If you enjoy a good mystery, you don’t want to miss Acorn TV‘s new six-part British detective drama, Whitstable Pearl. Based on Julie Wassmer’s books, the show stars Kerry Godliman (After Life) as Pearl Nolan, a restaurant owner and private detective. Other stars in the cast include Frances Barber (Doctor Who, Silk) as Pearl’s mother, Dolly, and Howard Charles (The Musketeers, Shadow and Bone) as DCI Mike McGuire. New episodes debut every Monday through June 21. I interviewed Godliman to find out more about this intriguing series.
Do you have a favorite detective from TV or books?
I’ve discovered since doing this job that I’m a bit out of the loop when it comes to these detectives. My frame of reference is from when I was kid, so things like The Equalizer and Moonlighting are the ones that stand out for me when I was younger.
In real life if you weren’t into acting, do you think you would make a better detective or a better restaurant owner?
Oh, restaurant owner without a doubt! I’d be a terrible detective. I wouldn’t be able to keep a secret. I’d be really indiscreet. I would be telling everyone everything! I think I’d be better chatting behind the bar.
I was trying to figure out why the name Whitstable was so familiar to me. I remembered that Alan Davies on QI would always talk about Whitstable and Peter Cushing.
Oh really! I didn’t even know that. I’m staying in a house not far from Peter Cushing’s house.
Compared to your most recent work, did you have to make any adjustments in your approach for this murder mystery?
Not especially, no. I mean it was quite a naturalistic style on this show.
I liked the tension and the rapport your character has with Howard Charles’ DCI Maguire. Have you worked together before?
No, we’ve never met. We had the chemistry casting. It did feel like we had a natural chemistry and a rapport. We met a couple of times before we started filming. We understood the characters straightaway and how to pace their connection.
I found Pearl to be a really interesting character. What did you admire most about her in the series?
I admire her strength and her bravery, really. She’s quite determined. She’s raised her son on her own. She’s built up a restaurant to a high standard. It’s a fairly successful business. Yet, because her son is becoming an adult and leaving home, she has that empty nest feeling. She’s now turning her hand to what was always her ambition, which is to be a detective. She has a determination which I found admirable. She doesn’t stand down. She drives on and drives through to push for what she wants.
I agree. She has a lot of strong and fierce one-liners with some people. She doesn’t take things from them.
Yes, I enjoyed playing her a lot.
What’s it been like to collaborate with talented young actors like Rohan Nedd, who plays Pearl’s son, and Isobelle Molloy, who plays Pearl’s employee?
I thought they were fantastic. I really like the way that the characters at the heart of this show are close and have a connection and love for each other. It exuded a lot of warmth. They are brilliant, those two actors. They were so open and up for it. It’s a delight to work with people like that.
Do you have a favorite day from being on set?
It wasn’t the day I went in the [cold] sea, fully clothed. (Laughs) I do like hot water swimming though. I was sort of giddy afterward in that way you can’t quite explain. I’m sure it was chemical. It’s to do with cold water swimming, isn’t it? I was like euphoric after we shot that scene. Even though it was freezing, it was extremely memorable!
How did you prepare for the series? Did you go to the town ahead of time?
I knew Whitstable a bit anyway. I know quite a lot of the towns on the Kent coast. I read the book. Howard and I hung out a bit before we started filming. I was given a lot of opportunities to talk to the writers, not only Julie who writes the books, but also Øystein [Karlsen] who’s written the first script.
How did you approach the scripts?
There isn’t really a magic formula. It’s reading them through and building it up in your imagination as you’re slowly piecing together the characterization. In terms of who Pearl is, she looks and sounds a lot like me. I was able to bring that to the characterization. With the backstory stuff, I suppose you don’t want to give away too much, too soon, but all that is in the script.
Was there anything surprising to you as you were going through this journey of making the series?
I think I was surprised by how much I fell in it. I’ve never played a lead part before. Initially, especially after the year we’d all had with lockdown and everything, I was nervous about doing it and playing such a big part with all that responsibility. As the shoot developed, I fell in love with her, the town, the series, the cast, and the crew. It was a lovely experience and by the end I was quite sad that it was finished.
With the pandemic, it was so odd to be working through a lockdown. Everything was shut in Whitstable: the pubs, the restaurants, and the shops. We had the town to ourselves. The locals were friendly and welcoming. People were out and about walking their dogs. Everybody knew what those books are. We always got asked how’s it going.
What do you hope viewers take away from the series when they watch it?
I think they’ll fall in love with Pearl and Mike, all of the characters, and the town. It’s a unique place, Whitstable. It’s not a typical British seaside town in that it doesn’t have arcade machines, a pier, and a Ferris Wheel. It’s more industrial than that. It’s beautiful and a holiday destination, but it’s actually a working town. It’s got a concrete factory on the front. It attracts a lot of artists and bohemians. I grew a lot of affection for it by the end of that shoot.