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Why has Douglas Henshall left Shetland? And what's in store in his final series?

Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland, standing on the seafront and staring out to sea, looking troubled. He is wearing his trademark black double-breasted peacoat, and has his hands in his jacket pockets. Behind him, out of focus, there are dry stone walls and a cottage
(Image credit: BBC)

Things looked grim for DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) at the end of season 6 of Shetland when he and his friend Duncan Hunter (Mark Bonnar) were framed by terminally-ill murderer Donna Killick (Fiona Bell), who manipulated Duncan into assisting her suicide and left a note accusing them both of murdering her.

As Shetland season 7 opens, a year has passed and Perez is coming to the end of his suspension from duty, but as he returns to work, it's clear that the enforced absence has affected him deeply. And with star Douglas Henshall having confirmed that this will be his final series, the question on everyone's minds is: how exactly will Perez exit the show?

We caught up with Douglas to find out all about the new series, and why he's calling time on DI Perez.

Why has Douglas Henshall left Shetland? Douglas answers all our questions...

What made you decide to leave the show?

"I was very ready to go — I think I'd done as much with the character as I could. And the slightly unique aspect to the show, of two men trying to parent a teenager [Perez is raising his stepdaughter Cassie with her biological father Duncan] and the grief over a dead wife, I didn't want those to become a trope. I thought if we pushed it any further, it might end up a bit clichéd. Plus the fact that Erin Armstrong, who plays Cassie, is 26 now — she's a grown woman!

"There's only so many people you can murder on an island, I didn't want the quality of the show to drop. I felt it was good for us to leave when we did, because I think the quality in the seven seasons that we've done has been remarkably high. And 10 years is also a very big chunk of time to spend doing anything, and I felt like that was enough."

Where do we find Perez at the start of season 7?

"The year's suspension that he's had, and all of that stuff, is coming to an end, and then it's back to work — it all wraps up fairly quickly. The advantage that we had with having [seasons] six and seven to wrap up the show was that we could use a proper arc, and I think he's just getting to the stage where he's not sure whether he thinks it's worth it any more. I think he's beginning to discover that there are other things in life except being a policeman."

Connor Cairns (Nicholas Nunn) sits in a field of tall grass looking pensive, with his hands clasped in his lap. He is dressed all in black and grey.

A search begins for troubled Connor Cairns (Nicholas Nunn) when he fails to return home after a night out (Image credit: BBC)

Season 7 opens with a missing person case, rather than a murder, when Connor Cairns disappears. Was that an interesting change of pace?

"Yeah, I loved that, I thought that was a really good way to go, because the body count was very high in series six and it all started to get a bit Gothic! I really liked the pace of it, I thought it worked very well as a way into series seven. The family have their own history, and we begin to unpick that a little bit. It turns out that Danny Cairns [Connor's father, played by Andrew Whipp] isn't really who he says he is, and it starts to get a little bit more political as the story goes on. It's very well put-together – I think it's going to keep people guessing all the way to the end."

Tosh was Acting DI while Perez was suspended. Has that changed? their relationship at all?

"No, I think their relationship has got to the place where they trust one another implicitly, and he's very aware that she's a very capable, trustworthy partner. They're getting towards being friends as well, I think they care for one another very much. So I mean, it's no surprise that she would have been the Acting DI, because she's the most capable person there. I think he's very proud of her."

DS Alison 'Tosh' Mackintosh (Alison O'Donnell) stands on a grassy clifftop, looking toward the camera with her body turned to the left of the frame. She is wearing a long dark coat over a rollneck top and trousers.

DS Alison 'Tosh' Mackintosh has been covering Perez's job while he was suspended (Image credit: BBC)

This is your final season on Shetland. How did you feel about leaving?

"When we finished series 5, Davy [David Kane, the writer/executive producer of Shetland] and I thought we've probably got about two more in us, then let's wrap it up. I still don't think it's really hit me properly. I remember the very last day of filming, we were in some car park and it was very anticlimactic! But I think once this series, this version of the show, is finished, it will probably hit me then."

A group shot of the three lead investigators on Shetland: DI Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall), DC Sandy Wilson (Steven Robertson) and DS Alison 'Tosh' Mackintosh (Alison O'Donnell). They are standing on a grassy clifftop with the sea in the background. Perez is wearing a black peacoat over a grey sweater and blue jeans, Sandy is wearing a black leather coat over a brown jumper and blue jeans, and Tosh is wearing an long open dark jacket over a green-and-black plaid shirt paired with a green rollneck, and black trousers

Perez with his detective team Sandy (Steven Robertson) and Tosh (Alison O'Donnell) (Image credit: BBC)

As you said, this has been 10 years of your life. Do you think you'll miss Perez when it all finally sinks in?

"Yeah, I'll definitely miss him! I really enjoyed playing him. I couldn't have imagined myself doing anything for that amount of time, and I'm kind of surprised that I did, but one of the reasons was because I really enjoyed playing Jimmy Perez. I like him a lot, and I'll miss him. And I'll miss the place — I don't want to go back for a while, I think it would be a bit weird, but I'll definitely go back at some point in the future once I can just go and hang out!"

  • Shetland returns to BBC1 and BBC iPlayer on Wednesday August 10 at 9pm
Steven Perkins
Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com

Steven Perkins is a Staff Writer for TV & Satellite Week, TV Times, What's On TV and whattowatch.com (opens in new tab), who has been writing about TV professionally since 2008. He was previously the TV Editor for Inside Soap before taking up his current role in 2020. He loves everything from gritty dramas to docusoaps about airports and thinks about the Eurovision Song Contest all year round.