'Dalgliesh' star Bertie Carvel: 'I think of him like a hawk!'

Bertie Carvel in Dalgliesh
Bertie Carvel is on the case in 'Dalgliesh'. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Dalgliesh is set to bring best-selling PD James’ celebrated detective to life. The six-part series, airing on Channel 5 in the UK and Acorn TV in the US, centres on DCI Adam Dalgliesh, played by Doctor Foster star Bertie Carvel. Set in 1975, the three two-part films follow the brilliant, single-minded Metropolitan Police detective, who is also a poet, as he solves a range of baffling crimes, while also dealing with the recent death of his wife in childbirth.

We caught up with Bertie Carvel to find out more...

'Dalgliesh' sounds fascinating. What appealed to you about the show?

“I hadn't read the books before the project so I came to it fresh. I had a good feeling about it. It's a period drama, but also a character study. What he's going through in his life, he's processing through the lens of his police work and his poetry.” 

Why is Dalgliesh a good detective?

“PD James describes him as having a ‘splinter of ice’ in his heart. I think of him like a hawk. There's a ruthless detachment, a determination to come to the truth in him and a commitment to justice. As an observer of human nature, Dalgliesh is also someone with deep emotional intelligence, sensitivity and a well of compassion.”

Dalgliesh has also lost his wife and child, what impact does that have on him?

“It's a story about the first year of grief. I know it's a cliché that the detective has a troubled emotional hinterland but whatever’s going on in the cases, he's tackling his grief. It intersects with my own experience. My mother died in November 2019 and that, and the birth of my son that followed closely on, is the hinge in my life. I won't be the same again, nor will my work. So doing this was challenging but healing and therapeutic too.”

How do you see Dalgliesh’s relationship with his sidekick DS Charles Masterson, played by Jeremy Irvine? 

Bertie Carvel and Jeremy Irvine in Dalgliesh

Tension is in the air between chalk and cheese cops Dalgliesh (Bertie Carvel) and Masterson (Jeremy Irvine). (Image credit: Channel 5)

“Masterson is everything Dalgliesh is not, he's hot-headed where Dalgliesh is cool. He's judgemental where Dalgliesh is reserved, he's bigoted where Dalgliesh is liberal and he's young where Dalgliesh is older – and he’s fabulously good looking! He's a good foil for Dalgliesh because he stirs the pot, which is not Dalgliesh’s style. But Dalgliesh has chosen this man to be on his team although he has so many attributes that he dislikes. What they have in common is intelligence and good instincts. But will Masterson go too far?” 

The series is set in the 1970s, have you enjoyed exploring that period?

“Yes, all three films are set in 1975, which is a departure from some of the novels. Dalgliesh has sideburns and wears a 70s take on classic Savile Row suits that wouldn't look out of place today but could have been cut in the 50s or 60s, which tells you the kind of man he is, he feels slightly ‘old world’. I also get to drive an extremely nice E-type Jaguar. It was really fun!”

When can I watch 'Dalgliesh'?

The first two-part story of Dalgliesh airs in the US on Acorn TV on Monday Nov. 1 and in the UK on Channel 5 on Thursday Nov. 4 at 9pm and Friday Nov. 5 at 9pm.

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.