Likely suspects for a prime job

Who will play DCI Jane Tennison in a US adaptation of the hit British police drama? Gerard Gilbert examines the evidence

So they're finally going to make an American version of one of Britain's greatest cop shows, Prime Suspect.

This story has been around for aeons, usually with a sub-textual indignation that Hollywood would never re-cast Helen Mirren in the role she made her own, DCI (later DS) Jane Tennison, and that it would go to some younger and undeserving A-lister of the moment – Kirsten Dunst (actually not a bad choice) or Julia Roberts (a terrible one). Except it's not now going to be Prime Suspect: the Movie, but an NBC television series adapted by the executive-producer of Without a Trace – a US cop show with a terrific USP. And what's the USP of Prime Suspect? Helen Mirren. We're going round in circles here.

Dame Helen wouldn't want the role anyway. These TV shows take six months out of an actor's year, and after the international success of The Queen she's probably more interested in less arduous and more financially rewarding movie roles. And besides, Mirren really is too old for the part. Most of our favourite detectives – Morse, Frost, DCI Barnaby – in reality probably would have retired in their mid-forties, perhaps on some generously interpreted disability pension. Policing is a young woman's game.

But this is TV and my first casting thoughts turn to Laura Linney, a hugely versatile American who has been quietly amassing Emmy awards and Oscar nominations since the turn of the century. At 45, she is bang on the money age-wise. Mind you, the lead actress wouldn't necessarily have to be American. In fact, being a local seems to be a distinct disadvantage these days, to judge by the volume of British, Australian and Canadian actresses taking the plum roles on US TV. But assuming (and it's an unsafe assumption given that this is NBC remaking the show, not HBO) they stick to the original and keep Tennison as a heavy smoker, the producers are going to have to find someone who doesn't mind clasping a death-stick between her lips.

Mary-Louise Parker has been rolling big fat ones for the past five years as the dope-dealing soccer mom in Weeds, but when it comes to inhaling tobacco, I'm thinking Mad Men... I'm thinking January Jones (sorry, couldn't help myself). Actually, the actress playing Don Draper's trophy wife Betty would look too thoroughbred for the role – it would be like Grace Kelly appearing in I Love Lucy. Sure, Helen Mirren scrubbed down nicely, but I don't think January Jones can be scrubbed down. She's like the proverbial stick of Blackpool rock, except with Elizabeth Arden written all the way through her.

No, my Mad Men actress of choice would be Elisabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olson, the ambitious Sterling Cooper copywriter who knows all about sexism in the workplace. But why give up a once-in-a-lifetime show like Mad Men for a two-hour pilot of a show that might never see the light of the day? Well, for a peach of a starring role, of course.

And this is what might tempt the aforementioned A-listers. After all, it's no longer career-destroying to step down from the big screen to the small one. More and more Hollywood actresses are doing it, especially after their 30th birthdays. So we want someone with bags of experience, someone who can really act, someone who we can all applaud for being brave enough to play down their natural glamour, and someone who doesn't mind risking their image by binning the make-up and playing a hard-bitten, alcoholic smoker. Oh go on, Dame Helen, phone your agent.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game