‘The Missing’ has made a hero out of its bearded silver fox French detective Julien Baptiste.
Polish-born Turkish actor Tcheky Karyo is bemused by his new-found star status in the UK. “Whenever I get into a cab, they ask me, ‘how’s the limp?’” he tells HuffPostUK.
As it turns out, Tcheky is fighting fit in person – “I have to remember which leg it is” – after his character was almost crippled in the first series of ‘The Missing’ which saw him sharing the screen with James Nesbitt.
Despite the strength of that partnership – with Tcheky telling me, “I always miss him, he is a superb person” – the French star agrees with me that Series 2 is an even stronger story by writing brothers, Harry and Jack Williams.
“They had the experience of the first one. They were bold with what they did with this family in a closed military base. They’ve been very creative in all the twists and the way they played with the timeline.”
Ah yes, the timeline, which sees the story bending backwards and forwards between 2014 and present day, with hints at an earlier chapter, too. The only hints the viewer gets is the length of Keeley Hawes’ hair, and the scars on the neck of David Morrissey’s character. How do the actors themselves make sense of it all?
Filming was easy, says Tcheky. “We had to shoot everything, the winter part, where I have beard and hair, then we had a hiatus, then we shot the desert stuff in Morocco, and I had a shave.”
The script was another matter, for which, he says, they had to ask for some help. “When I started working on it, I was studying the script as it appears on screen, but you get a clue three episodes before, and then you’re somewhere else after, so you have to really pay attention. Everybody was having the same problems.
“We realised we needed a real chronology, so the script supervisor worked one out, and then we all referred to it all the time, to see where things fitted.”
Now we’re halfway through the series, and the bad news is Julien has a brain tumour that he is ignoring to continue solving this case. Can we be sure that he’ll survive until the final reel?
Tcheky is enigmatic. “The story will unfold, there will be whatever happens with a question mark at the end of it. They may have hope, even if it not what they expect.”
The mystery at the heart of the story is only part of the appeal of ‘The Missing’. For Tcheky, it’s about grief and the strength of the human spirit.
“I love the mystery, giving suspense to every character, there are a lot of surprises, as to how people take their destiny in their own hands even when they’re struck with grief.
“When my own mother died, I found it impossible. You have to go through that and accept it, and then after a while they continue to live inside you. I find incredible the faculty of human survival. People yell at the gods and then somehow they find a way of carrying on.”
‘The Missing’ continues tonight on BBC One at 9pm.