G R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher OfferG R Direct - Free Dishwasher Offer
Tuesday 23 July 2024
 11.2°C   NW Light Breeze
Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Arts / Fans told to expect ‘utterly compelling’ storyline as series six filming draws to a close

Alison O'Donnell as 'Tosh' in Shetland. Photo: Mark Mainz

“I ONLY ever think about what Shetland has given to us,” actress Alison O’Donnell says when asked about how crime drama Shetland has brought the isles global attention.

“I think we’re lucky that you guys have been so welcoming and so supportive and we get to come here and borrow this beautiful place.”

O’Donnell, who plays police sergeant Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh, is speaking on the cusp of wrapping up filming for the latest series of the popular BBC series.

With reports of people visiting the isles just to soak up the sights of the show, it has given Shetland and its tourism industry priceless PR – even if the fictional crime rate is alarmingly high.

The timing of bringing a fairly large crew to film in April and again in June drew criticism from some in the Covid era, but the mask-wearing team introduced twice-weekly testing, and brought their own lab north so local services were not affected.

O’Donnell is speaking as the crew prepare to film a scene outside Lerwick Sheriff Court – or the police headquarters, in the Shetland world.

No rowdy scuffles or explosions – just DI Jimmy Perez getting out of a car. Which actor Douglas Henshall drives himself, no less.

The last series – season five – was broadcast back in 2019, and like just about everything else, plans to film last year were postponed due to the pandemic.

Alison O’Donnell’s character Tosh is ‘really maturing in her work’ this time around. Photo: BBC/ITV Studios/Mark Mainz

O’Donnell appears delighted to be back on set after the rigours of the last year. “Obviously this is a very different climate to what we’re used to, but it’s just so nice to be back at work after a long time of everybody being pretty idle,” she says.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

 

“I feel so grateful. It’s just nice to be able to do the job that we love again.”

Her character Tosh, something of a fans’ favourite for her rapport with the more austere Perez, is “really maturing in her work” this time around.

“When we first met her in the pilot, she was a real rookie,” O’Donnell says.

“The writers have really allowed that to grow over the series and then this one particularly I think she has been really nice to play, in that growing sense of confidence in her work.

“She’s really working on her instinct, she’s sniffing things out, she’s following up leads, she’s getting to the heart of what’s going on and I really loved doing that. It’s a progression from what we’ve had before, and it feels like it’s evolving in a really nice way.”

Producer Louise Say, meanwhile, plugs six series as “utterly compelling”.

“The interesting thing about season six is it’s all set on Shetland,” she adds.

“We don’t have a storyline that takes us back to Glasgow. In a way it becomes more intense for Perez, and for the investigating the crime, he’s here. He’s also got a really significant emotional journey that he goes on in season six, which takes him to a territory that he hasn’t been subject to before.

“That is exciting to see, and I think it’s challenging for Dougie [Henshall] as an actor to portray as well. I think he’s really enjoying it. His performances are outstanding, and all the cast – we have a brilliant core cast, and a really great guest cast with us. The BBC have seen early cuts of the show and they absolutely love what they’re seeing.”

Series seven, which will be shot in Shetland in September and October, will be “very different”.

Say added that plenty of planning went into the Covid protocols around the filming, which were shown to NHS Shetland and the council prior to their arrival. While shooting outside the court, the crew were masked – and any visitors had to ‘check-in’ with the team through an app.

“We just do everything that we can to keep each other safe, to keep the production safe, and really importantly to keep the community safe,” Say said. “We do respect the fact that it’s a small island community.”

Filming this year has gone well, according to the crew – although the variable weather gave the crew a true experience of all four seasons.

Shetland producer Louise Say. Photo: BBC

“In April we had blizzard conditions and 70 mph winds in the first week which was quite challenging I have to say, but we got through it,” Say reflects. “I’m really proud to say we got through it and we produced some really excellent material.”

The programme, which sees local actor Steven Robertson complete its trio of lead roles, first filmed in the isles in 2012.

Back then it was just a two-episode series adapted from Ann Cleeves novels.

But it has morphed into six-part seasons with its own storylines, broadcast across the world, from the US and Australia to Estonia and Slovenia.

This has helped to catapult Shetland as a visitor destination to a whole new audience – with Perez’s lodberry house, of course, a key focal point, in amongst sweeping shots of the landscape.

After filming in Shetland for nearly a decade, O’Donnell describes the isles as feeling like a second home.

“There’s people here that I love and I look forward to seeing them,” she says.

“I’ve got little rituals and routines that I have when I’m here. It’s such a special place to me. The fact that there’s benefits to you guys as well, I think is a happy by-product, and I’m really happy for that, but I think it’s much more what we have received.”

So what’s her favourite place in Shetland? The St Ninian’s tombolo is hard to beat, she says. “It’s like a magic trick”.

“I also really love that you guys have such good facilities here,’ O’Donnell continues. “I took my daughter to the Clickimin pool yesterday. It’s so nice, everything is so well looked after. I could talk all day about things that I love about here.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.

 

Newsletters

Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.