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the chelsea detective


Adrian Scarborough on ‘The Chelsea Detective’, finding chemistry in a pandemic world, and crime dramas

Bikes, crimes, and football.

The Chelsea Detective is a four episode crime drama coming to Acorn TV. The show is about a detective inspector named Max Arnold. The show has all the twists, turns, and mystery that is expected in this kind of series. It also has a human side not always found in police procedurals. This includes a sense of humor that keeps things fun and an entertaining cast of characters. Adrian Scarborough talked with AIPT about the show.

AIPT: What drew you to The Chelsea Detective?  

Adrian Scarborough: Well, I ride a bicycle myself. So that was a good place to start. I thought it was unusual to see a policeman riding around on a bike. Of course, they always used to in the fifties and sixties in this country. But there hasn’t been one on a bicycle for quite some considerable time. I quite like the idea. I thought that was quite fun.  

And also, I really love the idea of him being on a houseboat, this sort of little island in the middle of the Thames where he could just sort of be in his own world. And just using that as a metaphor, really for sort of where he found his head. I was just sort of fascinated by the psychology of that really.   

And nobody’s ever asked me to be a detective before. I’ve been lots of red herrings in detective shows and I’ve been lots of villains, but I’ve never been on the other side really. It was really great to actually have the opportunity to sort of sit on the side of the goodies and be a hero.  

AIPT: Do you prefer playing the hero or the villain?  

Scarborough: Well, I like playing flawed people generally, really, whether they be villains or heroes. But I don’t get the opportunity to heroes terribly often. So, it’s always nice to get the opportunity.   

AIPT: Max is a very well-rounded character. What were some of the inspirations that you drew for it?  

Scarborough: I was always a fan of in the seventies. And my dad particularly enjoyed watching Colombo with me, so we’d sit together and watch that. And I could watch Peter Falk read the phone directory. I mean, he’s just fascinating and brilliant and always interesting, and oddball at the same time.  

We had a show over here called Inspector Morse with John Thaw, in the eighties and early nineties. And I was terribly fond of that. I thought that was a really, really interesting drama.   

But what’s great about Chelsea Detective is that he has a sidekick who genuinely kicks him. And I really, really like that. So for all of their dry exchanges, she gives him a boot up the ass every now and again, and goes, “Come on, get on with it. Stop naval gazing, and do something.” It’s great. 

AIPT: You mentioned the sidekick (played by Sonita Henry).You two have such great chemistry. Was it natural or did you work at developing that?  

Scarborough: Well, the extraordinary thing was, because the whole thing started off in the middle of the pandemic, so we had to do our chemistry reads online. I’d been cast already, but she hadn’t. The minute she came on the screen, I never thought it was possible really to sort of get that kind of a feeling through a computer camera.  

But the minute she appeared, yeah, it was just meant to be. It was really, really dry and very twinkly. And there was just something going on, which is really, really rare. We’ve all sat through Zoom meetings. where you kind of sitting there thinking, when will this be over? But that was not the case when I met Sonita Henry. It was terrific.  

But we did feel that before we actually started shooting, we’d better actually meet one another in the flesh. So, we went for a socially distanced walk, down the Thames path. We sort of stood about three meters apart from one another and just wandered along in our masks and everything and told each other the story of our lives. She one way and me coming back. And it was very useful actually, and really rather good. And from that point on, yeah, we kind of got on. 

AIPT: True crime has become increasingly popular, but crime dramas are still very popular. What do you think it is about them that the fans like so much?  

Scarborough: I just think there’s always a mystery involved, which everybody loves. The thing I really like about Chelsea Detective is that you see quite a bit of their home life. And I do like that. I love it when you can sort of see what they get up to when they’re not on the job. He’s permanently working. Even when he is not working, he’s sort of, there’s something going on. But I quite like seeing people’s home lives and the tinkling of the piano and the occasional glass of red wine. And fiddling out with coffee machines to try and get them to work again and dealing with the plumbing on his house.   

I just think that gives such wonderful dimension to characters and it just makes them more interesting to be with. You kind of want to be around them. You want to be in their houses or their house boats. Similarly with Sonita’s character, with Priya, having just given birth and not having the best of times. I just think that’s really interesting. To see the domestic alongside the professional, I think is always really fascinating in how one affects the other. Is just makes for interesting drama really.  

AIPT: In The Chelsea Detective, of course there’s murder, but there’s also disappearances, you deal with some football violence in it. What was your favorite case to work on?  

Scarborough: Well, I had lots of friends in the second episode at the restaurant. So that was kind of quite nice. And we shot that first. And I was feeling sort of quite nervous and quite intimidated by the whole scale and size of the setup. So I have to say it was really, really lovely having some friends alongside in the shape of Joe Millson and Pookie Cornell who I know, really, really well and get on with. And it was just really nice to kind of have them going, you’re doing fine. It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be all right.  

But from a storyline point of view, I did think the first episode was pretty delicious. The guy falling onto the tracks at South Kensington tube and all of the strange and odd goings on behind the scenes. I love that storyline. I think it goes on a really interesting journey and you find out some pretty sordid stuff going on in London. 

The Chelsea Detective debuts March 7 on Acorn TV

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