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TV: Guilty – I stole the soap! Confessions of Karen Pirie crimefighter Lauren Lyle

© ITVLauren Lyle as detective Karen Pirie in the TV adaptation of Val McDermid’s series
Lauren Lyle as detective Karen Pirie in the TV adaptation of Val McDermid’s series

Playing a police detective isn’t something most female actors in their 20s get to experience. For Lauren Lyle she made sure to grab the opportunity…as well as some free soap.

She plays the eponymous detective in Karen Pirie, ITV’s new detective drama based on Val McDermid’s books.

For the role, Lyle and the cast decamped to upmarket St Andrews, where they were barracked in the lush surroundings of one of the UK’s top hotels.

“It was written in the script that we had a five-star hotel so for the first half of the shoot we all lived in it, at Fairmont in St Andrews,” said Lyle. “It was post-lockdown so there was no one there apart from us and a couple of golf tourists.

“We all just had a really mad time. The soap they had in the rooms? Stole all of it…”

The series is based on Tartan Noir luminary McDermid’s first Karen Pirie novel The Distant Echo, and in the first episode Karen is tasked with reopening a historic murder investigation that has been the subject of a provocative true-crime podcast.

When teenager Rosie Duff (Anna Russell-Martin) was found brutally murdered in 1996, suspicion fell on three drunken students who were discovered at the scene of the crime, claiming to have found her body. What follows is a twisting investigation led by Pirie; and Lyle, star of Outlander and Vigil, realised quickly how rare it was for a younger woman to lead a series like this.

“It’s such an iconic thing to do, be a detective on screen,” she said. “I never thought I’d get to do it in my 20s. And, as a woman, it’s nothing you get to do – it just doesn’t come up.

“When I was reading the script I thought, ‘My god, I could actually get this. I might be quite good at it’.”

For the role Lyle watched other examples of the genre; but, as well as checking out other TV series, she also immersed herself in the actual investigation her character was carrying out.

“I watched every detective series you can watch. I also had a map of the case on my wall the whole time I was filming,” she said. “You had to keep track of who she was suspecting, who to trust, and who was dead!

“I sort of couldn’t do anything in the evening. I just wandered around in silence, preparing for the next day, learning the jargon for an interrogation scene. And then look cool doing it!

“I used to call my friends and run the interrogation scenes with them. I just sort of lived and breathed it.”

Karen Pirie, ITV, next Sunday, 8pm