CSI: VICTORIAN LONDON
Jack The Ripper (1973): In this six-parter, Z Cars duo Detective Chief Superintendents Barlow and Watt reopened the Ripper case files, with action moving between the present day and the time of the crimes.
Jack The Ripper (1988): Michael Caine took on the role of Inspector Frederick Abberline in this four-part drama about the killings and subsequent investigation.
Whitechapel (2009 – present): Set in modern-day Whitechapel in East London, this series follows investigations into recent copycat crimes.
From Hell (2002): Jonny Depp played Abberline in this big screen adaptation of the comic books of the same name, which suggested Jack The Ripper was part of a conspiracy to cover up an illegitimate royal baby.
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Forensic crime series have been in plentiful supply in recent years, but Ripper Street takes a leap into the past. The science may have been less sophisticated, but the crimes were just as gruesome. Lisa Williams meets the cast
H ere is a crime series with a difference. Instead of forensic investigations, jaded police detectives and desk-bound officers complaining about paperwork, Ripper Street offers a jolly trio committed to uncovering the perpetrators of heinous crimes – using whatever means are available to them.
It is set in Victorian London in the wake of Jack The Ripper's final crime, which hangs over the city like an unwelcome shadow, and is incredibly dark, violent and disturbing. Yet, despite all that, it still manages to have some lighter moments, thanks in part to the charisma of the three leads. Meet the latest crack team of investigators ...
Matthew Macfadyen takes on the role of Detective Inspector Edmund Reid, who works in the police precinct H Division. His beat is only 1.4 square miles but it is packed with 67,000 people, some of whom are the most disadvantaged and troubled in London. He has his work cut out for him but, as Macfadyen says, he approaches it all with wit, vim and vigour.
"What I find interesting about him is that there's nothing jaded or on the back foot about him," says the actor. "I wanted to get away from the sort of classic, seen it all, done it all copper and he's definitely not that. He's quite progressive and interested in technology and the innovations of the age, which were enormous, especially in Victorian times."
Macfadyen was impressed by the "vividly written" script and its "fantastic energy".
He thinks it feels cutting edge despite being set in 1889, thanks to Reid's intellect and his use of local maverick doctor Homer Jackson to help him solve crimes, and his ex-army colleague Bennett Drake to keep people in order.
"Things were happening at an alarming rate, technologically. And so I think Reid and his team would think of themselves as very modern and very progressive, which is interesting because this was an age where the amazing advances that we take for granted now hadn't happened: forensics, forensically fingerprinting and DNA," he says.
Macfadyen also loved filming in Belfast, where the world of Victorian London, with its dark alleys and shady doorways, has been lovingly recreated to the point where you can almost smell the smoke in the air.
"It was like a big playground," he says. "We were able to create a big street [inside a studio], it was great."
Here is Jerome Flynn as you have never seen him before. The former Soldier Soldier actor takes on a gritty role as bruiser Bennett Drake, a police sergeant who often lets his fists do the talking.
"People have called him a bit of a pitbull but I think that's unfair, myself. He is more of a refined muscle head," says Flynn.
The actor was delighted to be cast in the role, which he says he "felt a connection to" as soon as he started reading the script. Though he was not exactly fighting fit during the auditions. He says: "I'd been on an intense fasting retreat and was probably the scrawniest I've been since I was 14. When they gave me the part they said, 'Please get bigger!'"
His character is fairly unrelenting in his violence, and Flynn says he wasn't based on anyone in particular. "I just went inside of some of my darker parts," he jokes.
He even had to train for a few bouts in the ring. "It was fun to be Raging Bull for a day even if I say so myself. But no, I'm not comparing myself to Jake La Motta, but it was just great. I guess it's probably a bit of a fantasy for a few actors. Early on I got my head stuck under a very heavy stuntman, and cricked my neck which made it difficult. But I battled through so the boxing was fun," he says.
Flynn found the whole experience fascinating, and understands why people are still interested in the Jack The Ripper myth even now.
"One of the reasons we're obsessed with it and why it's part of our myth and culture is because he was never caught," he says. "It's a constant cliffhanger and one that has never gone away."
US actor Adam Rothenberg completes the trio, playing maverick medical man Homer Jackson. Charming Jackson has an unconventional life, residing in the brothel belonging to his former partner, but his innovative approach to science makes him an invaluable part of Reid's team.
Often dispatched to crime scenes or hospitals to deduce what might have caused a victim's death, he can be seen as the forerunner to today's forensics teams.
Rothenberg says: "It's almost how someone from today would be if transplanted into Victorian London. I think he's very much a surrogate for the audience in a lot of ways."
Jackson, with his one-liners and swagger, is a dream role for Rothenberg – and, he suspects, many others.
"If you were to have male actors of a certain age write down the dream role they'd like to play, it would probably be Homer Jackson," he says. "He's a bit of a cowboy – a bit of a rogue but he's also a little bit of Albert Schweitzer, you know what I mean? He's a healer. A fighter."
In his opinion, Ripper Street has it all. "It has elements of CSI cop shows, set in Victorian London," he says. "You get to see the creative process involved in trying to piece together the details of various crimes, and you're invited along into the thought process behind it. On top of that you have riveting characters, very strong interpersonal conflict, and it's beautiful."
Ripper Street starts tomorrow on BBC One.