Cush Jumbo: 'Criminal Record' is a realistic, 'unshiny' detective drama

Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo star in the new drama, "Criminal Record." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 3 | Peter Capaldi and Cush Jumbo star in the new drama, "Criminal Record." Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The Good Fight actress Cush Jumbo and Doctor Who icon Peter Capaldi say they wanted to produce and star in the new British detective drama, Criminal Record, because it was a good mystery that didn't shy away from real contemporary social issues.

"I'm born and bred in London. We shot on a lot of the streets where I went to school, where I played with my friends, where my friends would be stopped and searched all the time by the police," Jumbo told reporters in a recent Zoom interview.


"So, I felt a deep responsibility to, sure, tell an interesting story, but we can't portray these themes for the sake of entertainment only.

"I was interested in looking at a city like London -- which has so many years of sediment, of people upon people and group upon group -- and how the past, if you don't deal with it, will bubble up and get you in the end."


Premiering Wednesday on Apple TV+, the eight-part series kicks off when an anonymous phone call draws two brilliant detectives -- Capaldi's Daniel Hegarty, a White man nearing the end of his career, and Jumbo's June Lenker, a young Black woman -- into a confrontation over an old murder case.

Paul Rutman is the showrunner and Capaldi's wife, Elaine Collins, serves as executive producer.

"It was a privilege to be involved with a team that was so responsible. We knew we were making a show that was dealing with these issues, but was dealing with them in a complex way, so that we could reflect that life isn't just polarized and simple and black and white," Capaldi said.

"There are variations on how people respond to things," he added. "That was one of the most powerful things about the show."

Capaldi described Hegarty as a "mature police officer who has been around the block."

"He has seen a lot of good things and bad things and survived and is not too happy to see the arrival of a younger detective who is digging into his past, which is what Cush does," the actor said.

"I think my character has done some stuff in the past that might not be the wisest thing to have done."


The pair lock horns, according to Jumbo, but quickly discover they have more similarities than differences.

"Once they decide they're going after something, they're going after something, and that ultimately makes them clash -- but that makes it so exciting to play," she added.

Lenker said she has witnessed racism and injustice in her lifetime, but instead of feeling bitter and defeated by it, she does her best to stamp it out.

"She so desperately wants to do good and wants to make change and she is still halted in her attempts by the institution that she is trying to change," Jumbo said.

"I wanted people to talk about that in a realistic, unshiny way. I thought that was my duty as a Londoner and a Black woman."

The crimes the duo investigates are grisly and the suspects violent, which can be physically and emotionally draining for real cops, as well as the actors who portray them.

"One of the things I've never seen before [in a police drama] is how domestic violence and brutality against women, in general, are just repeated generationally," Jumbo said.

June puts herself in dangerous scenarios because she can't ignore the atrocities that plague her city.


"She is carrying these cases on her back," Jumbo said. "She has to find the truth. She has to help somebody. She can't allow it to continue. She's willing to sacrifice."

Capaldi said Criminal Record was the rare project that was written specifically for him.

He called the experience wonderful, but also a "little bit frightening."

"There is nowhere to hide. They chose me, so I had to come up with the goods," he said, adding that he enjoyed helping to develop his character and the show's story as a producer.

"It was a very special place to be. It was unusual to be this involved."

His wife, Elaine, helped him through rough spots he encountered.

"She is amazing. We would disagree about some things," he laughed. "But she has better taste than me."

Jumbo said she and Capaldi felt supported as they navigated the dark material and complicated characters of Criminal Record.

"Shows like this require you to have a team around you that can hold you, so you can do your work because you can't do everything at the same time," she added.

"We had to trust each other a lot, but we also had to trust our team."


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