This new police drama asks questions of stellar cast
Forget high action, Netflix's latest police procedural - filmed in the confines of an interrogation room - is all about human interaction. And it's a welcome opportunity, its stars reveal to Gemma Dunn
It's not often actors are confined to one room. But stripped-down drama is the very foundation of Netflix's latest offering, Criminal.
The show - which is made up of 12 standalone episodes set in four different countries: the UK, France, Germany and Spain - serves up a unique premise in that it takes place exclusively within the restrictive confines of a police interview suite, its adjoining observation deck and the outer corridor. That's it.
Shunning the usual genre tropes (think car chases and explosions galore), the cat-and-mouse procedural, written by George Kay and directed by Jim Field Smith, focuses solely on the mental conflict between the police officer and the suspect in question.
The result - a tense ride for the audience and a rare opportunity for its stellar British cast. The likes of which includes guest stars David Tennant and Hayley Atwell; plus regulars Katherine Kelly, Lee Ingleby and Rochenda Sandall in its detective division.
So what did they make of the set up?
"It's a bit more freeing in the observation room because you're putting on less of a show," compares Sandall (31), whose character, Warren, acts as the UK team's personable 'rookie'.
"In the usual more action-y shows, there's a lot that goes on," adds Kelly (39), who leads with her portrayal of the often-hostile Hobbs. "So the amount of time that you end up rolling and shooting in a day is quite minimal - but here that was all stripped back.
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"You never get such a dialogue-heavy show, either, because there's a lot to watch," she reasons.
"Whereas this is all about the human beings and what's going on between them all, so the responsibility rests on your shoulders.
"There's nowhere to hide with it and I relish that."
"You kind of had to treat it like it was just one scene, so you'd dip in and out of the observation room, but you're still playing that through line," agrees 43-year-old Ingleby, who plays her trusty colleague, Myerscough.
"As preparation and filming went, you had to know it from start to finish," he muses, his co-stars equally pleased to be shooting in continuity.
"It was quite exciting though, when you're playing a scene that's rattling along and you're buzzing off each other. It was a bit like a play sometimes."
"Normally you'd only do about four or five pages a day, whereas on this we were pushing 10-15 pages," cries Sandall. "So you had to be on it. There's no winging it on this."
The extreme close-up shots mid-interrogation do little to mask the actors' every expression too.
"I don't know what lenses are on and I don't ask," Kelly confides. "Some jobs I might, but I didn't on this.
"There was four of us in the room and then probably four or six crew - they tried to keep the number down - so I do my best to block all of that out to be honest," she adds. "Or else you become self-conscious.
"Sometimes the shot isn't on you and you're like, 'Oh that was my best work'. But it was satisfying to come away at the end of the day and just know that Jim wouldn't have missed a beat."
There's no doubt Field Smith and Kay know the drill when it comes to thrilling audiences, however, with the duo - who also serve as Criminal showrunners - boasting respective credits on hits such as Endeavour and Killing Eve.
The expertise extends to the actors too, with Kelly no stranger to the genre, having dabbled with the law - on the other side, admittedly - with Cheat and Liar; while Ingleby and Sandall have both starred in Line Of Duty.
From villain to law-abiding, it's enjoyable to mix it up, the trio maintains.
"Variety is the spice of life," quips Sandall.
"To be seen as pure crimson and also whiter than white, it's really great to be considered for both."
"Leah (from Cheat) was in the firing line; she just did what she had to do," Kelly argues. "I remember looking at Hayley Atwell halfway through our episode and I said, 'Do you know what? I'm normally you and you're normally me', which is another joy of this show for everybody.
"For the guests as well, they get to come in and play something that they're not usually cast as, so that's all part of the thrill."
Is this the kind of show they'd settle down to watch at home?
"I'd watch this, I genuinely would, because I just think it's so original," insists Kelly, who says she trawled through hours of interview room footage on YouTube after landing the part.
"Now there's such a plethora of choice, that's what I am searching for. Something that I can't predict; I'm not even bothered about the end game of it..." she claims.
"You should feel like the characters are on the edge of their seats, as much as the audience."
As for starring in another procedural. "I've gotta draw the line now on the police. I need a break from that," Kelly teases.
"But because they are so popular, all actors do them. If you didn't, you wouldn't work on TV."
Adding that she likes variety in her work, she says: "I tend to not even read books by the same author back to back and I definitely like to do what I've not just done - and I mean that across theatre, telly and radio, not just the part in the project."
Even if Criminal was to land a second run?
"You can't predict how a show is going to be received," she says tentatively.
"And I think everybody has stopped trying because you never know how an audience is going to take to something."
Criminal launches on Netflix on Friday