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'Shetland' star Douglas Henshall: 'The raciest I get is going to Tesco!'

DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) stands on the Shetland coastline, with an charcoal-y fade effect at the borders of the image
DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) experiences a bereavement in the latest series. (Image credit: BBC)

Douglas Henshall is soon to return to our screens as DI Jimmy Perez, and the character he has been playing since 2013 is set to experience heartbreak in Shetland season 6 as he mourns the death of his mother, while his father starts showing signs of dementia.

While it would be a good idea for him to take some time away from work, that proves impossible when a high-profile local figure is murdered in a shocking and brutal fashion, leaving Perez and his team with a contentious case that they must solve under intense scrutiny.

[Please note: the following interview contains spoilers if you've not seen the fourth series of Shetland.]

Douglas Henshall on what lies ahead for Perez

"A very prominent and well-loved local is murdered outside their front door, and we set out to investigate what's obviously a big deal because they're a very important person. And the personal side of it is that his mum's died, so that kind of hangs over him throughout the whole season, and also his dad's got the beginnings of Alzheimer's, or dementia. So there's quite a lot of family stuff going on this year with him."

Cassie (Erin Armstrong), James (Benny Young) and Perez (Douglas Henshall) stand by an open grave looking desolate during the funeral of Perez's mother Mary

Perez (Douglas Henshall) attends the funeral of his mother Mary with his daughter Cassie (Erin Armstrong) and father James (Benny Young). (Image credit: BBC)

Filming for season six was delayed due to the pandemic. Did you enjoy getting back to Shetland for filming when you finally got the chance?

"Well, to be honest, no — I wanted to come back here and I love it here, but bringing an entire crew to the isles terrified the bejesus out of me, because I thought, 'if we bring COVID here, it's going to be a disaster'. So I think the first time that we came here, everybody was so neurotic that we just stayed indoors and did nothing. So that's all I do — the raciest I get is going to Tesco! It's always lovely to be here, to go places and be outdoors, but we're just hoping to get through in one piece because it's quite ambitious."

You've been filming seasons six and seven back-to-back — what has that been like?

"It's quite a thing to try and shoot two! Shetland is always quite a tough shoot, so to try and do two back-to-back this year has been quite a challenge for everybody. But we [the cast] had a six week break in between six and seven — for our poor producer and line producer and so many other people, they got like a week off and then they were right back at it again. It's been a fair old stint for everybody!"

Season six sees the return of Donna Killick — who was revealed as a murderer in season four — to Shetland. How does that affect everyone?

Donna Killick (Fiona Bell) sits in an armchair, wrapped in a blanket, looking pale and drawn

The compassionate release of terminally-ill killer Donna (Fiona Bell) sparks outrage among locals (Image credit: BBC)

"That's the first time we've done that in the show, to bring a character back. Donna is terminally ill, and she's been allowed compassionate release to leave prison, where she is, and come back to Shetland, which causes discomfort for many people — especially the relations of the kid who was killed because of her."

Shetland has been part of your life for many years now. Do you look forward to getting back together with the cast and crew each time?

"I hadn't been in a room with more than four people for a year and a half before we started Shetland earlier this year, so to suddenly come into a room of 40 or 50 people talking to you took a bit of getting used to! But it's always lovely to come back and work with people that you like. I suppose if I were to come back to work after all that time, because I didn't do anything for a year and a half, I'm very glad it was this because we're a tight-knit bunch!"

  • Shetland season six launches on Wednesday Oct. 20 on BBC1 at 9pm.