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Paranoid: Dark plot hides gripping theme that can't be revealed

As Indira Varma notes, we never really know what others think, so it's a 'waste of time' worrying about it - although it makes fertile ground for a crime drama. The stars of ITV's tense new series Paranoid tell Gemma Dunn what's in store.

It's been a stellar year for crime-drama fans - and it's not over yet, as ITV prepares to serve up its latest fix in the form of eight-part conspiracy thriller Paranoid.

But don't expect your run-of-the-mill police drama.

Executive-produced by founder and director of Red Production Company Nicola Shindler (Happy Valley, Ordinary Lies), and writer and creator Bill Gallagher (The Paradise, Conviction), Paranoid tells the story of a female GP who is murdered in a rural children's playground with an abundance of key eyewitnesses.

A group of detectives - Bobby Day (Robert Glenister), Nina Suresh (Indira Varma), Alec Wayfield (Dino Fetscher) and Michael Niles (Neil Stuke) - embark on what seems to be a straightforward murder investigation. But as they delve deeper into the case, they're quickly drawn into the twists and turns of an ever-darkening mystery, which unexpectedly takes them from the small fictional Cheshire town of Marshwell on a tense journey across Europe.

The series' stars introduce us to their characters and reveal why they couldn't resist signing up.

The character of Nina Suresh is played by Indira Varma, who says the dark plot explores the complexity of relationships.

"I'm fascinated by the theme we can't reveal in Paranoid," Varma, (43) teases. "It feels like a modern problem in society that needs exposing and discussing."

Elaborating on police detective Nina's complex persona, the actress adds: "She's mouthy and not always very likeable. A bit of a nightmare. She's jealous, impulsive, wears her heart on her sleeve, doesn't mince her words and can be pretty insensitive. But thankfully, she redeems herself with a laugh and her honesty... I wish I had the courage to behave like that sometimes."

Like her colleagues, Nina's also wrestling with her own demons. "Nina is paranoid about getting older and missing the boat when it comes to having a baby and being loved. And, of course, she worries about what other people think of her, which we never really know," says Bath-born Varma. "It's a waste of time and energy even thinking about it. But we can't help it, can we?"

Co-star Robert Glenister (56), is Bobby Day a long-serving police detective, and of his character he says: "He's thrown into this maelstrom, the like of which he's never really experienced before and also contending with an onslaught of panic attacks."

Revealing Paranoid wasn't his first collaboration with writer Bill Gallagher, actor Neil Stuke (50), who portrays Michael Niles, explains: "I did Out Of The Blue with him 20 years ago and I'm a huge fan of his work.

"It's one of the only scripts I've ever read where I actually felt scared reading it, and very nervous, not really knowing what the hell is going to happen next," the actor quips.

Dino Fetscher is Alec Wayfield in the show which is his first big acting role. "Alec is the junior of the three detectives," he says. "He's very book-smart, cultured, and from a family with lots of money, where there is a very tempestuous relationship between him and his mother.

"He's very cerebral so everything is intellectualised, versus someone like Nina, who's much more literal. So she is the physical one and Alec is all in the head," adds 20-something Fetscher, whose character shares a few passionate clinches with Nina during the course of the series.

Meanwhile, Lucy Cannonbury is played by Lesley Sharp (56), who says: "There's something very interesting about having a show that has really big ambition. It starts off in this beautiful corner of England, and these cracks then start to appear.

"Paranoid is about a group of characters who are in free fall," the Manchester-born actress adds passionately. "Their lives are being turned upside down for various reasons."

As for Lucy, a local garden centre owner and eyewitness to the murder, Sharp says: "She has experienced difficult times and is there to offer a perspective, both for Bobby and the audience.

"Lucy is very much her own person. It's fantastic to play a female making choices. She's the hero of her own life. Someone with a past, and you don't find out about it until quite a way into the story."

Paranoid begins on ITV on Thursday, September 22, at 9pm

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