Dublin Murders - BBC One’s new unmissable crime thriller: Secrets from the set

Killian Scott, Sarah Greene and writer Sarah Phelps take us behind the scenes on the dark psychological drama, based on the Tana French Dublin Murder Squad novels.

One of the most highly-anticipated TV dramas this autumn is BBC One's dark crime drama Dublin Murders.

An unmissable psychological and emotional thriller, the eight-part series is based on the bestselling Dublin Murder Squad novels by Tana French and it's going to make every other police drama in 2018 look like it belongs in the 1980s.

Ditching the usual plodding police procedural setting and tired whodunnit plots, Dublin Murders zooms in on the emotional connection between cops and crime, and sprinkles a dusting of the supernatural that makes this series unlike any other on TV right now.

Haunting, gripping and from the pen of Sarah Phelps (And Then There Were None, The ABC Murders), you’ll want to make an appointment this autumn with Detective Rob Reilly and Detective Cassie Maddox.

BT TV caught up with the cast and creators of the series to delve a little deeper into Dublin Murders.

The Celtic Tiger

Dublin Murders

(Killian Scott in Dublin Murders)

Series 1 of Dublin Murders will blend together two of Tana French’s novels, In the Woods and The Likeness to tell a story that taps into Ireland’s past, present and future.

Focusing on two macabre murder investigations led by ambitious and charismatic Detectives Rob Reilly (Killian Scott) and Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene), the heart-thumping drama is set during the height of the Celtic Tiger financial boom of the millennium.

The series central timeline starts when investment in central Ireland was booming, while neighbouring estates were blighted by poverty and unemployment.

"It's set in 2006 which was the height of the Celtic Tiger when there were things like estates being built and motorways being put in," said Sarah Greene.

"We saw how corrupt that all became and now we’re witnessing the aftermath of all of that.

"People were buying two, three, four houses to be sold on and rented out. Then the money ran out. To this day you see a lot of what we call ghost estates around Ireland, which have not been finished. It was an absolute s***show and we’re still recovering from it."

Writer Sarah Phelps revealed: "If we do get to go forward with the other books, which I sincerely hope we do, those stories will chart the modern history of Ireland from the boom to the absolute bust and on to the recovery."

'Discombobulating' accents

Dublin Murders

(Sarah Greene in Dublin Murders)

One of the strangest elements of filming Dublin Murders wasn’t the supernatural occurences on camera.

The one English character in the show, Detective Rob Reilly, is played by Irish actor Killian Scott.

Killian’s accent is all the more impressive when you consider that he was working alongside an Irish cast and crew.

"It was certainly an odd dynamic to be filming in Belfast surrounded by Irish actors, some of whom I’d come across before and not be playing an Irish character," said Killian.

"To be in that context and almost the entire team be in this finely attuned British accent was definitely a bit discombobulating."

Luckily, Killian has the services of dialect coach Brendan Gunn, whose credits include working with movie stars Robert De Niro, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Julia Roberts and Cate Blanchett - to name but a few.

What is the significance of Rob’s boarding school accent? You’ll have to wait and see.

"The specifics of how he ends up in Ireland are not apparent initially as it is tied to a spoiler in the story," teases Killian.

Bright red hair and the Shamrock in their teeth

Dublin Murders

(Sarah Greene)

The cast and creators of Dublin Murders are excited to reveal a side of Ireland not often seen on screen in the UK and US, ditching the crass stereotypes for a more authentic view of the country.

"If you go to Ireland people don’t suddenly burst out of their house with bright red hair and the shamrock in their teeth," said Sarah Phelps.

"They're just people getting on with their lives. Trying to live a good life. Trying to not get swallowed up by the thing that consumes them."

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, who plays Detective Frank Mackey said that he hoped the show would present a view of Ireland internationally that didn’t involve "drinking” and "leprechauns".

"With Dublin Murders, audiences, especially American audiences, will get to see a different darker Dublin that sometimes isn’t given a full airing internationally," he said.

"Normally you’ve got the IRA story, the famine stories and the civil war, independence stories. But modern contemporary Dublin isn’t really examined of explored," he said.

"It’s the more gothic side, the underbelly behind all the drinking and paddy-whackery or whatever you want to call it." 

Killian Scott added: "One of the things I liked about this show was that the humour felt uniquely Irish. It’s extremely dark, and it is something I miss when I’m away from Ireland. There is a certain type of gallows humour, that the cops in the show have with each other, and it’s a little bit cynical, but very Irish.

"The show also doesn’t romanticise Dublin as it shows the gritty, dark underbelly of the place. There is also this mythical quality to Dublin Murders, there is an ominous presence where you start to get this idea that these woods are somehow alive."

The EastEnders influence

Dublin Murders

Sarah Phelps famously got her writing break on EastEnders, writing over 90 episodes of the BBC One soap during the early 00s.

The writer believes her time on the soap helped her working on an adaptation, where the ending was already mapped out for her. "I know where everybody is going to be at the end," said Phelps. "All the time, you’re planting tiny little bombs for what could happen in the future.

"I find that really exciting, but maybe that comes from being on EastEnders for so long. There all the time you’re putting down pots of gold, planting little story bombs so that at any given point you can just pick one up and go."

Executive producer Kate Harwood, who worked with Phelps on EastEnders, said: "I used to watch what she did to our story documents. She'd pick it up, tear it in two, shake it to pieces, fling it to the four winds and then come up with something absolutely brilliant. Something that somehow encapsulated but expanded everything we were trying to do in the first place."

The final result is something that dazzled the cast.

"She’s a genius," said Greene. "Her writing for every character is really well formed, everyone has their own voice.

"Sometimes in a procedural it doesn’t really matter what character says what. But in this every single person has their own rhythms and the characters really leapt off the page. It meant we didn’t have to do much work other than just tell her the truth, which was a joy."

Capturing the different timelines

Dublin Murders

Dublin Murders brings together two mysteries - one in the 1980s and one in 2006. Director Saul Dibb wanted to shoot the different time periods differently, to nod to the switches in timeline without having to make awkward references.

"The present day was shot with modern lenses," said Dibb.

"It’s set in 2006, we looked at Fujifilm stock for the 2006 period and we looked, then again for the 1980s for more of a 16mm Kodak film.

"There would be subtle differences between the look of the two periods, but without ever trying to do something that felt too forced or contrived."

Dibb, who previously directed films Journey’s End and The Duchess, described Dublin Murders as a "Gothic, dark fairy-tale" with every episode feeling like a "mini-movie".

"I thought we should be trying to do something that’s really ambitious visually," said the director.

"The bar has been raised really high for television recently. There are no longer discernible differences in quality between television and film, so we need to be making something that operates at that level, and I felt that this was an opportunity in terms of British television to be able to do that."

This is just the beginning of the story

Dublin Murders on BBC One

These eight episodes only cover two books in the series, so there is potential for the Dublin Murders to return for several more series.

"Every book is narrated by a detective with a very intense connection with the crime. There is also a secondary detective in each novel who goes on to lead in the subsequent book. It’s as if a baton is passed from book to book," explained Harewood.

"The lead character Frank from the third book Faithful Place appears in The Likeness as Cassie’s mentor and nemesis so, he is very strongly present in the latter half of the series too."

So if the Dublin Murders does return for a second series, it would be Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Detective Frank Mackey taking over as the new lead.

Watch the Dublin Murders on BBC One on Monday, October 14th at 9pm. Catch up on BBC iPlayer.

Never miss an episode on BT TV - catch up on the BBC iPlayer app.

New to BT? Learn more about BT TV >

Watch iPlayer, Netflix, Prime Video and more with BT TV - Learn more >

Photo Credit: BBC/Euston Films

BT TV customers - Watch now on the BT Player

More from BT

Exclusives and Behind the Scenes