Callum Sutherland - Police Advisor for Above Suspicion


I was told that Lynda La Plante likes to keep things as realistic as possible.

Former murder squad detective Callum Sutherland uses his wealth of experience to ensure the authenticity of every stage of police enquiries portrayed in Above Suspicion.

He retired from the Metropolitan Police a year ago after working as a detective sergeant on the murder team, and then as a crime scenes manager. He joined La Plante Productions after working for a forensics company. His input from script stage to setting crime scenes for filming has proved invaluable on the ratings winning dramas The Commander and Trial and Retribution.

"I took the job with La Plante Productions out of curiosity at first. I was told that Lynda La Plante likes to keep things as realistic as possible.

"When I first started I was tempted to tell people 'you don't do it like that', but then I realised you have got to have some dramatic licence, otherwise it wouldn't work for the screen. It would be pretty boring actually! Investigations can take months or years to resolve. What viewers see in two or three hours would take ages in reality.

"Before I started this job I thought some crime drama on television was better than others. I thought some were bending reality too much. I thought the investigators were too in your face. It is not like that.

"You have to raise your voice a bit some times. But if you extend the hand of courtesy, it throws the bad guy off because he doesn't understand why you are being nice to him. It might make them relax a bit and open up.

"There's a lot of strategy involved before a good interview, preparing it even before you go in, what questions you are going to ask and how you will respond.'

Callum says his former colleagues are intrigued by his new role, and keen to hear all abut his new work.

"This job has kept me in contact with my old colleagues and it has allowed me to take a lot of things that happened to me in real life, and add them to the drama and put a twist on them, so it is not exactly like the real incident.

"My former colleagues think it is a wonderful job, and ask me what actors are like. They have a vision that it is a really glamorous world, but I've told them there can be long days on set, with a lot of hanging around.

"The feedback I get from colleagues who've watched Lynda's dramas is good. They say they watch her stuff more than other crime dramas and enjoy it. I think some programmes struggle for ideas and just go into fantasy land to attract the viewing figures.'

Callum says he had been an avid viewer of crime dramas, particularly the American series like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue.

"You could relate the characters to people in your own force, not the way they dealt with things, but the characters themselves. And that is what Lynda does in her dramas.

"It is not about catching the bad guy, it is about the actual characters and how dealing with things affects people in certain ways.

"People have said there is a lot of machismo in the police force, dismissing a dead body as just another body, but that's rubbish. It may not affect them then, but it will do at some time. If it didn't you are not human and you are not taking in how it affects other people, then you don't. If you don't investigate it properly.  You have to understand how it affects a victim's family.'

Callum's work on Above Suspicion began by reading the novel on which the drama is based.

"Then I read the script not only from the police and crime scene side but anything else that might come up which needs research.

"For example if a drug squad officer was involved in a story I would speak to a drug squad officer to see how they work. I look at the police jargon and interviews and see whether they could get away with asking those questions at that time and at what point a suspect would be arrested. I work with Lynda, the producers, directors, art department to over see how the crime scenes, police stations and officers should look.

"A couple of times during the filming of Above Suspicion I intervened to advise them for instance how to pick up a credit card by the edges so they are not damaging any finger prints that may already be on it. And to wear rubber gloves when they were searching a suspect's property.'

His work is not only behind the scenes. Callum has had two cameo roles in Above Suspicion and in Trial and Retribution as a crime scene manager, his old job. He admits although he was only portraying the job he had been doing for the Metropolitan Police he was very nervous in front of the camera.

Source: ITV official press-kit
Date: November 7, 2008


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