The two cities overlap geographically and are meshed together, but the inhabitants of each are forbidden from interacting. The penalties for transgressing, or “breaching”, are unimaginably severe.
Into this unusual story come Corwi and Borlú. The inspector is initially wary of his partner, but he soon learns that she will get the job done.
“She’s this extraordinary character, and not all what she seems,” Dhillon tells RadioTimes.com. “And she’s got a bit of a mouth on her. She’s kind of like a pitbull.”
That’s no insult to either Corwi – or pitbulls.
“I wish I was like her in a way, because she has the guts to really say what’s on her mind. There’s no filter. Sometimes I wish that I was bold enough to do that, so being able to play that for 12 weeks was so much fun.”
The actress has previously appeared in TV shows including Some Girls, Damned, The Good Karma Hospital, Hospital People, and Doctor Who.
When first approached for The City and The City she hadn’t read the 2009 novel – but it was Tony Grisoni’s script that sold her on the concept.
“When I read the script I thought it was amazing, it was like nothing I’ve read before,” she says. “You read so many crime dramas, and I love a crime drama, and I love a thriller. But it was the world in which it was set which really, really attracted me to it, and this whole concept of two cities that exist in the same space but yet can’t see each other, and can’t see each other because they’re not allowed to. That, I found amazing.
“So when I read it and I read this character, she’s female, she’s badass, she holds her own, and I thought, that would be an amazing part to play within this whole world that it’s set in.”
Thankfully there’s no manufactured romantic sub-plot between our male and female cops. Instead it’s all about their working relationship and growing friendship.
But Corwi is certainly not trying to impress Borlú or earn his approval.
“Everyone else in the office would walk on eggshells around him, whereas she doesn’t really care, she’s just there to do her job and if he likes it he likes it, if he doesn’t he doesn’t,” Dhillon says.
“At the start, the first episode they’re still trying to work each other out. He’s trying to work her out. But she comes through for him, she’s always got his back, and she’s helping him. And I guess that level of trust grows throughout the series.”