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Shetland's Ashley Jensen responds to fan criticism over joining season eight

The Scottish actress plays DI Ruth Calder in the new series


Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder in Shetland
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
24 October 2023
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Shetland star Ashley Jensen has responded to criticism from the show's fanbase who have taken issue with the actress joining the drama as the lead detective. 

Some viewers were left a little disappointed that Alison O'Donnell – aka DS Tosh – was not cast in the main role following Douglas Henshall's departure at the end of series seven.

WATCH: Shetland: Take a first look at the brand new series

According to RadioTimes.com, the Scottish star is paying no attention to trolls online and said: "I love working with Alison and bringing in my character shines a light on Tosh, so we see a different side to her.

"Of course, there will be people who miss Dougie [Henshall] because he was great, but with new directors and a new lead writer, Shetland has kept everything that's wonderful about it but it's somehow amplified."

Ashley Jensen and Alison O'Donnell in Shetland season 8© Kirsty Anderson
Ashley Jensen has joined the show in the lead role

"It's lovely that it's two women leading the show," she added. 

Ashley will lead the cast as Detective Inspector Ruth Calder, who returns to her native Shetland from London, where she works for the Metropolitan Police, to retrieve the vulnerable witness to a gangland murder. 

The synopsis continues: "Tosh (Alison O’Donnell) must pause her investigation into a string of mysterious animal deaths to help Calder find the witness before it’s too late. However, Calder’s hostility to Shetland will challenge Tosh's view of her adopted home, and their journey into the darker recesses of Shetland's past and present will test this fragile new partnership."

Alison O'Donnell as DI Tosh McIntosh in Shetland© BBC
Alison O'Donnell as DI Tosh McIntosh

Executive Producer for Silverprint Pictures Kate Bartlett teased the upcoming series, promising a "distinctive and emotionally complex story" from lead writer Paul Logue.

"We're thrilled to be making this new series with such incredible Scottish talent," she said. 

MORE: Shetland star to appear in All Creatures Great and Small season four – details

READ: Shetland star Douglas Henshall makes candid comment about lack of TV roles after show exit

Ashley will, of course, be joined by Alison O'Donnell in the role of Tosh, as well as fellow series regulars, Steven Robertson as DC Sandy Wilson, Lewis Howden as Sgt Billy McCabe, Anne Kidd as Cora McLean, Angus Miller as Donnie, Conor McCarry as PC Alex Grant and Eubha Akilade as PC Lorna Burns.

Ashley Jensen as DI Ruth Calder and Jamie Sives as Cal Innes in Shetland

© BBC
Jamie Sives has joined the guest cast as Cal Innes

Series eight will also introduce a number of new stars to the guest cast, including Downton Abbey's Phyllis Logan, Annika star Jamie Sives, Granite Harbour's Dawn Steele and Sherwood's Don Gilet.

Also featured in the drama are Ann Louise Ross (River City, Katie Morag) and Lorraine McIntosh (Outlander, My Name is Joe).

Phyllis Logan as Grace Bain in Shetland© BBC
Phyllis Logan will play Grace Bain in season eight

Ashley joined the show following the departure of Douglas, who stepped down from his role as DI Jimmy Perez after seven seasons. 

Explaining his reasons for departing the drama, he said he felt it was the "right time" to wrap up Jimmy's story in order to avoid ruining "the things that were unique" to the character and the series. 

"I decided to leave a few years ago because I felt that Perez's story was coming to a natural end - it was time to find a resolution to Perez's private life," he told the BBC last year. "I never wanted to ruin the things that were unique to him and our series so it felt like the right time to wrap up his story in a way that would be satisfactory to everybody.

Douglas Henshall, as DI Jimmy Perez
in Shetland© ITV/Shutterstock
Douglas Henshall left the show after series seven

"I am aware we're not changing the world in any way, shape or form but as far as crime shows go, Shetland does really well in that genre. We tell stories that are very good, the characters are great and I wanted to go out on a high."

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