If curling up on the couch for a gritty drama is your idea of the perfect night then ITV’s three-parter Black Work will be right up your street – originally aired in 2015, the thriller is getting a repeat run five years on.
Leeds Police Constable Jo Gillespie lives a relatively normal life until her husband Ryan – who’s also a member of the force – is killed while working deep undercover. Unsettled by the results the official investigation throw up, Jo decides to take it upon herself to find her husband’s killer.
Sheridan Smith leads the way as the determined young officer, but who’s who in her police family?
Sheridan Smith – PC Jo Gillespie
Who is PC Jo Gillespie? Young PC Jo is just starting out in the force but she’s a bright officer with a big future ahead of her. However, the demands of police work have placed quite a bit of strain on her marriage to fellow officer, Ryan Gillespie. That’s why Jo’s been growing close to another police officer, Jack Clark. But when undercover cop Ryan is killed, her whole world is turned upside down.
“Jo is strong and tough but goes through so much turmoil and mental torment,” said Sheridan Smith. “It was different to anything I’ve done before. I like trying different things and challenging myself and Matt is a really clever writer, so I said yes.”
Where have I seen Sheridan Smith before? Where haven’t you seen her before? The star of ITV’s Cilla is best known for her role as Mrs Biggs, starring dramatic turns in The 7.39 and The C Word, and comedy roles in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, The Royle Family and Gavin & Stacey to name but a few.
Kenny Doughty – DS Ryan Gillespie
Who is DS Ryan Gillespie? Jo’s husband Ryan is an undercover police officer and the demands of his job put a huge strain on their marriage. He’s working deep undercover when he’s killed and, as she sets out to discover what really happened to him, Jo discovers that he wasn’t always completely honest about what he was up to.
Where have I seen Kenny Doughty before? He’s most recently starred opposite Brenda Blethyn as Vera’s DS Aiden Healy but you might also have spotted him in Stella, on Coronation Street’s cobbles as hunky builder Jake Harman, or in BBC1’s Servants with Orla Brady and Felicity Jones way back in 2003’s Servants.
Matthew McNulty – DC Jack Clark
Who is DC Jack Clark? Jack is married with a son around the same age as Jo and Ryan’s daughter, but that hasn’t stopped him growing closer to his female colleague. So when Jack is assigned to the investigation into Ryan’s death, he feels rather conflicted. Can he put his feelings aside and do his job properly?
“The story had real drive and it was pushed forward with great, strong female leads,” McNulty said. “Which, in itself, is pretty unusual, unfortunately. But it was like nothing I’d ever read before.”
Where have I seen Matthew McNulty before? Jamaica Inn’s Jem Meryln is also The Mill’s Daniel Bate and Our Girl’s Corporal Geddings. He also starred in Misfits, the very first series of Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate, and played Fisher Bloom in Lark Rise to Candleford.
Douglas Henshall – Detective Chief Superintendent Will Hepburn
Who is Detective Chief Superintendent Will Hepburn? Ryan’s superior officer is devastated by his death: he was the one leading the case in which Gillespie was working undercover. He’s also anguished by the fact that he must continue to keep the details of Ryan’s case a secret while the investigation is ongoing.
Where have I seen Douglas Henshall before? Primeval’s Professor Nick Cutter is no stranger to a crime drama, having previously lead the cast of BBC Scotland’s Shetland. He also popped up in The Secret of Crickley Hall and as Taran MacQuarrie in Outlander.
Geraldine James – Chief Constable Carolyn Jarecki
Who is Chief Constable Carolyn Jarecki? Jarecki’s made a point of trying to improve the public image of the police, and to restore public faith in them after several allegations of corruption. Ryan’s death puts her in a very difficult position because while she wants to come out and support him in public, she doesn’t want his undercover operation to be jeopardised.
“She’s not just a bossy policewoman,” says James. “She has to be politically astute. It’s like being a Mayor. She has to balance what she can and cannot pursue. It’s very topical.”
Where have I seen Geraldine James before? Utopia’s Milner is a veteran of the stage and screen, with roles in Dummy, The Jewel in The Crown, Band of Gold, Sins, Gandi and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo under her belt. She also plays Mrs Hudson to Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes.
Andrew Knott – DS Lee Miekel
Who is DS Lee Miekel? Lee was quite close to Ryan before he died so he’s deeply upset by the murder investigation. He’s not happy with the level of secrecy surrounding Ryan’s undercover operation, because it means he can’t access information that might be crucial to finding his killer.
Where have I seen Andrew Knott before? Remember the little boy from The Secret Garden? He went on to star as Joe Green in Black Beauty, Henry Green in Where The Heart Is, and Dirtbox in Gavin & Stacey.
Ace Bhatti – DCI Jahan Kapoor
Who is DCI Jahan Kapoor? Leading the investigation into Ryan’s death isn’t an easy business but it’s the task handed to DCI Jahan Kapoor. The detective has only recently joined the team and wasn’t even nearly half as close to Ryan as the rest of them. That’s something that alienates him from many of the other officers.
Where have I seen Ace Bhatti before? Bhatti is best known for his portrayal of EastEnders villain Yusef Khan from 2010-11.
Carla Henry – Vicki Stanton
Who is Vicki Stanton? Vicki’s a friend and colleague of Jo’s who is quite close to the whole Gillespie family. She finds herself having to take on a new role when Ryan is killed, acting as Jo, Hal and Melly’s Family Liaison Officer.
Where have I seen Carla Henry before? Remember Queer as Folk? Stanton starred as Donna in the acclaimed TV series.
Sharon Duce – Barbara Gillespie
Who is Barbara Gillespie? Ryan’s mum Barbara hasn’t always seen eye to eye with Jo but her heart’s the right place. She arrives shortly after her son’s death to take care of Hal and Melly, leaving Jo with plenty of time to pursue her husband’s killer.
Where have I seen Sharon Duce before? Best known for Big Deal, Duce’s face might look rather familiar: she also starred in Doctor Who, Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Growing Pains, The Tomorrow People and London’s Burning, to name but a few.
Lisa Dillon – Carla
Who is Carla? Ryan’s first wife – and the mother of his teenage son Hal – is not in the slightest bit impressed to learn that Jo initially kept the policeman’s death a secret from her. Hal spends a lot of time with his mum and she threatens to retake full custody of him.
Where have I seen Lisa Dillon before? Cranford’s Mary Smith played Stephen Hawking’s first wife Jane Wilde opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in 2004’s Hawking.
Honor Kneafsey and Oliver Woollford – Melly and Hal
Who are Melly and Hal? Melly and Hal are half siblings – he’s Ryan’s son from a previous relationship while she’s Ryan and Jo’s daughter. Hal always got on quite well with his step-mum while his dad was alive, and she was a more stable influence in his life than his biological mum, Carla. Melly, meanwhile, got on quite well with her dad, but she can’t really comprehend his death at all.
Where have I seen Honor Kneafsey and Oliver Woollford before? Honor starred in Our Zoo and Friday Night Dinner while Oliver made quite the impression playing a rather violent young man in Channel 4’s Utopia.
This article was originally published in June 2015
Black Work begins tonight at 9pm on ITV and continues on Thursday and Friday – check out what else is on with our TV Guide