After Life star to take over lead role in BBC drama Shetland

Ashley Jensen will take over from Douglas Henshall following his departure from the role in 2022.

Scottish After Life star Ashley Jensen to lead cast in hit BBC crime drama Shetland Getty Images

Ashley Jensen will lead the cast of popular BBC One crime drama Shetland, taking over from Douglas Henshall who appeared in the TV show since its inception in 2013.

The 53-year-old Scottish actress will star as detective inspector Ruth Calder in the eighth series, a native Shetlander who returns to the isles after 20 years working for the Met in London.

The After Life star has replaced Glasgow-born actor Henshall, who bade farewell to the murder mystery TV favourite after series seven.

His departure follows almost a decade spent portraying its protagonist, detective inspector Jimmy Perez in the first TV adaptation of the award-winning novels by crime writer Ann Cleeves.

Jensen said she was “absolutely thrilled” to be joining the new series, written by Paul Logue.

“It’s such a hugely successful show and I am aware I have very big boots to fill since the departure of DI Perez, who was very much loved by fans of the show,” she said.

“There will be a different dynamic with Ruth among 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. I can’t wait to be working in Scotland again. I have missed it.”

The series will see Jensen work closely alongside fan-favourite characters, including detective sergeant Alison “Tosh” McIntosh played by Alison O’Donnell.

Regulars Steven Robertson, who plays detective Sandy Wilson, Lewis Howden who plays Billy McCabe and Anne Kidd as Cora McLean will also return to the series.

Gaynor Holmes, commissioning editor for the BBC, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Ashley is joining the stellar cast of Shetland.

“Ashley is an immensely accomplished and well-loved actress who is known internationally and we can’t wait to welcome her into the Shetland family when filming begins in the spring.”

Kate Bartlett, executive producer for Silverprint Pictures, said: “We’re so thrilled that Ashley is going to be leading this new series of Shetland, alongside Alison O’Donnell as Tosh.

“They will be an exciting duo in Paul Logue’s compelling new version. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to make another series with such incredible Scottish talent.”

The new series, which returns to BBC One and BBC iPlayer next year, will film in locations on the Shetland Isles and across Scotland from the spring, the BBC said.

Jensen found fame playing Christina McKinney in the US show Ugly Betty and was nominated for an Emmy for her supporting role in TV sitcom Extras, co-written by Ricky Gervais.

She recently starred as a nurse opposite comedian Gervais in his Netflix drama After Life, which was the second most popular series of 2019.

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