Unforgotten star pays tribute to Nicola Walker and opens up on return



Unforgotten season five is nearly at an end after the hit ITV crime drama made a big return earlier this year minus Nicola Walker’s detective Cassie Stuart after she was killed off in the previous outing. Little Boy Blue and Being Human actress Sinéad Keenan stepped in as brand-new detective Jessica James, who was very different to her predecessor. Many fans were left distraught after Cassie was killed off with some questioning if her son Adam Stuart (Jassa Ahluwalia) could one day follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a police detective.

The actor from Coventry, who also counts credits in Some Girls, Peaky Blinders and Ripper Street, portrayed Adam from season one of Unforgotten until the fourth series.

In an interview with Express.co.uk, 32-year-old actor Jassa addressed whether he would like to return to Unforgotten.

He said: “Yes, definitely. I would love to go back. It’s such a brilliant show and I’ve developed a relationship with [Sunny Khan star] Sanjeev [Bhaskar] away from the show as well, connecting as fellow Punjabis and entertainment and just on that basis I would love to work with him again and more.

“The scenes and work I had on Unforgotten was by no means extensive but the scenes I did have were just so beautiful and emotionally nuanced and some of the most rewarding acting I’ve done, particularly the last series and the emotional play of what went on.

“I do sort of like the idea that Adam follows in his mother’s footsteps in some way, working with the team at some point. I don’t know, that’s all in [Unforgotten creator] Chris’ [Lang] hands. That’s nothing to do with me.” Adding he was “very open” to making a return to the series.

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He continued: “I think what makes the show so great is obviously each series, there’s a very deep and rounded story that the detectives, the team, the individuals, they’ve got full and rounded lives as well. I was really surprised by the impact of the last series.

“Obviously, I knew with Nicola’s character dying that was going to be impactful, I don’t think I’d anticipated my contribution to that bit of the story was going to get the response that it did. It was really quite unexpected, I was like, ‘I’ve only got a couple of scenes here and there.’ But they turned out to be quite pivotal scenes.”

After the shocking scenes of Cassie’s death were aired, Jassa was flooded by messages from Unforgotten fans about the effect the plot had had on them and said this spoke to a “love for the wider universe” of the show.

Prior to the pair working together, he’d seen her in a production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the National Theatre in which he played mother Judy to her son Christopher who has autism spectrum disorder.

He admitted he was “deeply affected” by her performance in the play and told her as much on season one of Unforgotten in between takes.

Jassa said it was “very easy” starring opposite Nicola and went on to pay tribute to her: “Nicola is just very, very lovely and very warm and very giving, would always be having a lot of fun on set just joking around.

“Slipping into that role of mum and son was very easy and I have a very similar, playful, honest, close relationship with my own mum and there’s even a slight physical resemblance between my own mum and Nicola, so it was quite easy to get into that.”

Jassa revealed he and the cast knew Nicola was leaving Unforgotten at the end of season four but didn’t the know the specific of her exit, only finding out Cassie would be leaving the show in a coffin.

Neither he nor the rest of the cast expected the storyline to take such a drastic turn but hailed writer Lang for giving a “meaningful” conclusion to Cassie’s family.

Alongside his acting, Jassa is also a member of the Equity Council as well as a writer and a campaigner.

He has been working on a book exploring his #BothNotHalf campaign examining the experience of people with mixed heritage and identity, which came from his TedX talk and the BBC documentary Am I English? last year following Jassa navigating his dual Indian and British heritages.

The actor is now fundraising for charities One Family and Maiti Nepal, which work together to fight people trafficking between Nepal and India.

He recently returned from a trek to the Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal as well as meeting with survivors rescued from sexual abuse.

In conjunction with One Family, Maiti Nepal works on the ground to help women and girls being sexually exploited with an estimated 7,000 to 10,000 girls trafficked through the “porous” India-Nepal border every year.

Jassa and a group of other fundraiser went on the tough trek which saw them reach altitudes of 4,000 meters.

He said: “I found the trek within my comfort zone and I had this real sense of elation completing it. There was a guilt initially. I felt quite guilty I was enjoying myself but when I got the top and I stood in the presence of Annapurna, I had this moment of realisation, ‘No, I think we’ve been focusing too much on the horrors.’ And actually what Maiti Nepal is doing is giving these women and girls the opportunity to experience this joy and this elation.”

Unforgotten concludes on ITV1 tonight at 9pm and is streaming as a box on ITVX.

For more information about Jassa Ahluwalia’s fundraising campaign, please click here.

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