working on a film called ‘Munich’ that he was in for a moment.

Then there’s Andrew Woodall, who plays the lawyer, who I hadn’t seen for a long time, but we worked together in Prime Suspect 3. It’s funny the way life goes, sort of 16 years later.

There’s Julian Sands too who’s fascinating to meet because he’s a great film actor. He’s done a lot of work, particularly in Italy. He is perfect and he’s a really elegant actor. It was wonderful that he decided to join us for a bit.

You are involved with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy as well, how will that translate to today’s audience do you think?
That’s going to be very interesting. They have this extraordinary cast (Gary Oldman John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, and Toby Jones) and they’re filming in this style that’s very different to what a lot of us have witnessed before. It’s like being observed. You are spies; you are working for MI5--The Circus--but there’s a camera that seems to be spying on you. I think it will be fascinating. You never know how these things end up, but it has the guts of being an extraordinary film.

Whether people will come and see it, that’s a different thing because it’s a highly complex story. The screenplay is pretty complex and it tangentially goes in strange places. There’s a history that goes with it obviously, but there’s something really gripping about it.

What’s next for you, particularly in the TV area?
Nothing at all; something’ll turn up, hopefully. We know Above Suspicion will be shown in January and then they’ll see how it appeals to those who are supporting it. Maybe we’ll know again in February/March if we get to make another one.

Comments (1)
Dec 27, 2010
I've always admired this actor - he's great, no matter the medium.