TV - Dark Heart

Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demon, Monroe) plays DI Will Wagstaffe, a man haunted by his past, in a brand new crime thriller coming soon to ITV Encore, Dark Heart ...

“I’m shackled to the past… And what scares me more than anything, is that maybe that’s all I’ll ever be… the kid whose parents were murdered.”

Detective Inspector William Wagstaffe (Tom Riley), 32, is haunted by the murder of his parents during a family holiday in Spain when he was 16 years old. The killers are still at large and ‘Staffe’ is unable to let go until he finds them. It is probably no coincidence that after leaving school and joining the police force he rose quickly through the ranks to become Detective Inspector before the age of thirty. Staffe is taking some long overdue leave to continue the investigation into his parents’ murder and is about to board his flight to Spain when he is called by his loyal Detective Sergeant, Josie Chancellor, to say that they need him as a man has been found murdered. The disturbingly gruesome fashion the victim has been killed raises alarm bells and the pressure is on Staffe to find the murderer.

Told across a stifling week during an August heat wave in London, the single 2 hour episode of Dark Heart, written by acclaimed writer Chris Lang (Unforgotten, A Mother’s Son) and based on the novel Suffer the Children by Adam Creed, follows DI Wagstaffe and his team investigate what unfolds to be not one but a string of horrifyingly brutal murders the victims of which are men who have been accused of sexual offences against children but have never been convicted for their alleged crimes. Staffe feels sure he knows what is driving the killer but finding a connection between the murder victims or even those abused by the murder victims frustratingly eludes him. As dogged and determined as ever Staffe pushes the boundaries in searching for the killer but the truth he finally uncovers is more surprising and shocking than he could ever have imagined.

Dark Heart is an ITV Studios production for ITV Encore. The drama is executive produced by Chris Lang, Kate Bartlett (Jericho, Vera) and Michael Dawson (Vera, Holby City). The producer is Chris Clough (The Missing, Lucky Man) and the director is Colin Teague (Jekyll & Hyde, Da Vinci’s Demons).

“Chris Lang has written a truly compelling and atmospheric script,” said Kate Bartlett. “Adam Creed created a fascinating character in Will Wagstaffe with so many layers, and Chris has brilliantly brought him to screen. We’re thrilled that Tom Riley is playing him.”

The drama has been commissioned for ITV by Senior Drama Commissioner Victoria Fea. “As Will Wagstaffe investigates gruesome crimes it’s hard to believe that his personal life could be as complex as his day job, but as we get to know Staffe we realise he’s utterly haunted by his past,” said Victoria. 

“Viewers will be left guessing not only who is behind the murders that Staffe is investigating, but also wondering what history lies behind Wagstaffe’s family.” Chris Lang said, “I knew from the moment I read Adam Creed’s compelling novel that I wanted to adapt it. It touches on all of the themes I am most interested in as a writer; human frailty, shifting morality and the redemptive power of family”

Ahead of the drama, ITV have released an interview with the star of Dark Heart, Tom Riley, who plays Det Insp William Wagstaffe.

How would you describe your character DI William Wagstaffe and his role in Dark Heart?

William Wagstaffe is a relatively young detective. He’s probably slightly too young for the position he’s in and I think because of that he hasn’t quite learned how to handle his emotions in relation to cases. He’s incredibly good at his job but he’s living under the weight of a crime that he endured as a child. He witnessed his parents being brutally killed and the killers were never found. They are out there somewhere and he’s determined to find them. I think he’s gone into police work solely to learn the skills to solve this one crime. Unfortunately, with every other crime he witnesses he can’t shake off his own memories of what has gone before. This helps him as a detective because it keeps him passionate and driven but it also hinders him in his personal life.

Have you ever played a detective before and what’s it like to lead your own crime drama?

I’ve not really played a detective before. I did Da Vinci’s Demons and that is occasionally a bit like ‘CSI Florence’! I’ve never done anything that’s been this procedural style. Leading a drama is something they never teach you at drama school and it’s a crucial skill being number one on the call sheet. You have to be professional and on time and you’re completely responsible for the mood on set, which is something you don’t realise unless you’ve done it before, or unless someone shows you. In fact, I did Monroe for ITV a few years ago and James Nesbitt was the perfect example of what it’s like to lead a huge ensemble cast. He always showed up on time and was so friendly and so kind to every guest artist. It made me realise that’s how you do it and that’s how to behave on the set. I was also lucky with Dark Heart because being at home and working in London is a rare thing and I enjoyed it a lot.

What are the crimes Wagstaffe is investigating?

Paedophiles are being attached brutally and what makes this case so interesting is that the morals of it are so murky. You can’t help but feel that justice is being done in some way to people that have committed hideous crimes but it’s not being done within the remit of the law. The question is should vigilantism be encouraged or punished? Wagstaffe pursues this case through London, all the while trying not to let the fact he so desperately wants revenge on the people who killed his parents to effect how he approaches a case that is fundamentally about revenge.

It’s a very dark subject matter. Did you find filming intense?

I’ve got better at that. I’ve done jobs before that have been all consuming and you take it home with you, but with this job the hours you spend in these intense situations are enough, without then going home and bringing that to your social life as well. I’ve got pretty good at switching off and also we try to have light conversations between scenes. We find black humour in it all.

What research did you do for your role?

We had great rehearsal time with Colin Teague, the director, and he’d had a lot of interaction with a policeman in my position, which he passed on. Tom Brooke who plays another police detective in the drama has a best friend who is a policeman and he gave us lots of useful information. He told us cop show clichés that we should try to avoid to make it more real.

What stunts did you do for the role?

I had to beat someone up and I also had to get royally beaten up in a very dark, unpleasant warehouse, where the floor was covered in dirt and grit. That was a long fight. It took a whole day to film and I was covered in bruises by the end of it. I like doing my own stunts though. When you’re genuinely out of breath and genuinely in a bit of pain it makes you give a better performance.

What’s Will’s relationship with his sister like?

Charlotte Riley (above) plays my sister, Juliette. She’s an incredible actress and I was really excited to work with her. We’ve never crossed paths before. Despite our surnames we’re not in the same family. She was brilliant and really fun on set. Will and Juliette are both carrying this wound of what happened to them in their childhood. They both deal with it in very different ways. She’s going out with different men, abusive men, and William feels a duty to help her. She doesn’t particularly want her brother being so protective and their relationship is strained. They love each other very much but more out of obligation than anything else.

Is there a lady in Will’s life?

Will dates Sylvie played by Miranda Raison. He generally has trouble letting people close to him. He dates women and then pushes them away because he’s so obsessed with his work and his past. It’s impossible for him to sustain a relationship. He’s still drawn to Sylvie though, because she understands him more than anyone else. She gets where he’s coming from and she has empathy and sympathy for him. He occasionally goes to her but he doesn’t give her what she needs, he just gets what he needs.

You’re a British actor but you spend a lot of time in the States. When you’re away, what do you miss about the UK?

Bake Off! I also miss the seasons. In LA it’s blue sky and sunshine all the time but I like the way London changes through the seasons. I like how the colours of the leaves change and I like Christmas. Weirdly in LA people seem to attempt to create seasons by changing their clothes – they’ll put on a winter coat and I’ll still be in a T-shirt!

What other TV do you enjoy, apart from Bake Off?!

I like watching shows about true crimes such as Making a Murderer and The Jinx. Danish crime dramas have been great recently. I’ve just binged Stranger Things and Transparent.

If you hadn’t been an actor, what would you have been?

I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was so young. I don’t know where the impulse came from. My parents aren’t from the industry and had no idea about the industry so they didn’t have the knowledge to tell me not to do it, so they encouraged it and luckily it worked out. I wouldn’t know what else to do. I love writing, so maybe I’d do that.

What else have you got coming up?

I’ve got a movie coming out called Starfish which also stars Joanne Froggart and it’s about a real life couple where the guy contracts sepsis and loses his legs and arms and face over night. I play him and it’s about their love story and how they survive afterwards. I’m also in The Collection, which is on Amazon Prime, and I’m about to start work on a new comedy drama series with some brilliant actors.

Images & Info - ITV