Unforgotten’s Nicola Walker: “I love my character because she refuses to give up”

“Is a crime less serious because time’s past?”

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After Suranne Jones cracking performance on BBC One’s Doctor Foster last night, another strong female character comes to the fore in new ITV drama Unforgotten, starring Last Tango In Halifax’s and Spooks‘ Nicola Walker as DCI Cassie Stuart.

We were lucky enough to attend the press screening of Unforgotten earlier in the year, which was attended by members of the cast and writer Chris Lang. It’s felt a long time coming for Walker (an Olivier award-winning actress) to be given a leading role. Often producers cast her as supporting characters despite owning every part she takes on and sometimes even out shining some of her co-stars. That’s not to say her co-star, The Kumars Sanjeev Bhaskar lacks in this role as her partner DS Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan. In fact he’s the perfect balance to the duo. The sceptic to Cassie’s determined pursuit; a comfortable banter between the two that shows a close friendship without all the usual tropes of strings attached.

During the press screening Nicola said “I love my character because she refuses to give up, and the on-screen partnership with Sunny is amazing.” Sanjeev added, “by the end of the read-through we knew so much about each other. And that’s thanks to Chris and his incredible writing.”

Unforgotten sees Cassie and Sunny investigate a cold case murder when remains of a young boy, who died 39 years ago, are discovered in the foundations of a house that’s being demolished. Initially the team are uncertain as to the age of the bones, which could be anything from “Richard III or five years ago?” Cassie is left to remind her reluctant colleague and father that “There is no statute of limitations on murder.” With all the recent historic crimes currently in the news, the drama poses the very relevant question “Is a crime less serious because times past? Is a wrong less wrong because it was done 50 years ago…?”

What I really enjoyed about the story is Cassie is a strong female character, but not cold and calculated. She knows she’s good at her job and confident in her ability that her methods will yield results. Cassie is still fun, kind person though, able to display emotions without all the usual detective clichés of a broken tortured soul or a doomed affair/romance. A lot of that is down to the great writing by Chris Lang who has written a group of great characters, and the confident assured performance by Nicola Walker, who even when staring at a screen, conveys the characters excitement at every new morsel of evidence (all those years staring at the screens in Spooks certainly paid off).

Writer Chris Lang revealed at the screening he was interested in “telling stories about families” and wanted to explore how someone can “live a life when they’ve taken another.” Adding he liked the”idea of people’s lives being dismantled.”

ITV has had a poor run with its drama output over the last year but Unforgotten is the exception. I’d even go as far as to say, it’s the best drama of the year across the channels so far. Going by the first episode, I think ITV should snap Unforgotten and its stars for many more series.