Yorkshire actor Mark Benton back on television in Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators

Mark Benton as Frank Hathaway and Jo Joyner as Lu Shakespeare. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Gary Moyes.
Mark Benton as Frank Hathaway and Jo Joyner as Lu Shakespeare. Picture: PA Photo/BBC/Gary Moyes.

Jo Joyner and Yorkshire’s Mark Benton return to the small screen with a second season of Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators. Gemma Dunn reports.

A costly dognapping, the disappearance of an Eastern European oligarch and a run in with psychic sisters: there’s plenty to look forward to from a second season of Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators.

The return of the daytime detective drama will see Frank Hathaway, a hard-boiled private investigator, and his rookie sidekick, ex-hairdresser, Lu Shakespeare (helmed by Mark Benton and Jo Joyner, respectively) uncover the secrets of rural Warwickshire’s residents once more.

And judging by the success of its predecessor, the BBC One hit, set in Stratford-Upon-Avon, justifies why “light crime” is a genre worth watching.

Why Mark Benton has high hopes for The Halcyon

“It’s nice seeing all the daytime stuff that’s on at the moment and thinking, ‘We have quite a nice little slot in amongst it’. There’s such a brilliant variation,” says Joyner, 41.

“But I think the balance of the buddy friendship that these two have, rather than it all being serious murder [is what makes the show so popular]. There’s a lot of doom and gloom at the moment, so that lightness really helps.”

“You get a bit of everything and, like Jo said, there’s so much dark drama and heavy stuff, which is wonderful, but sometimes people want to sit down and just enjoy something,” agrees Guisborough-born Benton, 53.

“And the nice thing with this series is the (cases) are not all murders. It’s not Midsomer Murders, it’s not the scariest place to live, so there are different ones we can do.”

The upcoming series sheds insight into Hathaway’s past. “You find out why Frank left the police force,” Benton explains. “It makes sense why Frank gets so much leeway with the police. It’s always nice to have another layer. It’s a fun show, and people enjoy it because of that, but for us it’s nice to put a bit more story in there, a mix of comedy and drama.”

While romance may be a no-no for the title characters, a lot can be said for the protagonists’ “loyal” bond. “I think that’s what works,” Benton says.

“You’ve got the weather-beaten Colombo who has been there and done it, and then you’ve got the ex-hairdresser who is fresh to the business but is actually really intelligent and good at solving crimes.

“That’s what’s nice in series two,” he continues. It’s much more ‘we both solve them’, whereas series one was Jo’s character learning a lot.”

“There’s a nice episode set at a tennis court, where you get a real sense of how they approach things differently,” Jo says. “Lu goes off and gossips, chats to a few people and finds out a few clues, while he’s doing all the proper cop stuff,” she says, gesturing to her co-star.

Add tennis to wood-beamed pubs, sprawling estates and the quaint, leafy suburbs of Shakespeare country and the cosy whodunit is the perfect advert for idyllic Britain, too.

“I think that’s why it’s done so well abroad,” Joyner muses. “You couldn’t really cram much more in there - you’ve got your Tudor buildings, Minis, Earl Grey tea... whenever we get a chance!

“I often read the (scripts) and think, ‘This will be fun’. It’s a real privilege to go to some of the locations because of that ‘quintessentially British’ thing. There’s a lot of stately homes. The fans are really are appreciating that landscape.”

“The reaction from people is so nice; I’ve never known so many nice messages about the show,” Benton says, referring to its popularity in Russia, Poland and the Netherlands, for starters. People are really excited about the second one and it’s lovely because when you make a show you have no idea how it’s going to go down. We didn’t realise it was going to be as funny as hopefully it is.”

So is a third season on the cards? “I mean, we love it and we’d love to keep going!” Benton offers.

Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators returns to BBC One on Monday February 25.