Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar return next week as cold-case crackers Cassie and Sunny for a third series of Unforgotten. Here, they reveal why this series is not what you might expect...

Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar on why crime drama Unforgotten will once again grip the nation…

Few can forget the cliffhanger ending of last year’s series of crime drama Unforgotten, when police officers Cassie and Sunny chose to walk away from an investigation after discovering that their suspects had actually been victims of child sex abuse.

So hopes are high for an equally gripping third series, with Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar reprising their roles as DCI Cassie Stuart and DI Sunil ‘Sunny’ Khan this week. The duo are called to investigate when human remains are found on the central reservation of the M1 motorway. The body is identified as Hayley Reid, a 16-year-old who vanished on New Year’s Eve 1999, the turn of the millennium.

Meanwhile, across the UK, we meet four men who’ve been friends since school: local GP Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings), TV presenter James Hollis (Kevin McNally), failing salesman Pete Carr (Neil Morrissey) and artist Chris Lowe (James Fleet). Do they know anything about Hayley’s death? Here, Nicola, 48, and Sanjeev, 54, tell us more…

How does this third series of Unforgotten compare to the previous two?

Nicola: “Our writer Chris Lang isn’t repeating anything. Yes, there’s a body and, yes, there are suspects but that’s about where the similarity ends. It’s a very different journey for the viewers this time.”

How are Cassie and Sunny getting on after their brief kiss last series?

Sanjeev: “I think it was almost playing with the cliché that a ‘will they, won’t they?’ often happens between the two leads in detective shows. But, in this show, within three or four minutes the rug had been pulled from under it and we didn’t really go there. I thought that was clever.”
Nicola: “That kiss is not going to make a difference to Sunny and Cassie; their relationship is based on trust and they’re still dependant on each other through work. Nothing has changed there. Because they’ve overstepped a mark that was so meaningless, I think they’re even closer this time round.”

Unforgotten body under motorway

Cassie and Sunny are called to investigate when a body is found near the M1 motorway

Tell us about the four men at the centre of the investigation?

Nicola: “These four suspects all know each other and they have this amazing friendship. Viewers will be wondering are they all involved? Or is it just one individual? What is clear is that these four men seem to adore each other.”
Sanjeev: “It would be a mistake to think of there being just four ‘suspects’. There are certainly four key people of interest but there are at least three or four others it could be, too. Even when I read the scripts I’m thinking: ‘It’s him! It’s her! It’s all of them!’”

This series also explores how the media can have an impact on criminal cases…

Nicola: “It turns out that this is a high-profile case that attracted mass media coverage 18 years ago and the village where it happened has never really recovered from it. Cassie has to learn how to handle the media, so she’s given a media consultant. I loved filming those scenes.”
Sanjeev: “This series explores how, these days, social media gets involved in these criminal cases; how people comment on things and dive in with their own theories on what happened.”

Do we find out more about how these murder cases affect the detectives, Cassie in particular?

Nicola: “Now that we’ve already been through two cases with Cassie, we do start to see the repercussions of those. Also, on the homefront, Cassie’s father [played by Downton Abbey’s Peter Egan] has met someone and is very happy and her son’s gone off to New York. Cassie should be happy but she’s struggling with all this change. These aren’t superhero cops. They’re real people and there will be some collateral damage for Cassie as the series goes on.”

Persons of interest…

What do these four school friends know about the murder case?

Pete Carr (Neil Morrissey)

Unforgotten Neil Morrissey

Pete doesn’t have much luck in his job as a salesman, so struggles to provide for his long-suffering wife and their two young sons. “Pete’s a bit of a failure,” says Neil. “His business acumen is awful – he’s constantly struggling and chasing his tail – but he’s a great father. Pete spent 25 years of his life in Hong Kong and we discover he has a shady past”.

But does that mean Pete knows anything about Hayley’s murder? “When Pete and his friends were at the holiday cottage on New Year’s Eve 1999, the night this girl went missing, there was drink, drugs and arguments involved,” says Neil. “When the case is reopened, fractures in their relationships appear and they start being really protective of themselves.”

James Hollis (Kevin McNally)

unforgotten james mcnally

James is a successful TV presenter, who hosts a quiz show for sixth formers, – but what’s going on behind the scenes?
“James is a very charming, warm, man-of-the-people in front on the camera,” says Kevin. “But, in his real life, he’s got severe anger issues and can be a rather unpleasant person. He’s dealing with two very different sides of his life: a very successful outside and a rather turbulent interior.”

And, when the cold-case is re-opened, James finds himself well and truly under the spotlight… “Because James is a celebrity, the focus is all on him,” says Kevin. “He wants to get control of the situation because he feels he’s the most vulnerable and has the most to lose.”

Dr Tim Finch (Alex Jennings)

Unforgotten Alex Jennings

A successful GP in a country town, Dr Tim Finch is happily married to his second wife and has two daughters from his first marriage.”Tim has brought up his daughters himself and mostly has a very good relationships with them, although one has found it more difficult to deal with the ending of the marriage between him and their mother,” says Alex.

And, alongside the investigation, it seems Tim has another battle on his hands… “A complaint has been made against Tim by the daughter of an elderly patient,” reveals Alex. “He’s been accused of being abusive towards her and it has gone to tribunal. He’s a little rattled by it, specifically about the notion of his integrity being questioned.”

Chris Lowe (James Fleet)

Unforgotten James Fleet

As a young man, Chris had a bright future but fell on hard times… “Chris went to university and landed a job in advertising but then he developed bi-polar disorder and is now homeless and living in a campervan,” reveals James. “He’s a likeable character but he keeps messing up his life.”

So, are the lives of Chris and his friends about to be turned even more upside down? “As has been a recurring theme in past series of Unforgotten, these people have to face things or confess things that they could have got away with,” says James. “Once again, a stone is thrown into the water and, as the ripples go out, some people stay afloat and some people are drowned.”

Unforgotten starts on Sunday July 15 at 9pm on ITV.