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Dougray Scott on Crime: ‘It’s different, it’s Irvine Welsh telling the story and he’s got a very unique voice’
Irvine Welsh’s novel Crime has hit the small screen in a brutal six-part BritBox adaptation starring Dougray Scott. He told BT.com about Crime’s journey from page to screen.
Crime, the six-part adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 2008 novel of the same name, is a detective drama with a difference.
As well as having to piece together the clues surrounding the disappearance of a girl and a string of mysterious deaths, viewers are tasked with unravelling the secrets behind the disintegration of the detective leading the case to find out what brought him to the edge of mental breakdown, and even why he became a cop at all.
Dougray Scott, star and producer of Crime, spoke exclusively to BT.com about the complexity of his character Ray Lennox, Crime’s long journey from page to screen and how the series, like Welsh’s many works, shows all faces of Edinburgh.
It’s not your standard police procedural
From Taggart and Rebus to recent additions Annika and Shetland, Scotland’s TV detectives have long had their work cut out for them, but fans of Irvine Welsh will know to expect more than the standard three-act murder/investigation/conviction structure from BritBox’s adaptation of Crime.
Yes, the first episode begins with the disappearance of a schoolgirl and the discovery of two naked bodies in an Edinburgh flat, but it isn’t long before we are presented with an even greater mystery: what drives detective Ray Lennox, why is he intent on linking the two events when colleagues can see no connection, and why is he so damn angry?
“It gets into the characters really early on,” says Dougray Scott, who plays Lennox, of the six-part drama.
Lennox is like a shark – he can’t ever sit still otherwise he’ll drown
- Dougray Scott
“You have 10 minutes of procedural and then, really, it concentrates on the characters and how they react. You still have the structure of the investigation into this missing girl and the French couple but ultimately it really explores the characters’ relationships with each other and also how Lennox deals with the disappearance of this girl in relation to his own life and his own experiences.
“Gradually throughout the series it’s revealed why he became a cop and how that effects his motivations and his approach to police work. He’s different, he’s a different kind of guy who doesn’t suffer fools gladly but he’s also ferocious at his investigation techniques.
“Lennox is like a shark – he can’t ever sit still otherwise he’ll drown. He needs that world to survive, it’s oxygen for him. He operates at such a destabilised level. Being sober and clean for him is the antithesis of being able to operate successfully, or so he believes. He’s got an addiction, he struggles with drugs and alcohol so you’ll see how that unravels and plays out throughout the course of the series.
“It’s different, it’s Irvine Welsh telling the story and he’s got a very unique voice.”
Crime was 10 years in the making
Crime is the result of a long-desired collaboration between Scott and Welsh - begun over a shared love of Hibernian Football Club – which took a decade to come to fruition.
“I knew Irvine and I’d worked with this director and producer on something else and I said ‘Let’s go and meet Irvine and see if we can find something to do’.
“We were kicking round ideas about doing a TV series – something original – and Irvine said ‘Have you read Crime?’. I hadn’t so we all read it and we were blown away by it and thought this would make an incredible series or film but we couldn’t get it together.”
Scott, Welsh told The Scotsman, pursued the idea “like a dog with a bone”, eventually joining forces with producer Tony Wood (Coronation Street, Marcella, The Only Way is Essex) to move the project on.
“About five years ago I met Tony Wood of Buccaneer Media. He was a huge fan of Irvine and loved the book and so as producers we sat down and developed the project,” says Scott.
The book’s Florida setting proved something of a stumbling block for British broadcasters, while a non-American hero made it a hard sell to the Hollywood studios. But a rethink, prompted by Wood, put the production on track to become the drama we see today.
“Most of the book is set in Miami and it was difficult to get broadcasters both here and in America to commit to that so Tony said ‘Why don’t we just do the origin story?’ which is about these characters in Edinburgh and how Lennox got to where he was in the novel, and that seemed like a great idea.
“That’s where it really took off, ITV came in and developed it, commissioned it and said it’s a good fit for BritBox. We were thrilled – the paywall gave us licence to make the programme we wanted to make.”
The drama shows all sides of Edinburgh
Welsh’s novels transport readers to parts of the Scottish capital that visitors to Princes Street and the Royal Mile rarely encounter, and Crime is no different, combining images of picturesque Calton Hill (including a sequence at the National Monument, above) with scenes set in a high-rise council estate not half a mile from the Palace of Hollyroodhouse.
“Edinburgh is a great city to film in. It’s an amazingly filmic city, aesthetically speaking. It has the old town, it has the medieval, it has Victorian, it has the Georgian architecture that it’s synonymous with and that’s all obviously pretty spectacular,” says Scott.
“But we show all sides of the city – Dumbiedykes which is down by Parliament, beneath Arthur’s Seat - and so you have that side of Edinburgh as well as the posher parts of Edinburgh.
“Crime shows another side – most people who live in Edinburgh don’t live in the nice parts.”
It’s Irvine Welsh's first TV series
Since the film of Trainspotting became a global hit in 1996, many of Welsh’s novels have been adapted for stage and screen. The author himself has written screenplays for TV and film but until now he hadn’t tackled an episodic adaptation.
Dougray Scott thinks the six-episode format has allowed Welsh and regular collaborator Dean Cavanagh to delve deeper into Crime’s characters and to tell the novel’s back story more fully than they would have in a feature-length drama.
“If you do a series you’ve got more time to tell the story so you can delve into the characters, their histories and their motivations,” says Scott.
“Irvine’s work is as concerned with the character – with the psychology – as it is with plot. So then you have six hours to explore instead of an hour and a half which is so advantageous.
“Irvine and Dean Cavanagh had to come up a lot of original material which wasn’t based on the novel because threequarters of that is based in Miami. So the origin story gave them licence to explore the characters. It inspired them to flesh them out – not that they needed to be fleshed out, but we needed story.
“They did a fantastic job in providing the background to all these characters that you first read about in Crime.”
Watch Crime on BritBox from Thursday November 18