Unforgotten's Sanjeev Bhaskar and Sinéad Keenan on being TV's next big cop duo

Unforgotten season 5
(Image credit: ITV)

Unforgotten season 5 gets off to a tense and captivating start when there's a new crime-solving boss at the helm. The series is set nine months after the tragic death of DCI Cassie Stewart, played since the drama first aired in 2015 by Nicola Walker. Fans were left heartbroken and reeling when Cassie was involved in a fatal car accident and so was Cassie's loyal colleague, DI Sunil 'Sunny' Khan, played by Sanjeev Bhaskar. 

As season 5 begins, Cassie's replacement DCI Jessica James, played by Sinéad Keenan, (Little Boy Blue, Showtrial)  is getting ready to start her first day at work with Sunny and the team. However, things couldn't get off to a worse start for ambitious DCI Jess. 

We went on set for Unforgotten season 5 where some of the series is filmed in Slough, Berkshire to speak to  Sanjeev, 59 and Sinéad, 45 and hear about working together, how Sinéad feels taking over from Nicola and why Sanjeev had mixed feelings about filming in Paris...

So Sinéad, how has it been stepping into Cassie’s shoes so to speak? 

SINÉAD: "What I was most nervous about was following Nicola Walker because who wants to do that? (laughing). When my agent first told me I was one of three actors they were sending the script to I initially whispered, 'No thanks', but then I read it and it was so compelling it was a no-brainer that I would want to do it." 

And what state of mind do we find Sunny in at the start of this series Sanjeev? 

SANJEEV: "He’s really struggling. He’s grieving the loss of Cassie deeply and feeling very lost without her. She was so much more than a colleague to him; she was a friend, his confidante and now she’s gone he’s finding it difficult to recalibrate."  

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Unforgotten

Nicola Walker starred as DCI Cassie Stuart, who tragically died at the end of season 4 of Unforgotten.  (Image credit: ITV)

How do Sunny and Jess get on and what are the dynamics like between them? 

SINEAD: "Jess has been very successful in her career, she’s ambitious and she’s been fast-tracked to DCI but on her first day working with Sunny something happens in her personal life that completely blind-sides her. It impacts her ability to function properly. Sunny and the team are thinking, ‘This woman is rubbish at her job, why is she here?’"

SANJEEV: "Neither of them are acting or behaving their best at a time when it’s vital to make that first connection. It’s clear they can’t continue to operate like that so it’s going to be an interesting journey to see how they deal with what’s going on." 

Had the two of you worked together before or crossed paths? 

SINEAD: "We were both surgeons in a sitcom called Porters about five years ago but that  was more working ‘alongside’ each other than working together." 

SANJEEV: "The only scene we had together was about 20 seconds in the back of a shot playing a board game!" 

So how have you found playing colleagues on Unforgotten? 

SINEAD: "After I’d got the role of Jess, Sanjeev very kindly sent me a message asking if I wanted to meet up before we started filming and so we had a lovely chat on Zoom. Being on set has been unnervingly pleasant and easy and I don't think I heard the name Nicola once!"

SANJEEV: "We were always very careful to say it out of earshot! (laughing). What struck me was that Sinéad was in a very similar position to Jess, she was coming into an existing team where everyone knows each other well, people have got their shorthand so I thought it would be a nice thing to get in touch beforehand." 

SINEAD: "We bonded over our mutual love of cheese!" 

Some of this series was filmed in Paris. How was that experience? 

SINEAD: "Sadly I didn’t get to go for Jess’s storyline."

SANJEEV: "We did some filming on the Eurostar which had its challenges but being in Paris was great fun and felt very glamorous although I have a very chequered history with Paris. It’s where my first proper girlfriend dumped me and I didn’t go back for about 20 years. This time I found a cafe to have a glass of wine and some lunch and afterwards I walked away euphoric. I realised it was the first time I’d been in Paris not broke and not heartbroken."

And you've got a great cast on this series, including Hayley Mills, what a treat! 

SANJEEV: "I don’t have any scenes with Hayley but I met her at the read-through we did and I went up to her and just pawed at the air gently." 

SINÉAD: "Every single one of the cast is brilliant. I’ve got some interview scenes with Martina who used to be in Casualty, she was amazing. Ian, I’d worked with six months previously on Derry Girls and Hayley Mills,  I mean legend! She was gorgeous and looks exactly the same as from her Pollyanna days, I mean obviously, she’s not 12-years-old but she’s so beautiful." 

Will Sunny’s infamous backpack be making an appearance this series? 

SANJEEV: "Oh yes and once again the costume department has had a great time filling it with all kinds of weird and ridiculous items. We’ve had a balloon pump, a leg cast, an inflatable guitar and a ‘Girl Power’ T-shirt. I can’t believe how much attention that backpack gets!"

SINEAD: "I didn’t get to have even the tiniest peek inside that zip! I’ll have to wait and see what comes out like everyone else." 

Unforgotten season 5 will be released on Monday 27 February at 9 pm on ITV1

Tess Lamacraft
Senior Writer for What's On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite week, Whattowatch.com

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and WhattoWatch.com She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.