The Long Call: Ben Aldridge stars as DI Matthew Venn in four-part ITV crime drama

A new detective tale from Vera and Shetland creator Ann Cleeves has been adapted for ITV – here’s everything we know about the crime drama.

By Katie Archer Published: 25 October 2021 - 10.02pm
ITV Pearl Mackie and Ben Aldridge in The Long Call

Detective drama has found its home at ITV, and a new series from popular writer Ann Cleeves is set to become the channel’s latest hit.

The Long Call follows many a police mystery onto ITV and introduces a brand new detective character who’ll already be familiar to fans of Cleeves' books.

Find out who stars in the series, what it’s about, and how to watch it.

What is The Long Call about?

Detective drama The Long Call has been adapted from the Ann Cleeves novel of the same name, and features DI Matthew Venn as he struggles with his past life while investigating a murder.

Venn and his husband Jonathan have just returned to live in the small North Devon community that he left 20 years ago after being rejected by his family.

The evangelical church Venn grew up with also turned its back on him, but it’s the place viewers will first meet him as he comes home for his father’s funeral and opens up old wounds from his abandonment by both family and church.

Ann Cleeves Getty

But Venn’s personal struggles aren’t the only things on his mind – he’s also been thrown straight into a murder case after a body of a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck has been found on the beach, seemingly stabbed to death.

This isn’t the first time author Cleeves’ work has made it to the small screen, as another of her detectives features in hit ITV series Vera.

More of her novels inspired the BBC series Shetland, so viewers can expect gripping drama and expertly crafted mystery from The Long Call.

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The Long Call cast

DI Matthew Venn – Played by Ben Aldridge

Ben Aldridge Getty

Speaking at a press Q&A, Ben said of Matthew: “I think his queerness is very central to his journey in the show… also the people around him and the rest of the cast also go on a journey with him and his queerness.

“I’m really proud of it in that it’s not just a detective who happens to be gay and we don’t explore how that affects him. We really do explore that and we really go on that journey with him.”

Where have you seen Ben Aldridge before?

Pennyworth, Our Girl, Fleabag

Dorothy Venn – Played by Juliet Stevenson

Juliet Stevenson plays Dorothy Venn in The Long Call 2020 David M Benett/Getty

Juliet plays Ben's mother in the series. She told press: “In relation to Dorothy, I thought well here’s a chance to play somebody radically different from me.

“I don’t have a religious faith – I actually have issues with religion. But I love playing a long, long way from me – the further the better in lots of ways because I’ve worked for quite a long time and it’s much more interesting and challenging.”

Where have you seen Juliet Stevenson before?

Truly, Madly, Deeply; A Doll’s House; The Politician’s Wife

DS Jen Rafferty – Played by Pearl Mackie

Pearl Mackie plays DS Jen Rafferty in The Long Call 2021 David M Benett/Getty

Pearl spoke to press about playing a character with a difficult back story.

“Jen is a survivor really. When we meet her, she’s left London, she’s escaped from a really abusive relationship that she was in for many many, years with the father of her children.

“I think in a way that gives her a different approach to being a police officer. I think she has a heightened sense of empathy for people who are in vulnerable situations and particularly women in vulnerable situations. It makes her instinctive and really empathetic but also can make her a bit headstrong and a bit quick to judge.

“I think essentially what she really wants to do is protect people and she doesn’t want anyone to experience what she has been through. I think a lot of those emotions are bubbling away under the surface and can get triggered quite easily. But I think we need more police officers like Jen. Her experiences make her more real.”

Where have you seen Pearl Mackie before?

Doctor Who, Friday Night Dinner

Dennis Stephenson – Played by Martin Shaw

Martin Shaw plays Dennis Stephenson in The Long Call 2018 David M Benett/Getty

Martin said it was an easy decision to take on the role of spiritual Brethren leader Dennis.

Speaking at a Q&A, he said: “It was going to absolutely fascinating to explore what he wasn’t saying, what he wasn’t doing and what his presentation to the world was, and in particular his relationship with his wife. I just got pulled further and further into him.”

Where have you seen Martin Shaw before?

Inspector George Gently, Judge John Deed, The Professionals

Grace Stephenson – Played by Anita Dobson

Anita Dobson plays Grace Stephenson in The Long Call 2020 David M Benett/Getty

Anita told press: “I absolutely loved Grace. I think from the minute I picked the script up, I just thought ‘yes please – count me in!’.

“She’s so locked away which is not me, and I just couldn’t wait to inside and find out what was going on in her head. Even though she doesn’t say very much to start with, there’s so much going on inside her all the time when she’s in situations with other people.”

Where have you seen Anita Dobson before?

EastEnders, Split Ends, Strictly Come Dancing

Other names set to appear are Neil Morrissey, Dylan Edwards, Sarah Gordy, Amit Shah and Alan Williams.

Ann Cleeves couldn’t be happier with the casting.

“I can’t think of anyone who could play Matthew Venn better than Ben Aldridge - he will bring an authenticity and commitment to the role," she said.

"I always hoped that the actor chosen would come from Devon, where the books are set, and he does. 

“Ben was the actor who read the audio book even before the TV show was commissioned.  I love his pared-back, restrained narration.  He’s worked on the novel as well as the script, and so he understands the character in depth.  No author could wish for more.”

Where was The Long Call filmed?

The Long Call was filmed in Bristol and on the north Devon coast, including Ilfracombe Harbour.

Martin Shaw said he loved filming in Devon – but the weather presented some challenges.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. It just seeps into your souls.

“On one particular day for the baptism [scene], I was at one point up to my chest in the sea. The waves are coming backwards and forwards and knocking me off balance. It was cold, the weather was quite wild and we had a lot of takes because the weather kept changing.

“And I couldn’t get enough of it! I just wanted to get back in the water because it was just so primal and exciting. It’s a very beautiful place.”

When is The Long Call on TV?

The Long Call airs on ITV at 9pm on four consecutive nights from Monday, October 25.