Interview with Richard Rankin (John Rebus) from new series Rebus which launches May 18 on BBC One

Iconic character John Rebus is reimagined as a younger Detective Sergeant, played by Richard Rankin, in the brand new series / Will be distributed internationally by Viaplay Content Distribution


Richard Rankin as John Rebus (Image: Mark Mainz/Eleventh Hour Films)



Rebus launches on Friday 17 May. All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer from 6am, with episode one airing on BBC Scotland on Friday 17 May at 10pm and on BBC One on Saturday 18 May at 9:25pm.

Based on the best-selling books by Ian Rankin, Rebus reimagines the iconic character John Rebus (Richard Rankin) as a younger Detective Sergeant, drawn into a violent criminal conflict that turns personal.

Shaken after a violent encounter with gangster Ger Cafferty, Edinburgh detective John Rebus finds himself at a psychological crossroads. At odds with a job increasingly driven by corporate technocrats, involved in a toxic affair he knows he needs to end, and all but supplanted in his daughter’s life by his ex-wife’s wealthy new husband, Rebus begins to wonder if he still has a role to play – either as a family man or a police officer. In a time of divisive politics and national discord, Rebus’ broke, ex-soldier brother Michael desperately crosses the line to provide for his family, and Rebus begins to wonder if the law still has meaning, or if everyone is reverting to an older set of rules? And if so, why shouldn’t Rebus do so too?#You have played a few cops before, haven’t you?

Yes, a few times now in one form or another. I thought I had sufficiently explored this archetype… and then Rebus came along.

Why did you make an exception for Rebus, then?

Rebus is an iconic character in Scottish literature and television. It already has such a huge following. That aside, it was within the first ten pages of episode one that had me absolutely hooked. I could tell Greggory Burke was doing something new and exciting with this. It felt real, it felt dark, and it felt charged.

So you instantly knew that Rebus was not going to be the same as other detective dramas?

Absolutely. You would imagine a procedural cop show. It’s not. It’s very much a character drama. I knew it was going to be different because we had Greg writing it, Niall MacCormick directing it, and an incredible Director of Photography in Julio Biccari. That combination and chemistry alone is going to guarantee something special.

What other elements grabbed you from the start?

The style and the aesthetic of how Niall wanted it shot were all brilliant. Dark; cinematic; gritty. It felt like something we were missing on our screens. Additionally, Greg and I shared a passion for it to be as authentic as possible to the place. We wanted these characters to be from a very real Edinburgh and a very real Fife.

The novels are immensely popular, aren’t they?

Ian Rankin’s books have got such an enormous fan base. Whenever the series comes up people are always very excited about the prospect of seeing one of their most beloved detectives come back to the screen. Ian Rankin has sold over thirty million copies of Rebus and it’s been translated into at least thirty six languages so it’s an absolute privilege to have been given the honour of bringing Rebus to life again.

What is particularly strong about this adaptation?

Ian Rankin said to Greg Burke, ‘Take Rebus and do what you want with it’. That’s already incredibly intriguing. Exciting even. Great source material amplified by Greg’s almost uncensored and very honest approach reboots the character in a way that is thrilling for TV.

What makes Greg’s scripts so good?

Everything in Greg’s writing has a beating heart. His connection to the character and the material gives him an incredible comprehension of the world he’s writing. His rare ability for dark humour and his observant social commentary brings so much depth and colour. Every character has a voice. A real purpose. So much so, that each actor took immense pride and ownership in their roles. I think that really shines through in the individual performances.

How did you approach your version of Rebus?

I started with the language, the accent and the dialect were important to get right. So vocal coaching was a regular thing. I also took to the source to gain an understanding of what made Rebus ‘Rebus’. There were significant things that stood out for me. His military career for one. I felt this should be incorporated more into his base psychology. Even though it might not be written in our script, he was successful in his SAS selection. He’s a military man. I started with the question, ‘how does this inform the character?’

The job really takes a toll on Rebus, doesn’t it?

Yes. It’s the law of diminishing returns for him. It’s not just the job, it’s life for Rebus. Greg explains this well, he uses the Scottish word ‘thrawn’ to describe someone who makes life as difficult as possible for themselves. A martyr to his own cause. Frequently faced with easier choices, Rebus will take the difficult path. As for the job, Rebus has the potential and aptitude to be a great detective, and in a lot of ways he is, but he gets in his own way often deliberately, often self-destructively.

What do you hope that people take away from the drama?

I hope people take out of it what we put in. The entire ensemble of cast and crew are immensely talented individuals who all brought their A-game to the series. I think that really shows. I hope audiences will develop an appetite for more, so that we can bring another series their way further down the line. I really hope that people will fall in love with Rebus in the same way that we have.

Source BBC One

May 16, 2024 7:00am ET by Pressparty  


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