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The Chelsea Detective is a fabulous new mystery series, and I had the good fortune of being able to chat with series star Adrian Scarborough about it.

The Chelsea Detective
The Chelsea Detective: Sonita Henry as DS Priya Shamsie, Adrian Scarborough as DI Max Arnold — Photo by Sven Arnstein / Acorn TV

One of my favorite new shows is The Chelsea Detective, the Acorn TV Original mystery drama starring Adrian Scarborough as the titular character. In it Adrian plays Met Police detective DI Max Arnold, a dedicated copper who, with partner DS Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry) and the rest of his team, investigates crimes in the affluent West London borough of Chelsea. As I stated in this article, it is “a cracking good mystery series…”

And that’s pretty much where I started my brief, lovely chat with Adrian.

(Text has been edited for clarity.)

LJ: “Let me start by saying how much I love the show. I was just telling Eddie from Acorn TV that I can’t remember the last time I gushed about a show as much as I did about The Chelsea Detective. I was positively effusive about it. From what I can tell, your show is going down a storm on this side of the pond.”

AS: “Oh, I’m so pleased. That’s really good to hear, because I very deliberately don’t look at social media just because it, you know, one can hear things that don’t always, aren’t always good for you. So I’ve sort of avoided it on this, because I felt very strongly that someone would let me know if there were, if it was going down okay. So it’s a very good thing to hear. Brilliant!”

LJ: “Well, allow me to be that person… I’m already with fingers crossed that a second series will be commissioned. Can you share anything about whether Season 2 will be happening?”

AS: “Well, what I do know is that [the producers have] been given script development money, and I know that other episodes have already been written. So, fingers crossed, we’ll be able to take those to production. That would be really, really great. I think that’s always the case with these things. You know, everybody waits to see ultimately whether people want it and like it. Obviously there’s no point in making telly for people who don’t watch it. So I think they always hedge their bets and wait and see, don’t they? But yes, I am sincerely hoping that we’ll get to make some more before the year is out. That’s the plan, anyways. That would be really great.”

LJ: “I’ve been a fan of your work for a while… So when I saw the announcement a year ago that you were fronting the series, I was really pleased… What was it like for you to front the series? To lead the cast of the show?”

AS: “That’s a very good question, because I don’t get to do that very often. In fact I’ve done it very infrequently. So it was a bit of a — I mean it’s always scary going into, setting things up, I think. It’s so much easier in some senses to kind of walk into a series where you’re playing, where you’re just there as a guest artist and you don’t have any of the responsibility, essentially, of the day to day. But there are great benefits, I have to say, to being part of a big family. And what I really, really enjoyed about the show was that we all ultimately became one big happy family, and we genuinely were happy. We enjoyed ourselves, and we had a lot of fun making it. And I really, really got to know people in a way that I sometimes don’t on shows. When you’re just popping in or you’re in every few days, it’s very, very different to be sort of there every waking hour, and having a real, I felt, having a real input into how the thing was made and the tone of it, and how Sonita and I felt about that central relationship of the two of us working very much together. So I suppose in a long-winded answer to your question: I loved it! Without being mad and despotic about it, I had a wonderful, wonderful time, and I just so enjoyed myself.

“I think we were all a bit scared on the first episode, but we got over that after a week or so. There was a wonderful moment where the director just kind of went, ‘Look, we know what we’re doing. Why are we all thinking that we don’t know what we’re doing?’ And we all kind of went, ‘Hey! Yes! We’ve all been doing this for years and years. We know what we’re doing. We’re good at this! We can do this!’ And it was a really wonderful thing for him to say it at that particular moment in time. And everybody went, ‘This is fine. We know what we’re about.’

“I think it coincided with the first load of rushes that came back, and somebody had done a very quick assembly of them and just put them all together, and we all went and had a look. And I insisted that the actors who wanted to see the rushes got to see them, because I think it’s — I always think it’s really important that people get to look at their work. Otherwise, how do you know how good, bad, or indifferent it is, and what you might do to change it and improve it? It took a bit of persuasion to get our producer to kind of let it all hang out for us, but she did in the end, and it was really, really great. It was wonderful just sort of sitting there watching it and kind of going, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this fine. We know what we’re doing.'”

LJ: “You absolutely did it fine — a fabulous job on everyone’s part. There are so many different aspects to why this show just works. You go to the Acorn TV channel on Amazon and the show has 100% 5 stars [on 3/17/2022]. That’s like unheard of… The bits of humor and the bits of quirkiness complement the darker aspects of the show with the murders. The pairing of Max and Priya — those two have become my new favorite detective duo; they play off of each other so well… The little reveals about Max’s character — his dyslexia, his ability to play the piano, and things like that. What aspects of Max are similar to Adrian? Obviously you ride a bike. Do you play piano?”

AS: “I don’t really play piano, no. I did play it in the show, though. As a child, we had a piano at home. My dad was a very brilliant player, and I tinkled around on it, so I wasn’t frightened of it in that sense. But I was absolutely blessed with our fantastic, amazing composer, Ian Arber, who I think, I don’t know about you, but I just think he’s done such a magnificent job. You start to hum that tune; it’s like an earworm, you can’t get it out of your head. I really, really love it, as well. I think it’s a really fascinating, dramatic, dark — it’s just a great theme tune, I think.

“[Ian] couldn’t have been more helpful if he tried. He rigged up this fantastic camera above his keyboard and he’d record himself playing these pieces very, very slowly so that I could see exactly where his fingers went. Then he would send it to me and I would sit at home with my tiny little Casio keyboard and try and work out what he was doing. And I was blessed at the studio where we shot all of the interiors. There was a big keyboard there, so in my lunch hours and any time off that I had, I would go and I would sit and noodle about and try and get my fingers sitting in the right place. So it is actually me playing, which is very gratifying, I must say.

“As far as riding bikes is concerned, I absolutely do that, all around London. I’ve been riding my bicycle in London now for 25 years. People sometimes say to me, ‘My goodness, how scary. Isn’t the traffic frightening?’ But actually, these days it’s better than it’s ever been with the advent of all the new bicycle paths and the superhighways for bikes and things like that. So actually you feel remarkably, I feel much safer cycling around London now that I did 15 years ago. I just think you miss so much on the Tube and on the underground. I just like seeing all those places passing by, and I like seeing the people, the life above street level. It’s just great — all the bridges, and particularly we were so fortunate in being able to shoot around there, especially in the middle of COVID, in the midst of a terrible pandemic. We were still out there with our cameras and masks on and everything, and people were very, very kind to us and very amenable and helpful, and just wanted to see life in the city continuing, really, the best we could. So we were very, very fortunate being where we were. The views up and down the Thames from that particular bit of Chelsea are really spectacular.”

LJ: “It’s like a character in and of itself.”

AS: “It sort of is, isn’t it? I agree. It’s very much a part of the show.”

LJ: “For people who may not have had a chance to tune into the show just yet, what would you like to share with them about it? What would you like them to know about The Chelsea Detective?”

AS: “I think it’s a classic detective series, but with a really cracking twist. I think the partnership is, I think all of the relationships, really, on the show are fascinating and very, very interesting. And all of the main characters just have a little edge to them; they just have a little bit of something that sets them apart and a bit out of the ordinary. And it’s quirky and a little bit odd, and at times I think it’s quite funny and at other times it’s very, very serious.

“But what it isn’t, and we very purposefully went out of our way to avoid this, is gore. We felt very much that this was not a show that was about gore; it was about the way in which the police go about their work and the way that they do it really, really well. And one of the things that I really love about the police station where we all are is that often, when you’re shooting these detective series, there’s always a lot of antagonism, actually, in the station itself. And we very deliberately said, ‘Look, these people do this job day in, day out. They work really well together as a team.’ So we really, really wanted to show how brilliantly clever and amazingly good at their jobs these people have become. So it’s an incredibly positive look at the way in which the police handle their work.

“And we are absolutely and utterly blessed. In fact, I believe we’re one of the only cop shows that films in the city of London in this country. I don’t think any other — they may say they do, but they don’t; they go outside of London and they find London lookalikes, whereas we are right in the heart of it and we are glued to the Thames, and Albert Bridge, and that houseboat, and the King’s Road, and all of those wonderful, wonderful bits of London that everybody all over the world just recognizes and wants to see — the London buses and taxicabs, and it’s all there. I think it’s quintessentially English, as well, you know? I think it’s a very English show.”

Indeed it is. And a smashing one, at that.

With Episode 4 having dropped today, the entire first season of The Chelsea Detective is now available for streaming on Acorn TV and its digital channels. Check it out!


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Interview: Adrian Scarborough on His New Series ‘The Chelsea Detective’