Sanjeev Bhaskar has spoken about his own experiences of racism in the 1970s, a theme explored in his new crime drama, Unforgotten.

In ITV’s new six-parter, Goodness Gracious Me star Sanjeev plays DS Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan, alongside Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) as DCI Cassie Stuart, who reopen a case from 1976 when the remains of boy are found in a cellar.

In this second episode, the pair try to identify the names found in the boy’s diary from 1976. As new evidence emerges, it seems the murder could have been racially motivated…

When asked if it was painful revisiting a time when racial tensions ran high in Britain, Sanjeev recalled his experience of growing up in west London.

“I wouldn’t say it was painful looking back because you grow up with the reality that you’re given,” Sanjeev told What’s on TV. “In the 70s, I can look back and know that there was a lot of racial tension particularly in west London where I lived – there was quite a bit, which would permeate into school and stuff like that. But I didn’t know any other way of living. I didn’t know any other life, I didn’t know any other reality, so you just get on and try and deal with it and cope with it.”

He added: “It’s interesting looking back now because even TV shows that were shown in the 70s, like Love Thy Neighbour and Benny Hill, you look at them now and they just wouldn’t be made now. So they were different times – in some ways, more innocent, in many ways, more naive. So it was interesting to look back and it will be interesting to see how audiences respond to that I think.”

The drama follows four main suspects who, while they may or may not be guilty of the crime, still have certain secrets that they hope will stay buried.

“It’s a classic whodunit, but it’s also about what happens in terms of the effects of a crime,” said Sanjeev. “So for the people who do become suspects, what happens to their families? How do you live with the secret for 40-odd years and, when that secret comes out, not just how does it affect you, but how does it affect those people around you?”

When asked if making Unforgotten had caused him to question how well he knows the people in his own life, Sanjeev said: “In a way, not directly, although it sits in the back of your mind that the reality of people that you feel you know may never be everything about them. Now you’ve asked me that I’m going to look at everyone I know… I’m already mistrusting of everyone!”

Unforgotten continues Thursdays at 9pm on ITV.