The Version Interview... Tom Riley on itv encore's Dark Heart

Detective Inspector William Wagstaffe (Tom Riley), 32, is haunted by the murder of his parents during a family holiday in Spain when he was 16 years old. The killers are still at large and ‘Staffe’ is unable to let go until he finds them. It is probably no coincidence that after leaving school and joining the police force he rose quickly through the ranks to become Detective Inspector before the age of thirty.

Staffe is taking some long overdue leave to continue the investigation into his parents’ murder and is about to board his flight to Spain when he is called by his loyal Detective Sergeant, Josie Chancellor (Anjli Mohindra), to say that they need him as a man has been found murdered. The disturbingly gruesome fashion the victim has been killed raises alarm bells and the pressure is on Staffe to find the murderer.

Told across a stifling week during an August heat wave in London in a single two hour drama, Dark Heart follows DI Wagstaffe and his team investigate what unfolds to be not one but a string of horrifyingly brutal murders the victims of which are men who have been accused of sexual offences against children but have never been convicted for their alleged crimes. Staffe feels sure he knows what is driving the killer but finding a connection between the murder victims or even those abused by the murder victims frustratingly eludes him. As dogged and determined as ever Staffe pushes the boundaries in searching for the killer but the truth he finally uncovers is more surprising and shocking than he could ever have imagined.

Tom Riley tells us more... 


We’ve read the official blurb but how would you describe Dark Heart?

I’d say it is a very dark police drama that pushes the boundaries of the subject matter. My character is emotionally immature, and he’s endured a horrible experience in his childhood. He saw his parents murdered in a way that has affected him greatly.  He’s not great at focussing on the case and I think he makes for a very interesting character.


How did you prepare for the role?

We met Police in the force and they advised us on how to approach the subject matter.  As an actor, with the darkeness of it all, you have to try and dredge up anything you can think of from your own experiences which will help you take on the role with authenticity.


How do you switch off at the end of the day, having filmed such dark material?

I just go home and switch off normally! I have absolutely no problem doing that whatsoever, I am more than happy to walk away and go to the pub and put my feet up and I don’t even think about it!


TV detectives are so often littered with clichés, how did you avoid falling into that trap?

It’s down to the script. You hope the script prevents you from slipping into clichés.  This script is great, very careful not to fall into that “oh, and one last thing!” classic detective formula.  There’s none of that!


Kevin Lygo, head of itv recently said he was bored of Broadchurch copycat shows. What did you make of those comments?

I think he’s right, you don’t just want copycat shows. You want to be offering something fresh.  There are definitely lots of shows that have fallen into that formula and they just don’t translate to the audience because it becomes boring.  Dark Heart is nothing like Broadchurch believe me. It’s very real. There aren’t eighteen suspects from the start! Dark Heart is realistic, it’s very fresh.


What TV detective dramas do you enjoy?

I enjoy thinks like True Detective. Shows which are engaging, well written and realistic.


Aside from Dark Heart, you’re also on the big screen in Starfish.  Tell us about that?

Again, I enjoyed that because of the realism. It is an inspirational true story about a couple who had what seemed like the perfect life until he contracted septicaemia. He had to have his arms and leg removed as well as part of his face and it’s essentially a love story about their relationship.


Finally Tom, can you tell us what else is in the pipeline for you?

Sure, I’m about to start work on a three part BBC comedy and the cast is amazing. It hasn’t actually been announced yet so I can’t say too much other than it is very funny and very dark. It’s going to be brilliant.  Other than that, The Collection is available on Amazon Prime, if people want to check that out. 


Catch Dark Heart, Wednesday 9 November, 9pm on itv encore.