Inside Rebus With Richard Rankin

By Olivia Emily

1 month ago

All episodes of Rebus are streaming now on iPlayer


The six-part Scottish crime drama Rebus is officially underway, with Richard Rankin leading the series as the beloved yet gritty Edinburgh detective, John Rebus. We sat down with the star to hear all about the six-part series.

Interview: Richard Rankin On Rebus

John Rebus (RICHARD RANKIN).

John Rebus (RICHARD RANKIN). © Eleventh Hour Films/Mark Mainz

Hi Richard, thanks for joining us. You’re about to appear in Rebus in the title role – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Rebus is a gritty crime drama set in Edinburgh, where we follow Detective Sergeant John Rebus as he tackles the city’s darkest cases. It’s a mix of gripping mystery and deep character exploration, promising to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

How would you describe the younger Rebus?

The younger Rebus is intense, driven, and a bit of a maverick. He’s got a sharp mind and a deep sense of justice, but he’s also dealing with personal demons that make him a fascinatingly flawed character.

What was it like playing him?

Playing Rebus has been incredibly rewarding. It’s a role that demands a lot emotionally and physically, but it’s also one that allows for deep, nuanced storytelling. It’s been a real challenge but also a great pleasure to bring such a legendary character to life.

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

I immersed myself in the source material, reading Ian Rankin’s novels and studying the character’s history. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Edinburgh to get a feel for the city and its unique atmosphere. Working on Rebus’s mannerisms and voice was crucial, and I collaborated closely with the director and writer to nail down the character’s essence.

Did you work with Ian Rankin to get him right?

Ian was always on hand to consult and he always let us know that. I had every intention on picking his brains but the more I dove into the source material, the more I realised that it might not be too helpful for me given the adaptations we were making for the screen version. Nonetheless, I found Ian’s work invaluable in bringing this new Rebus to life.

Any standout moments from rehearsals or filming?

There was a scene in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town that was particularly memorable. We were filming in the middle of the day on the Royal Mile and we caught the attention of some Outlander fans. They were wonderfully supportive and very respectful but for every time we played the scene the fans multiplied until there were hundreds. We had to pretend to finish for the day to allow crowds to disperse so that we could come back and finish later on. All credit to them, though, they’re an amazing bunch.

What was your favourite filming location?

Edinburgh is full of incredible locations, but I’d say the scenes we shot in the ancient closes and alleys of the Old Town were my favourite. They really add a sense of authenticity and atmosphere to the show.

What was the vibe on set?

The vibe on set was intense but collaborative. Everyone was dedicated to bringing their A-game, and there was a real sense of camaraderie among the cast and crew. It was hard work, but we also had a lot of fun.

John Rebus (RICHARD RANKIN). © Viaplay/ Eleventh Hour/Graeme Hunter

What has been your favourite project to date?

It’s hard to pick a favourite. Black Watch and The Pillowman are two of my all time favourite pieces of theatre – the experience of Black Watch will be particularly difficult to top. Interestingly, also written by Gregory Burke. If we’re talking television, it’s hard to see how it can’t be Rebus.

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

There are a few projects in the works that I’m very excited about, but I can’t share details just yet. Stay tuned!

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

I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented, brilliant actors and I’ve learned a lot from working with almost all of them. I won’t mention favourites or give you a list but a particularly memorable experience was working with Jodie Comer on Thirteen – I think it was one of her breakout roles – but I just remember thinking at the time, ‘You’re going to be an absolute star’.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

I love watching other actors work and how they go about doing their thing. It amazes me how different one actor can be from the other in terms of how they approach their work. One of the most memorable lessons in this was when I worked with Johnny Harris and Anne-Marie Duff. Both brilliant actors but opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of how they would approach a scene. You could chat to one right up until ‘action’, whereas the other would be aside, ramping themselves up for the scene. Sometimes quite intensely. The performances that came from each, excellent. I always found that so interesting and a bit of a lesson in the individuality that acting can be – you need to figure out exactly what works for you.

What’s your dream role?

I’d love to tackle a historical figure like Alexander the Great or a complex character in a psychological thriller. Roles that challenge me and push my boundaries are always appealing.

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

I’d like to do more science fiction. It’s a genre that offers endless creative possibilities and the chance to explore fascinating new worlds and ideas.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

Not as much as I’d like, given the demanding filming schedules, but I make the most of the time I do have at home to recharge and spend time with family and friends.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

I live in the city, which I enjoy for its convenience and energy. However, I do appreciate the tranquillity of the countryside and try to escape there whenever I can for a bit of peace and quiet.

What’s your interior design style?

I prefer a mix of modern and rustic elements. Clean lines and contemporary furniture combined with warm, natural materials create a comfortable yet stylish space.

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

It’s all about prioritising and making time for the things that matter most. Whether it’s a workout, a good book, or spending time with loved ones, I make sure to carve out space in my schedule for self-care and relaxation.

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

I went through a few phases – at one point, I wanted to be a pilot, then a musician. Acting eventually won out, and I’m glad it did.

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

Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your passion. Everything you experience, even the setbacks, will shape you into the person you’re meant to be.

How can we all live a little bit better?

Take time to appreciate the small moments and the people around you. Practice kindness and empathy, and don’t forget to take care of your mental and physical health. Also, get off your phones. Let AI write your interviews then spend the time you save playing Final Fantasy 7.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

There are a few exciting projects coming up that I can’t talk about just yet, but I’m also looking forward to some personal downtime and travel later in the year.

John Rebus (RICHARD RANKIN).

John Rebus (RICHARD RANKIN). © Eleventh Hour Films/Mark Mainz

Richard Rankin Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Succession. The drama and character dynamics are riveting.

What I’m reading… The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. It’s dark and fascinating.

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… The Queen’s Gambit. Incredible storytelling and performances.

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Dune: Part Two. The first part was stunning, and I can’t wait to see the continuation.

Favourite film of all time… Blade Runner. Its atmosphere and themes are timeless.

Favourite song of all time… ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. It’s a masterpiece.

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Radiohead. Their music is endlessly captivating.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Visit Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival. It’s an unparalleled cultural experience.

Cultural guilty pleasure… Reality TV shows like The Great British Bake Off. They’re oddly comforting.

WATCH

Richard Rankin stars in Rebus. All episodes are available on iPlayer now. bbc.co.uk