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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
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.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before