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Douglas Henshall's life and career: From Shetland stardom to Vegas wedding and family life with daughter

The Scottish actor is known and loved for his portrayal of Detective Inspector Jimmy Pérez in Shetland


Close up of Douglas Henshall© Getty
Megan Bull
TV Writer
January 10, 2024
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One of Britain's best-loved stars, Douglas Henshall doesn't ascribe to the world of celebrity. An extremely private person, the Scottish actor, 58, rarely shares details of his home life – it's about letting the work speak for itself.

From Shetland to Murder Is Easy and In Plain Sight, Douglas is dominating the detective genre right now, and he's continuing to spread his proverbial wings, after signing on to The Darkness – an upcoming crime drama based on Ragnar Jónasson's best-selling book series. 

With such an exciting year ahead, we're taking a look at the life and career of the inimitable Douglas Henshall. From his early childhood and Shetland stardom to his spontaneous Vegas wedding and fatherhood journey; here's what you need to know about the star…

Early life 

Born on 19 November 1965, Douglas grew up in the town of Barrhead. "In some respects, I was almost a country boy. I ran around in streams and rivers and all that sort of thing," he told The Scotsman in 2010. 

Douglas Henshall photographed in 2000© Getty
Douglas Henshall grew up in Barrhead, Scotland

One of three siblings, Douglas' mother was a housewife, and later a nurse, while his father worked as a salesman. Describing himself as a shy child, the actor recalled how acting became his safe space. "I think the other side is finding something where you can express yourself and feel comfortable, and for me, that was on stage in front of lots of people," he said. 

Charting his path at Glasgow Youth Theatre, Douglas went on to study at Mountview Theatre School, before landing roles with the Citizens' Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. 

Portrait of Douglas Henshall taken in 1999. © Getty
The aspiring actor trained at Glasgow Youth Theatre and later Mountview Theatre School

By the '90's, Douglas had lent his talents to the screen. Taggart (1990), Van der Valk (1992), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1993) and The Bill (1994) are among his earliest TV credits.

After treading the boards at the National Theatre, and bagging roles in Ripley Under Ground (2005), and French film (2008), by 2007, Douglas had been cast as Professor Nick Cutter in the science fiction series Primeval (2007-2009). Propelling him into the spotlight, the ITV series became a hit with critics and audiences, acquiring a cult following. Aside from his Shetland counterpart, Professor Nick Cutter is regarded as one of Douglas' best-loved characters. 

Shetland stardom 

By 2013, Douglas had become a regular fixture on our screens, but it was the role of Jimmy Pérez that made him a household name. Appearing in seven seasons of Shetland, Douglas' portrayal of the disillusioned detective bagged him a BAFTA for Best Actor in 2016. 

Douglas Henshall, as DI Jimmy Perez
'Shetland'© ITV/Shutterstock
Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez in Shetland

After appearing on the show for just under a decade, Douglas revealed his decision to depart the show in 2022, calling his time on Shetland "one of the privileges of my career."  

"After series five of Shetland, David Kane and I decided we wanted to do two more series to complete the story of Jimmy Perez," he explained in a statement. "So series six and seven were commissioned together to give us time to wrap up Perez's story to a satisfactory end.

WATCH: Shetland reveals Douglas Henshall's final case as DI Jimmy Perez

"It's been one of the privileges of my career to play Jimmy Perez for almost 10 years and to work with so many wonderful people both in front of and behind the camera, and also to spend so much time in Shetland.

He concluded: "The Isles were so much a part of our show and of Perez himself. I'll miss him and the place. I wish everyone involved much luck with whatever happens next. I'll miss him as a person I crawl into every now and again because I liked him, he's a nice man." Following the news, actress Ashley Jensen was handed the reins and currently leads the series as DI Ruth Calder. 

MORE: Who is Douglas Henshall's family and does he have children?

READ: Shetland star Ashley Jensen's home life away from the cameras

Las Vegas wedding 

In 2010, Douglas tied the knot with Tena Štivičić. A celebrated playwright and screenwriter, Tena hails from Zagreb in Croatia and studied at the Academy of Dramatic Art before completing an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Douglas Henshall and wife Tena Štivičić at a press event. © Getty
Douglas is married to celebrated playwright and screenwriter, Tena Štivičić

In the past, Tena has also landed roles in front of the camera, appearing in Croatian films The Third Woman and Is It Clear, My Friend? in the late 1990s.

In an interview with The Scotsman, it was revealed that Douglas and Tena had married in a spontaneous ceremony in Las Vegas. "She's about as perfect a match as I could ever find, so if it doesn't work with her it's not going to work," Douglas said of his new bride. 

Douglas Henshall and Tena Štivičić at the Laurence Olivier Awards© Getty
The couple married in an impromptu ceremony in February 2010

Asked if being with a fellow creative is helpful, the actor replied: "It has more pluses than minuses. We're both passionate, stubborn people, both strong-willed, so we clash from time to time. It's nice to have someone who challenges me. She's brighter than me and I like that, though it does drive me nuts sometimes when she reminds me of it!"

Fatherhood journey 

Douglas was initially sceptical about having children, but in 2016, he and Tena welcomed their daughter, Anja Grace. During an interview with The Sun, Douglas explained that while his filming schedule for Shetland had been keeping him busy, he relished time with his little girl. "When I come home, thankfully I get to see her at the tail end of her day — help bathe her or whatever — and so that kind of takes your mind off things," he said. 

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While the family are very private about their personal lives, Douglas sometimes tweets about life with Anja and shared that when she turned five, he gave his daughter her first library card. "The five yr old got her first library card today. There are many things you learn from being a parent and one of them is how wonderful libraries are," he said.

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More recently, Douglas shared a photo of six-year-old Anja riding her bike in the park. Sharing the sweet snap in July 2023, he captioned it: "The 6yr old is ready for pedals on her bike." 

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