James Nesbitt on new C4 thriller Suspect: ‘This is Danny's last shot at redemption!’

James Nesbitt as Danny Frater in Suspect
James Nesbitt as Danny Frater in Suspect. (Image credit: Channel 4)

James Nesbitt is no stranger to portraying detectives in a career spanning 40 years, and now the popular actor is pleased to be adding another tortured crime-fighter to his CV as he headlines C4’s much-anticipated new thriller, Suspect

Based on the hit Danish drama Forhøret, the star-spangled eight-parter — which will air in double-bills from Sunday, June 19 to Wednesday, June 22 — sees James play Danny Frater, a veteran officer who turns up at a hospital mortuary to carry out what he thinks is a routine identity check, only to discover the deceased is his estranged daughter, Christina (The Bay’s Imogen King). 

While a post-mortem suggests she took her own life, devastated Danny’s convinced his only child has been murdered, and each 30-minute episode sees him share an intense exchange with someone who may know more about her untimely demise.

Here, in an exclusive interview, James tells us why Suspect is set to have viewers on the edge of their seats…

What’s your take on Danny?

“He’s a very complex, difficult, sad, angry man, who we find in quite a bad state. He was once a very good cop, in a loving relationship with wife Susannah [His Dark Materials star Anne-Marie Duff] and daughter Christina, who he adored. But then the demons within him destroyed all that. When he sees Christina’s dead body in the mortuary, it reignites both the copper and the father in him as he tries to unlock the truth about what happened to her.”

James Nesbitt and Joely Richardson in Suspect

James Nesbitt as Danny opposite Joely Richardson as pathologist Jackie. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Does Danny feel somewhat responsible for Christina's death?

“Definitely. We learn that Danny didn’t fulfil his duties as a father or as a husband, and he feels he let his daughter down. This is his last shot at redemption.”

The series is set over a 24-hour period, with each episode following Danny as he interrogates a different character to find out what happened to Christina…

“Yes, there are eight actors, with a different person appearing in each episode. We’re working out the relationship Danny’s had with all of them, at whatever point in his life, and also what they can give him now, because everyone has a different agenda and a different truth about what’s happened to Christina."

Suspect cast keyart

All star cast: Each episode is a 'two-hander' between James and another actor. (Image credit: Channel 4)

How did you find doing these two-hander episodes?

“As an actor, you’re always looking for something that will challenge you, and this was really exciting. The other actors helped me enormously, just by their own brilliance. They were each only coming in for one episode, but they all took it so seriously. 

“As there’s only two of you, you really have to trust each other, which lends itself to creating something very painful but very real. They all brought an authenticity, a truth, and a voice to their character that made it easy for me to spark off them; it felt electric.”

Have you worked with any of your co-stars before?

“I worked with Sacha Dhawan [who plays Christina’s business partner, Jaisal] and Antonia Thomas [AKA Christina’s best friend, Maia] on 2010 BBC One drama The Deep. But I’ve never worked with Anne-Marie Duff before, and the way she unlocks Susannah’s grief over Christina’s death with such grace but raw pain is amazing. 

“Similarly, Richard E Grant has a very long monologue as business mogul Harry and he did it in the first take. All these actors had prepared so well, that the competitive part of me had to rise to the challenge. I thought, ‘I’m gonna have to step up here!’"

Anne Marie Duff as Danny's ex Susannah

Anne-Marie Duff plays Danny's anguished ex-wife Susannah. (Image credit: Channel 4)

You’ve played a number of cops over the years, has that been a conscious decision?

“No, it wasn’t a conscious decision... Murphy’s Law I did for five series [James played tough undercover cop Tommy Murphy in the hit BBC One series, from 2001 to 2007] and Stan Lee’s Lucky Man I did for three seasons [he played Murder Squad detective Harry Clayton in the Sky One drama from 2016 to 2018]. And, recently, I played DS Michael Broome in Netflix series Stay Close and, of course, Tom Brannick in BBC One drama Bloodlands

“So there have been quite a few detectives, but I don’t know why. I’d like to say it’s because people see the good in me, but the cops I play are usually corrupt! With Suspect, I don’t think you’re considering a lot of the time that Danny is a police officer; he’s just a man. Could I be a cop in real life? No. I’m too old, is the short answer to that!”

James Nesbitt Tom Brannick Bloodlands

James as DCI Tom Brannick in Bloodlands, which is returning for a second series. (Image credit: BBC1)

Finally, we have to ask – can you give us any teasers for the upcoming second series of Bloodlands?!

“What's so interesting about the second series is that now the audience knows Tom Brannick is serial killer Goliath, it gives us more range for him. He still has to keep his identity hidden but it’ll be interesting to see what unfolds as no one else knows…

“I was filming a scene down by Strangford Lough [in Northern Ireland] and, where we were shooting, a newlywed couple were having their wedding photos taken and they asked me if I’d be in one. But my whole face for that scene was covered in blood – that’s definitely one for their wedding album!”

Suspect begins on Sunday, June 19 at 9pm on Channel 4.

Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and WhatToWatch.com

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!