For seven years, DI Thomas Lynley and DS Barbara Havers had us on the edge of our seats as they solved grizzly murder cases and frequently clashed over their different backgrounds.
And while much-loved BBC drama The Inspector Lynley Mysteries might have ended in 2008, it remains as popular as ever amongst its fans.
To talk about the show 15 years after it started, the show’s lead stars Nathaniel Parker and Sharon Small sat down with BT TV for an exclusive interview.
Below, they talk about why Thomas Lynley couldn’t be anything like John Thaw’s Morse – and whether they’d like to see Inspector Lynley make a fresh comeback to our screens…
Have you watched any of Inspector Lynley since it finished?
Sharon: “I really haven’t. When they’ve come on I’ve found myself a bit like, ‘Nooo! I can’t watch them!’ But I think enough time’s gone by that it would be really nice to revisit.”
Nathaniel: “I just kept hoping they’d repeat them – partly because they paid me more! – but they never did. I think the BBC only bothered to show seven repeats in the whole of their life with Inspector Lynley. And now Drama channel has it all!”
What was it about the show that you think made it so successful?
Sharon: “Good stories. And I think it’s got to be the chemistry between the characters. I think coming from two different tracks and how they approached their lives and their work. I think that’s what people enjoyed because a few could relate to his lifestyle, but mostly you could relate to my lifestyle!”
Nathaniel: “Also Sharon was representing a woman who was getting on in a tough industry, being a cop. And I think a lot of people did want to relate to that whether or not it was happening enough at the time, and whether or not it is happening enough now is a very important. But a lot of women would have related to that. And I think the source material was very good – Elizabeth George’s books are really strong books, and that’s quite helpful.”
What were your initial thoughts about the show when you heard about it all those years ago?
Nathaniel: “My first impression was when the producer phoned me up and said, ‘I’d like to do a series of adaptations of this book. They’ve tried to do it before, it hasn’t worked, I think you’re the right person to do it with.’ And flattery will get you everywhere with me.
“We went to a little pub in Battersea and I was very conservative – I had just half a pint as we were chatting because I didn’t want to worry the producer that I was drinking too much at this early stage!
“And this is no reflection on John Thaw because I thought he was amazing – as was the production of Morse. I was in an episode, I loved it! But the slightly curmudgeonly old geezer who has the same backstory and does the same detecting every week and flirts with the same leading lady every week – I just didn’t want to do that.
“I knew I would get bored if I did that, and how John kept that going so brilliantly is anyone’s guess. He was amazing. So back story was very important to me, and then when the scripts started to come through and we got Sharon on board…”
Sharon: “I looked at the character in the book and I thought, ‘This is quite far away from me’. Because she’s written as really quite overweight, quite unkempt, lacking any kind of vanity and from London and I just thought, ‘OK’. And I walked in and the director Richard actually said, ‘Right Sharon, how do you feel about playing a fat, ugly sidekick to Nat Parker?’ I was like, ‘Let’s have a go, then!’ But yeah – that was my introduction to the script and the character!”
Inspector Lynley was very high-octane at times. Did you ever have any near-misses while filming the show?
Nathaniel: “Oh God yeah! In the penultimate episode we shot, I had to get out of the Bristol really fast and chase a villain. And because the Bristol is so low-slung, your bum is nearly scraping the floor when you’re driving that thing.
“I was getting old then – I’m even older now. And bang – I thought I’d actually been shot or someone had hit me with a hammer. My hamstring completely went. I thought I’d torn a hamstring before, but no. That’s tearing a hamstring. My leg went completely black in a diamond shape, and I then couldn’t run at all!”
Sharon: “Once we had to do a scene where we had to do a very quick run and chase, and all these police had to get into their cars at the same time. I had to dodge this police car and I jumped on the bonnet to stop myself getting run over. You see me doing a bit of a Starsky and Hutch move!”
Do you remember how you felt when you found out the show was coming to an end?
Nathaniel: “It wasn’t handled brilliantly. I was called via my agent – they didn’t call me, which I thought was a bit poor. It’s one of those things. And you understood their reasoning – a new bunch of management come in, they want to put their own stamp on something. That’s fine, that’s fair enough!”
Sharon: “I think we had a slight inkling because we knew that was going to change, so there was a possibility…”
Nathaniel: “I had such a nice time working on it and I didn’t begrudge anybody finishing it. If they wanted to finish it, they’re absolutely right to finish it. People may think some shows have gone on too long! And I kind of liked the fact that it finished when it did – it gave us the chance to go and do new things and it was a good progressive moment.”
Do you still get stopped and recognised in the street a lot for Lynley?
Nathaniel: “The recognition that I get walking down the street is so much greater now than it was five years ago with Inspector Lynley. And when it finished I had petitions sent to me and I think even last year I got people saying, ‘We’ve got a huge petition in Spain, could you please hand it in to the BBC?’ I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do when I do that. ‘Please give me a job?’ No, I don’t think so! But it’s very flattering.”
Sharon: “People do still come up. And I think I spent such a long time being an English person in that that people began to forget that I was from Scotland. So I met people a little bit after that and they’re like, ‘I wasn’t expecting that accent!’ And still today, people ask when it’s coming back…”
Well, that means we have to ask… Would you like to bring The Inspector Lynley Mysteries back for a brand new series?
Nathaniel: “I think it’s an interesting thought, but you know you’ve got to be careful a little bit haven’t you? Muhammad Ali maybe came back once too often. We did finish it at the top of our powers…”
Sharon: “There’s maybe life in the old dog yet! I would like to explore us as just slightly more mature detectives given that ten years have passed. The nature and the kind of cop show we have would influence it being slightly different. We could explore a slightly darker humour and the fondness and the bond is there because we had a cheekiness in there.”
The Inspector Lynley Mysteries is airing from Friday, March 25 to Monday, March 28 on Drama, channel 20.