‘Unforgotten’ Season 5 Finds Sunny ‘Extremely Lost’ After Cassie’s Death, Says Actor Sanjeev Bhaskar

British mystery series “Unforgotten” returns to PBS on Sept. 3 for its fifth season — but minus longtime co-lead Nicola Walker, whose character, DCI Cassie Stuart, was tragically killed off at the end of Season 4.

Her partner Sunil “Sunny” Khan (Sanjeev Bhaskar) is still grieving her loss when he’s saddled with a new boss, DCI Jesse James (Sinéad Keenan of “Being Human”), to whom he immediately takes an intense dislike — as does his team.

Longtime fans might also resent the new character who’s taken Cassie’s place. Both Bhaskar and Keenan spoke with TheWrap ahead of the Season 5 premiere about where we find Sunny and Jesse.

TheWrap: How was it coming into a show that’s already established and knowing that not only the characters, but even fans might be hostile?

Sinéad Keenan: To be honest, when the producers wanted to meet with me, I thought, “I’m not going to be putting myself in that particular firing line.” I’m very glad that I changed my initial gut reaction.

Sanjeev Bhaskar: Sinéad had the toughest job of anybody, coming into that environment. The audience is thinking exactly what Sunny and the team are thinking at the beginning, which is, “We really don’t like her. Where’s the other person we really liked?” And then to sort of change that, over the episodes, until you do like her.

What frame of mind is Sunny in as Season 5 begins?

Bhaskar: Season 5 finds him extremely lost in a way that we’ve not seen before. I don’t think I realized [before] just how much love there was between him and Cassie. He took it for granted. Yeah, they get along and they support each other, and they’re friends and there’s obviously a huge amount of affection, but it was like the old adage: you never know what you’ve lost till it’s gone. I think it’s hit him really hard. Not only is he still grieving, he also feels guilty for grieving.

Why do you think Sunny decided not to take over the DCI role?

Bhaskar: Those decisions were made while he’s still in grief. And I don’t think that Sunny has ever experienced anything like this before. He’s always been very good at being able to compartmentalize his personal life and his work.

Jesse has the worst possible start with the team. She doesn’t believe they should be spending money on historic cases, for one thing. And then her husband drops a huge bombshell on the morning of her first day.

Keenan: She has a terrible first few days, she’s dreadful. That only adds insult to injury with the team, thinking, “Oh, my God. We’ve had two interim DCIs, Cassie’s gone and they’ve replaced her with this piece of useless ….” Of course, the audience knows why she’s not firing on all neurons.

Bhaskar: Jess is navigating her own form of grief, in terms of what she’s going through. And then you’ve got the suspects, and they’re all experiencing grief of some kind. It’s a really interesting way of looking at grief through the lens of a whodunit.

Will you be back for Season 6?

Keenan: Yeah, we found out halfway through [its broadcast in the UK]. Producers said it’s the earliest they’ve ever been recommissioned. We’re going to start shooting in March, I believe. They like to leave the audience just chomping at the bit.

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