Lucie Shorthouse On Preparing For Rebus

By Olivia Emily

2 weeks ago

All episodes of Rebus are streaming now on BBC iPlayer

Have you tuned into Rebus yet? This new murky crime drama peers beneath Edinburgh’s underbelly, with Richard Rankin starring as the titular character (a modern reimagining of Ian Rankin’s beloved detective) opposite Lucie Shorthouse as DC Siobhan Clarke. We sat down with Lucie to hear all about the series.

Interview: Lucie Shorthouse

Lucie Shorthouse

Credit: David Reiss
Styling: Krishan Parmar
Glam: Maria Comparetto

Hi Lucie, how’s life going at the moment?

Good! It’s an exciting time career wise because I’ve got two very different shows coming out. It’s how things seem to happen: things are spaced out, and then it all seems to happen all at once. But my career is going well, my personal life is going well, I feel excited… The sun is starting to reappear, too, which lifts the spirits somewhat!

You’ve joined the cast of Rebus as DC Siobhan Clarke – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

It’s a Scottish crime drama based on the beautiful works of Ian Rankin. He has an extensive canon of crime novels, the Rebus novels, and it’s a great legacy to be part of. This is a reimagining of the stories in the modern day. So it’s not a prequel, it’s not a direct adaptation, and we’re kind of pitching it as a reimagining. So if you’re a fan of the books, hopefully you’ll love it and you’ll appreciate these characters. I think it stands alone even if you’re not familiar with the books. It’s a good thriller. There’s lots to tease out each episode, so you’ll want to keep watching. If you’re a fan of crime dramas, I think it’s definitely one to watch.

How would you describe Siobhan?

She’s a new upstart in the Force. She’s got there through what is deemed as a shortcut amongst some of the older, more traditional cops. She’s got there through what’s called an accelerated leadership pathway. So there’s this sense that she hasn’t earned her place, maybe. So she’s fighting against that barrier, the fact that she’s not Scottish, and that she’s a woman in what is essentially a very male centric profession still. So she’s just got to prove herself. And she’s paired with Rebus, who takes no prisoners. But she’s paired with him for a reason. I think she can learn a lot from him. He can learn a lot from her in terms of accountability and toeing the line a bit more. She’s a bit intimidated by him but she won’t let herself crumble in front of him at all. She’s about the work.

What was it like playing her?

Really fun, it was honestly one of the most enjoyable filming jobs. And it was such a lovely culture on set. Everyone’s so generous and friendly and warm. I’ve done a lot of comedy beforehand, so – although we tease out some lighter moments in the series – it was nice to do something that was a bit of a departure from the usual. Also, I got to work with some incredible, talented actors. Richard [Rankin] is incredible in the series and he was so lovely to work with, and you learn so much from just watching him and the other actors. So, it was so fun. And I’d do it over and over again.

How did you get into character and prepare for the role?

I’d heard of Ian Rankin’s novels, so I familiarised myself with the tone of the books and got a sense of the legacy of them and the world, as it were. And then for the audition, like you would with any audition, you read the material given to you, make a decision, go on instinct. But then when I found out that I got the role, I delved a bit more into that world, just so I could appreciate what I was being asked to be part of, because in Scotland and in the book world, it’s a big, triumphant thing to be part of.

Because there’s obviously so much source material, I was careful not to read too much because you can become too overwhelmed, and you almost start to act against your own instincts. But when we got to the end of the series, I started to really enjoy the books more. I’m reading one called The Fall at the moment, but I’ve read about three or four now. I really enjoy them. But I tried not to confuse myself too much before and during filming because again, it’s a reimagining, not a strict adaptation. Obviously, the characters are based on the books and there are traits that are certainly borrowed. But I didn’t want to confuse myself too much.

How is it different from other roles you’ve played before? And is there anything you did to prepare for being a police officer?

I read up a bit more about the force and the accelerated leadership pathway, what that means. I also even looked at the rankings of the police force, what the certain titles mean. I thought I understood it all, but clearly, I didn’t. And again, I read up about the where the gender disparities are and who holds certain positions, and just orientating myself with what the day to day would look – just how you research any other kind of job, I guess.

Compared to other roles, I guess I just found more stillness. I’m used to doing comedy where I’m a bit bigger and wackier and more animated. Whereas with this, I’ve got to trust that I could just be more still and that that’s enough for the character. She’s a bit more together, I think, than me in real life.

Any standout moments from rehearsals or filming?

Probably just when we filmed the office scenes. We’d be in the same room the whole day, and you know when you get a bit overtired and you get a bit weird and hyper? So me and Richard would just play silly games all the time. Or leave notes on each other’s desk for us to find, and just funny things like that. So that was it. It was more that we would have fun the whole time, even though we were filming something quite serious. The banter behind the scenes was very silly. We’d sing every song imaginable. Guess the song lyric was like a quiz show backstage. So I don’t really have one standout moment. It was honestly just such a pleasure to go to work every day that I can’t think of just one day. It was all honestly a total dream.

Do you enjoy watching detective dramas? Which is your favourite?

I do! I also love true crime documentaries as well, and true crime podcasts. My favourite crime drama, though, is Happy Valley, hands down. It’s just just fantastic telly – just what telly should be! Sarah Lancashire is an absolute boss, and just lives in that role. I think with a crime drama, you’ve got to care about the characters. You have the thrill, the mystery and all of those tropes, but what makes it stand out to me is if you really care about the characters, and there’s that real sense of suspense and teasing, and you’re led one way but then all your ideas are subverted… And with Happy Valley, oh my God, you cared about those characters.

You’ve also starred in the likes of We Are Lady Parts, Henpocalypse and Bulletproof, but what has been your favourite project to date?

That’s really hard! I don’t think I have a favourite because they’ve all taught me something different and they’ve all challenged a certain part of myself. I think there’s something very special about We Are Lady Parts in terms of projecting and amplifying more marginalised voices, and seeing Black and brown joy rather than tales of oppression. I think that’s a beautiful thing to be part of, and that’s always fun to film.

I had so much fun doing Henpocalypse, as well, because that was just so ridiculous that it is almost like a fever dream. I sometimes think, ‘Did we? Did we do that?’.

But yeah, honestly, every job I’ve had, I’ve been very lucky that they’ve all been quite dreamy. So I don’t really have a favourite. I’m also very fond of the musical I started off in called Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. I learned so much, and that was the springboard that has allowed me to be where I am now.

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

I can’t say just now, but some exciting things are potentially coming up. But these things take ages to come out!

Lucie in a white bardot top

Credit: David Reiss
Styling: Krishan Parmar
Glam: Maria Comparetto

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

I’d have to say Anjana Vasan who’s just incredible. She’s so gracious, and she’s so generous, and she’s so funny and smart. Or I’d say, Richard [Rankin], because, again, he is just someone who is at the peak of their craft, but just so lovely. The culture on a set comes down from your number one on the call sheet. Anjana is number one on Lady Parts, Richard is number one on Rebus, and they set a precedent that it’s just lovely. You don’t always get that, you really don’t. And I think that’s a testament to who they are as people, and how they’re able to bring that energy as an actor. So I’d say those two.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

Probably John McCree, who was Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. We both were muddling through this new musical together – him way more than me, because I was just a supporting character. But I learned so much from just watching him. You know, you’re in a show for a year – how do you keep it fresh? How do you keep it new? I’ve just learned so much from watching him. You learn so much from watching how the person operates beyond their job. And he’s someone who’s just so about the work and approaches it all beautifully.

What’s your dream role?

Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music. I would watch that film every single day as a child, and that’s what made me want to perform. My mum would stick it on and she’d get all of her jobs done, because I’d just be transfixed. It’s probably a pipe dream, but it’s something I would love to do, just to say I’ve done it. And you don’t see many brown Marias, so that’d be cool!

What’s a genre you’ve never tried that you’d love to give a go?

I want to do a proper rom com. I was going to say action, but I’ve done sort of action things before, and I’m not the most agile. I know I’ve done comedy before, but I’d love to be in a good rom com. They get a bad rap, but they’re lovely films to watch when they’re done right. They can be timeless and stunning. So yeah, maybe that. And it’d be lovely to have a nice love interest!

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

It is hard when you’re filming because the days are so long. The people in my life just know that during this period the replies are very slow. As much as I might have an extroverted personality, I’m an introvert. It’s not that I’m not social, but I love just coming home to my bed and to my cats, reading a book, watching true crime. And I have to get sleep. There are some people who can survive on such little sleep and I don’t know how they do it. So for me, it’s all about looking after myself and making sure I’m eating well. It can be tough, especially if you’re filming away and you’re a bit more isolated from things. I think those are moments that do test your mental health because you can feel a bit more isolated. When you’re staying in hotels or something, you feel so privileged to be having the opportunity, but it gets a bit lonely.

But yeah, I definitely can’t burn the candle at both ends, so I have to pick and choose. If I’m going to be social, I have to look at my schedule and go, ‘right, I’ve got a later call, so I can afford to have a G&T, but not tonight’. For me, it pretty much comes down to how do I get the maximum amount of sleep to function when I’m filming?

I nap all the time. I feel bad sometimes at lunch when someone says, ‘Oh, should we have lunch together?’. I’m like, ‘Gals, no. It’s nap time.’

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

This! Well, firstly, I think I started off as every kid: I wanted to be a vet, because I loved animals. And then I realised that the job would entail, potentially, you know, being quite sad. And science was never my strong suit. Then I wanted to be a pop star, and then an actor. I just wanted to perform, but I was very shy as a child. So I didn’t tell anyone. The only person that knew was my bedroom mirror and my hairbrush. And my dad, if he caught me, and I was just mortified, because I just felt like I was at Wembley. Like, what are you doing at Wembley, dad? Don’t come into my room! But, yeah, I just always wanted to do this. Sometimes you take it for granted when you’re in a job that you’ve always wanted to do, or you’ve always known what you wanted to do. I’m getting to do what little me wanted, so I’m very lucky.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

You look fine! All the insecurities and all the horrible worries and anxieties – you will figure it out. Just enjoy what you look like, because you will look back in so many years and go, ‘I wish I looked like that’ or ‘I wish I was “fat” like that’.

Fifteen was a real pivotal age for me because I’d just started to really become self conscious. When I think back to that age, it’s a bit tinged with sadness. It’s when that veneer is broken and you recognise that, as a woman, the way you look is your currency in a way and you’re judged on it, and you’re just viewed in a different way from when you were a teenager to womanhood. That weird cusp. So I think the main one would be: You look fine. You’re good.

How can we all live a little bit better?

To be grateful and to be kinder. Empathy is so important. Everybody is going through something. It doesn’t mean you should be forgiving of every situation, but if someone’s slightly rude or abrasive to you, understand that that’s probably not about you. Everyone’s got their own little demons and battles that they’re going through.

And honestly, being grateful. I have this gratitude book that I flip open every day, and whatever message I fall on, I feel like that’s the message I meant to have that day. Even when you feel like you don’t have much to be grateful for, there’s always something.

And walking. Getting out in nature. I got into that during lockdown, and it’s something that’s a non negotiable for me, even when I’m filming. I have got to get outside. I worked out anyway, but I don’t consider my walk a work out. For me, it’s more of a mental workout. I do all my best thinking and my best digesting of everything on a walk. And I just think seeing green and touching grass is good for the soul.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

I haven’t spoken about this, but I’ve frozen my eggs recently. I’ve just completed that journey. That’s not exactly a ‘fun’ thing, but that’s just happened. And that’s something I don’t mind talking about, because I think women don’t really talk about it. For me, in terms of my pipeline personally, I’d love to be a mother, so that’s something I’ve been taking active steps to try and do – which I know is a very privileged step to take – in case certain things come in the way, I don’t find the right partner or, you know, I’m a self employed actress who’s single, so maybe I’m going struggle to adopt because I don’t have a set salary every year and all that sort of stuff.

In terms of the pipeline, it would be motherhood, so I’ve taken those steps recently and just completed that journey. Hopefully I’ll meet Mr. Right and it all goes well, but I’ve taken those steps. So, for me, though it’s not so much ‘fun’, that’s been an empowering, important part of my life that, in the last few months, has eclipsed the career sort of stuff. I’ve taken some time out to make sure I can do this. I think it’s empowering to take whatever decision you want for your life into your own hands or to face it proactively. So yeah, I’ve been doing that. And I feel very lucky to be able to do that. And I’ve had a good experience with it.

Lucie Shorthouse Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Baby Reindeer

What I’m reading… The Fall by Ian Rankin and Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Bullet Train

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… My Father’s Fable by Faith Omole at The Bush

Favourite film of all time… The Sound of Music

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Stevie Wonder

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Edinburgh – such a magical place, especially during the Fringe

Cultural guilty pleasure… Gemma Collins


Lucie Shorthouse stars in Rebus and We Are Lady Parts. All episodes are streaming now on BBC iPlayer and Channel 4.