Desperate Measures: cast, plot, trailer, interview, release date and all about Amanda Abbington’s bank heist thriller

The Desperate Measures cast.
Desperate Measures on Channel 5 stars Amanda Abbington as bank clerk Rowan Taylor who plans a robbery. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Desperate Measures sees Sherlock star Amanda Abbington teaming up with Trigger Point star Warren Brown and former Casualty star Sunetra Sarker for an edge-of-your-seat thriller. 

Amanda plays diligent bank clerk Rowan Taylor, whose teenage son Flynn is forced into a drugs deal that goes horribly wrong. With a violent gang leader demanding that Finn returns the money he lost and his life in jeopardy, Rowan finds herself with no choice but to carry out a dangerous heist at the bank where she works. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Desperate Measures, which has been on Channel 5 in the UK and is now streaming on Netflix.

Will they pull off the bank heist in Desperate Measures?

Will they pull off the bank heist in Desperate Measures? (Image credit: Channel 5)

Desperate Measures release date 

Desperate Measures is available on Netflix from early March 2024. The four-part series had previously premiered on Channel 5 from February 21 2023 and on the streaming service My5.

Is there a Desperate Measures trailer?

Yes there's a Desperate Measures trailer, so do take a look below which shows how the bank heist plays out...

Desperate Measures plot

In Desperate Measures, Rowan (Amanda Abbington) is a hard-working bank clerk and single mum who has raised her young son Finn on a lawless estate while paying off her absent father’s debts. 

Then one day Finn is coerced into a botched drugs deal by the local gang and finds himself shouldering the blame. He must pay back the money or deal with the consequences. 

As the ruthless gang leader makes it clear there will be no let-offs for her son, Rowan reluctantly reconnects with her ex-partner and career criminal, Patrick (Warren Brown) and commits to robbing the bank she works for. 

Rowan reconnects with her ex Patrick.

v (Image credit: Channel 5)

Desperate Measures cast — Amanda Abbington as Rowan

Amanda Abbington is the lead in Desperate Measures and she plays Rowan, a woman prepared to do anything it takes to save her son’s life. 

Previously Amanda has played Mary Watson in the series Sherlock, Miss Mardle in Mr Selfridge and Dot in the show Wolfe. Amanda has also starred in Harlan Coben's Safe, Cuffs, I Hate Suzie, Das Netz- Prometheus, Flack, Safe, Married Single Other, After You’ve Gone, The Bill and Dream Team. She's currently starring in ITV1 comedy The Family Pile.

Amanda Abbington as Rowan.

Amanda Abbington as troubled mum Rowan. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Amanda Abbington (far right) in The Family Pile.

Amanda Abbington (far right) in The Family Pile. (Image credit: ITV)

Warren Brown as Patrick

Warren Brown plays Patrick, a career criminal. He began his career as Donny in Shameless before going on to play Andy Holt in the soap Hollyoaks. Warren played DS Ripley in the hit series Luther and has also been in Grownups, Inside Men, Occupation, Moving On, Trigger Point, Strike Back, X Company and The Responder

Warren Brown in Desperate Measures.

Warren Brown as Patrick (centre) helps carry out the heist in Desperate Measures. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Sunetra Sarker as Varisha

Sunetra Sarker plays Varisha, Rowan’s best friend and co-worker at the bank and gets involved in the heist. She is known for her roles as Kaneez in Ackley Bridge as well as Zoe Hanna in Casualty. She has also starred in Sherwood, The Bay, Cold Feet, Informer, Broadchurch, Emmerdale, Brookside and No Angels. She also was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

Sunetra Sarker.

Sunetra Sarker as Varisha. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Who else is starring in Desperate Measures 

Newcomer Jesse Cescatti-McFarlane plays Rowan’s son, Finn while Francis Magee (White Lines), Jonathan Nyati (Motherland) and Seb Cardinal (After Life) round out the cast. 

Interview: Amanda Abbington on playing Rowan

Desperate Measures star Amanda Abbington as Rowan.

Desperate Measures star Amanda Abbington as Rowan. (Image credit: Channel 5)

How would you describe Desperate Measures?
Amanda Abbington says: "It’s a really compelling, exciting series about a mother’s love, what she’ll do for her child and whether she gets away with it or not. Rowan has totally fallen in at the deep end and she's struggling to get out. It’s up to viewers to draw their own moral conclusions about the heist. But if people go away talking about that, then I’ll be very happy!"

This is your first lead role. How did you find it?
Amanda says: "I loved it. It was a real gift for me. I usually do ensemble series like Mr Selfridge, or supporting roles in shows like Sherlock. Playing the lead was a huge responsibility, because if the experience on set was awful then I felt like it would be down to me! But Rowan’s a really interesting, complex female character, and she represents something I've never played before. I liked the idea of her taking control of this awful situation, pushing her boundaries and doing whatever she can to get her son back. 

Rowan’s ex-boyfriend, Patrick, played by Warren Brown, helps her carry out the robbery. Is there still potential for romance between them?
Amanda says: "I think they both still love each other. When she knocks on his door, he thinks she wants to rekindle their relationship, but she just needs his help. He gets involved because he still loves her, and she does still love him, but it's just the wrong time. At this point, she just needs to save her son!"

Was it exciting to act out a bank heist?
Amanda says: "We had a scene where I was explaining the robbery plan, with a map of the bank on the wall, but I was pointing at the wrong things – it was so complicated! Those scenes were a lot of fun, we laughed a lot, although I'm sure if a genuine bank robber watched this show they’d be able to point out lots of flaws!

Rowan is an ordinary woman in the most extraordinary position. How do you think you’d react in her situation?
Amanda says: "I don't think I'd rob a bank. But then, God forbid if anything happened to my children and I was in this situation, I don't actually know what I’d do. We tried to make Rowan as empathetic, sensitive and nice as possible. She’s just a woman in really unfortunate circumstances, who’ll go to any lengths to get her son back, because he's going to die if she doesn’t act. Personally I think she does the right thing!

Although the series is set in Manchester, you filmed in Budapest. What was that like?
Amanda says: "I only had two days off during the whole shoot, but I loved it! The building where we filmed the robbery was amazing. It was a real bank with a proper vault and when the production team went to do the recce there they got locked in, which would have terrified me because I'm really claustrophobic! Having said that, it was also the longest time I've ever been away from my children, Joe and Grace, since I split up with their dad, so I really missed them. Leaving them for six weeks was a difficult decision to make and I’m not sure if it's something that I’d consider doing again, although Joe thought it was quite cool that I was robbing a bank!"

Interview: Sunetra Sarker on playing Varisha

Sunetra Sarker as Varisha (on floor) getting caught up in the bank heist with Rowan and Patrick.

Sunetra Sarker as Varisha (on floor) getting caught up in the bank heist with Rowan and Patrick. (Image credit: Channel 5)

Casualty and Ackley Bridge star Sunetra Sarker, on swapping playing doctors and dinner ladies for a bank supervisor-turned-robber in Desperate Measures

Your character, Varisha, is best friends with Rowan. But what makes her risk everything to team up with her on the heist?
Sunetra Sarker says:
"Varisha’s a very lonely character. She doesn’t have a husband or 2.4 kids and she looks after her elderly mum at home. Apart from being there for Rowan, I think one of the reasons she says yes to the heist is to have that energy in her life!

Is she out of her depth?
Sunetra says:
"Yes she’s not capable of this at all really! She’s not an accomplished criminal, she’s a fish out of water. I think people watching this will think, would I be able to rob a bank? I mean, what would any of us do in that situation? I like to think I’d do the right thing, but if there was a child’s life at stake then I’d do it!

What was it like working with Amanda?
Sunetra says:
"Amanda and I have wanted to work with each other for years and I’ve always had a little fan-girl crush on her. We've got a lot of mutual friends who used to say to us, you two would get on so well. Deep down I knew we’d be mates and I think she felt the same because the first time we met on set in Budapest we hugged like old friends! 

Is this the kind of TV drama you enjoy watching yourself?
Sunetra says:
"Yes, I would definitely watch this, because I love thrillers, bank heists and female-led dramas. And Ocean’s Eleven is right there in my top ten favourite films – not that this is Ocean’s Eleven but it’s somewhere in that ball park! I’m also hoping my son will watch it, too, especially as there’s a big twist in the third episode. He doesn’t watch anything I’m in normally. I joke about it, but I may as well not work at all for what he thinks of my career!

Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.

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