'Shetland' Announces Ashley Jensen as Lead Starting in Season 8

Picture shows: 'Shetland' lead actor Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez will be replaced by 'Agatha Raisin' star Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder

'Shetland' lead actor Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez will be replaced by 'Agatha Raisin' star Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder

BBC/AcornTV

Changing leads midstream is not unusual for long-running police procedures; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to incorporate it. It’s why shows like Grantchester aren’t called “The Sidney Chambers Mysteries” or the Chief Inspector Ganache adaptation will be called the Three Pines series because that way, the show can continue set in the small town rather than depend on an actor to keep re-upping his contract. Such is the case with Shetland, which has cast a new lead detective with Agatha Raisin’s Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder after the exit of Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez. 

Despite these turnovers being the norm, this is a bit of an unusual situation. Most lead changeovers usually occur early in a show’s run because the actor wants to get out before spending the rest of their life typcast. Ben Miller left Death in Paradise after two years, and James Norton retired his Chambers robes after three. Nicola Walker exited Unforgotten after five; however, the decision to bring her to a natural exit was made after the third. Any longer than that and an actor leaving usually means the show ends -- after all, six or seven seasons is more than respectable.

That’s why the decision to keep Shetland going with a new lead after Douglas Henshall’s exit is so surprising. Based on the Shetland Island novels by Ann Cleeves, it is the second of three-hit series based on Cleeves’ best sellers, the other two being the long-running Vera and the recent The Long Call. Henshall seemed a bit miffed that the show wasn’t going to end because he’d decided to pursue other projects, saying in interviews he “hoped the BBC didn’t make a mess” of the series now he’s not in it. But the announcement of Jensen, whose popular Agatha Raisin series was rescued  by Acorn TV, suggests the BBC plans to see if the show can get even bigger under a new star.

As with most shakeups of this nature, the rest of the cast will remain in place. That means Jensen joins the other series regulars as their new boss, including Alison O’Donnell (DS Alison ‘Tosh’ McIntosh), Steven Robertson (Sandy), Lewis Howden (Billy), and Anne Kidd (Cora). In her statement about joining the series, Jensen said: “There will be a different dynamic with Ruth amongst the regular characters and a few more new interesting characters to enjoy. However, the integrity of the show and the world that has been created will remain very much in the same tone as the last seven seasons. It’s a real privilege to be asked to lead this show into a new chapter.”

According to the BBC’s announcement, Jensen’s new character, DI Calder, is “a native Shetlander who returns to the isles after 20 years working for the Met in London.” In short, she gets to play the trope of the local girl made good who now returns to her childhood home to discover that though you cannot go home again, you can make it the place you want to live.

Shetland Season 8 is filming now in Glasgow and Ayrshire. The next season of the series is expected to arrive on the BBC in mid-2023 before coming to BritBox in the U.S.


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Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found at Elite Daily, NBC News' THINK, and others. A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on Twitter: @anibundel