There are some actors whom you grow so accustomed to seeing in a particular role that it becomes hard to visualize them playing anything else. When you eventually see them in another part you end up spending a lot of time trying to see if they've managed to create a different character for this new situation. In far too many cases these days, film and TV actors simply play variations of themselves when on screen and don't bother with such mundane things as creating a character. Sure they may be able to cry or be angry on demand, but they're doing it as themselves not as the person whom they're supposedly portraying. So when I sat down to watch the DVD of Judge John Deed: Season 6 from BBC America, released August 14, I have to admit I was initially more concerned with how much of Inspector George Gently I'd see in Martin Shaw's performance as Deed than the plot of the show.
While Shaw had impressed me with his performances in George Gently, I hadn't seen him in anything else and had no idea of what he was capable. Thankfully it didn't take more than about 15 minutes of the first episode for me to have completely forgotten he'd ever been the other character. Everything from his vocal mannerisms to the way he holds himself as Deed is different from what he had done in the other role. What's even more amazing is how subtle all the differences are. It isn't as if he assumed an accent, limp, or other immediately obvious trait, it is just that he did a whole bunch of little things differently which, when combined, add up to being a different character.
It is a good thing too, for even more than in George Gently, this series is built around his character. John Deed is a high court judge in England. He is also something of a maverick who has no problems with rocking the boat and ruffling the feathers of his fellow judges. In order to rise to the position of a high court judge in England, or anywhere else for that matter, one has to be a pretty entrenched member of the legal establishment. Usually this means you haven't made any waves in your previous career as a lawyer. Judges are supposed to be impartial arbitrators who base their decisions upon the letter of the law. However, as we all know, there are plenty of grey areas in the law which allow judges a great deal of latitude when handing down their judgements. Thus it's almost impossible for a judge's personal opinions not to play a role in their findings. Why else would the appointment of judges be such a contentious issue in most countries?