Big Preview: It’s all getting a bit personal as Strike takes on a disturbing case

Tom Burke as Comoran Strike with co-star Holliday Grainger, who plays Robin.
Tom Burke as Comoran Strike with co-star Holliday Grainger, who plays Robin.

Tom Burke plays Strike, the war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street.

Though he’s wounded both physically and psychologically, Strike’s unique insight and his background as an SIB investigator prove crucial in unravelling complex cases.

Grainger plays Robin, Strike’s assistant. Though she begins as a temporary secretary, managing Strike’s chaotic life, she soon becomes involved with his caseload and begins to see her true potential.

When a dismembered leg is sent to Strike’s office, it sends both Cormoran’s and Robin’s lives into disarray, forcing them to confront ghosts from their pasts. Their partnership reaches breaking point as Robin’s wedding approaches and they disagree about how to ensnare a man who abuses children.

We caught up with star Tom Burke. . .

Could you introduce Career Of Evil to us and tell us where we are with it?

Career Of Evil is very different to the other two stories so far, because the stakes are set at the beginning of the first episode - they land on the doorstep - and it’s more a kind of whirlwind, a ‘what are we going to do now?’ from the get-go.

In a sense, it’s a more straightforward story to tell. But interestingly, with just as much room, if not more, for the growing relationship between Cormoran and Robin. They’ve got out of London, gone up to Barrow-in-Furness and have had to stop at a hotel, and so suddenly they’re stuck in a hotel together. Charles Sturridge [Director] was brilliant at encouraging little moments to happen like these, quite ambiguous moments, really.

Career Of Evil is a much darker story than the other two. You and Holliday work even more closely together on this story.

Yes, totally. And there are moments that need real tenderness and pain. It’s nice to feel that you’re in a completely safe space to do that. I think the main thing you want to feel with somebody else when you’re acting with them, is that you’re acting with them.

You’re not being scrutinised or tested. I think its trust, you have to offer up trust, and I think that’s why it went as smoothly as it did.

Do you have any moments when you just thought, this is exactly what Career Of Evil is all about?

I really love all the stuff we did driving from London to Barrow-in-Furness in the Land Rover. I watched it the other day and it was just a lovely moment to think, oh they’re there now, that’s their friendship now, that’s their relationship now. It took me by surprise. It really felt like I believed it. It’s just a particular thing isn’t it, to share a long car journey with somebody.

What makes him different from other detectives that we’ve seen?

What makes him different as a detective and as a character, and what sets him apart from other detectives, is that Strike has grown up witness to, and has encountered, evil.

He knows what it looks like and smells like and he’s ready to act on it if it needs to be confronted. He’s always an individual and he doesn’t pretend to know why. He tries to find out and is curious.

I feel we’re very much living in a time where people are pointing a lot at groups, and going it’s the left, it’s the right, it’s the leavers, it’s the remainers, it’s the UK, it’s the other lot. I don’t think he creates those monoliths in any way.

We know that he’s had this Oxford education and it’s probably something to do with that and, on a deep level, something to do with who he is.

Life is tricky for most people, it is for him. I think he comes at everything with that. It’s not just tricky because he lost the bottom third of his leg, it’s not tricky just because his mother was murdered, or just because of what happened to him in his childhood, it’s just tricky.

You could almost say he’s a cynic in that sense. I think Cocteau described life as ‘an infernal machine’ - it almost pushes people to do bad things. Strike has an understanding of that and that’s where his compassion comes from.

Strike: Career Of Evil starts on Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.